There’s fascinating reading on AccountingWeb – it’s released new research into the most commonly-used tech platforms by UK accountants (and, by definition, their clients).

The State of the Nation report shows that there are four ‘big’ players in the market: FreeAgent; Intuit QuickBooks; Sage; and Xero. While this will come as little surprise, what is more eye-opening is that usage of these technologies isn’t changing greatly. The report also cites increased usage among 14 other accounting software vendors.

The report also cites the potential for HgCapital-backed Bright Group to bring its Surf Accounts cloud product into the UK to bolster recently-acquired workflow tech AccountancyManager alongside cloud payroll. Will this create a big fifth player?

The findings are more interesting when put in context of accountants and their working practices. Or, more precisely, the working practices of accountants and their clients.

Everyone doing things differently

Do we need dozens of bookkeeping, accounting and tax tools? With millions of micro and small UK businesses, it paves the way for a busy and diverse software market. However, while these businesses all have their own quirks and ways of doing things, much of their financial management and reporting requirements are fairly similar – and much driven by statutory accounts/tax filing.

But if businesses manage their finances and bookkeeping differently – even if only slightly, then that is a workflow and process headache for accountants.

It’s really difficult, when trying to help and support clients, to tell them to capture information differently – or even use different software. Newly formed practices have an advantage of setting out how their practice will work, what tools it will use and, then, set out a formulaic way that clients will work with them – sometimes only working with clients who use certain platforms.

In reality, there are very few – if any – practices that can do everything in exactly the same way with all their clients. However, if you can get the majority of clients working in a systematic way with your practice, then there are huge benefits that could follow: efficiency; accuracy; and a better utilisation of the practice’s resource (namely, its people). Bear in mind, this whole issue will become mission-critical when MTD for ITSA comes into effect.

It is not easy systemising your firm and synchronising clients, but we work with firms and their clients to make things better. Our team supports ambitious practices to grow. These practices see opportunities to outsource work and free up their team to provide broader or more valuable services. This also enables them to de-risk recruitment by letting us take on the workload.

We’ve even helped accountants’ clients to migrate onto new accounting technology (you can read more here).

The blog started by highlighting the huge variance in technology options, borne out of a huge market with literally hundreds of thousands of different ways of working. But we see the accounting practices that systemise, reduce their workflows and processes to a manageable number, as the ones with the greatest opportunity to thrive in an extremely testing environment.

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing

Would you like to improve your processes and free up your practice’s resources? Do you have clients that need help with moving data to the cloud? Get in touch with the AdvanceTrack cloud team.

The AccountingWeb article ‘Accounting platforms gear up for battle of the five armies’ can be found by clicking here.