Outlook for 2014 - Thriving in uncertain times

by Greg Ford 20. February 2014 11:54

Even just a few years ago many business owners were contemplating their future with a weary sigh; there were fears about double dips and consumers hoarding their cash, unwilling to spend.

But the good news is we seem to be over the worst - Britain’s economy grew last year at its fastest rate since the financial crisis. Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that most major sectors of Britain’s economy expanded in the final three months of 2013, concluding its best showing since 2007.

The economy grew 0.7 percent quarter-on-quarter from October through December. Growth for the full year rose to 1.9 percent, which bodes well for the coming 12 months.

A word of caution, however: while confidence has increased, this hasn’t translated into increased investment in business.
Despite positive predictions, UK organisations are far from certain about their future. According to the Baker Tilly annual SME Distress Monitor, 96% of business owners said they were happy achieving their current level of success, 74% expect their workforce to stay the same, and only 23% plan to increase their sales and marketing spend. A large majority, 84%, are not willing to take on any more debt in 2014.

In short, it looks like businesses are holding steady and seeing where this positive momentum gets them before they make any capital commitments.
MDs that wish to make sure that their organisation remains resilient to the uncertainty surrounding the direction that the economy may take, need to ensure that their processes are structured and every operational parameter is managed, monitored, controlled, measured, reported and benchmarked to achieve optimum operational productivity and profitability.

In 2014 now, more than ever, secure, strong and resilient management is critical and instant access to key performance indicators (KPIs) and the status of the business operation is key to thriving.

Why not download the whitepaper in full ‘Thriving in uncertain times – 7 top tips for 2014’
 

 

Original article http://startups.co.uk/outlook-for-2014-and-what-businesses-need-to-watch-out-for/

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Accounting Software | News | Topical

Former Sage man takes over at Exchequer

by Lucy Sofiano 20. November 2013 13:19

If you ever needed proof that accounting software was a small world, look no further than the arrival of Greg Ford as the new managing director at Exchequer at the beginning of this month.

For most of the past two years, Ford has been Managing Director at V1, the document management wing of Advanced Computer Software Group that has been converted to a multi-purpose business process and learning support organisation under his guidance.

Before that, Ford was managing director at both Sage’s accountants’ and mid-market divisons - the latter for more than a decade - so the return to mainstream accounting has been something of a homecoming.

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“When Advanced acquired CSH and Exchequer, I told [Advanced CEO] Vin [Murria] I was passionate about the accounting business and could make a difference. Fortunately the opportunity arose for me to replace Kay Mason,” Ford told AccountingWEB.

Exchequer is an “incredibly healthy” business with a strong, horizontal customer base with big user communities in distribution, manufacturing, not-for-profit and education sectors, he explained.

“Exchequer was always well regarded for innovation and agility in the marketplace - for example with the Exchequer 365 mobile platform,” Ford said. “My plan is to get back to the grass roots, to get closer to customers and identify emerging trends in a more agile fashion.  We’re supported by the Advanced Group, but are small enough to respond to people’s needs.”

Already Ford has gone out on “discovery tours” to meet more than 250 existing Exchequer customers. While many of them remain very loyal to the company, they also shared where they’d like to see improvement.

“People’s expectations these days are much, much higher. They don’t just want software installed, they want in place, on time, to plan and delivering benefits they invested in.”

This emphasis on customer care and feedback is a clear imprint from his days at Sage, where Ford earned his spurs fighting customer service firestorms and apologising for coding mishaps such as the recurring bank entry bug in Sage 50 Accounts 2010.

“I’m proud of my association with Sage,” said Ford of his former employer-turned-market rival. “But here we have the opportunity to be much more engaged with the customer. The larger you are, the more treacle you have to work through to deliver a great experience. Being smaller, but supported by a larger organisation means we can be more creative and more engaged.”

Ford does have some remedial work to do at Exchequer. He is right that as an independent developer Exchequer used to be one of the hidden gems on the UK accounting software scene, but market consolidation has not been kind to the company.

Exchequer was acquired by IRIS in 2005 as part of a major financial expansion plan led by CEO Martin Leuw. For a period our Software Satisfaction Survey results showed an improvement in product satisfaction ratings among Exchequer users, but this has been in decline since hitting a peak in 2009.

When presented with these figures, Ford commented that with Advanced’s backing, “We can improve by delivering a stronger customer experience around the solutions that we offer. We’re very, very strong on product - but people need to see the whole solution delivered as the client expects and needs.”

 

Article originally published on AccountingWEB 19th November, 2013

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UK Manufacturing Data suggests recovery gaining momentum

by Neville Merritt 21. May 2013 17:11

According to the the ONS Index of Production, UK manufacturing output surged by 1.1% in March, with the largest upward contributions coming from the manufacture of basic metals and metal products, up by 2.8%, and the manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products, up by 5.5%.

This month’s promising manufacturing output figures may have come as a surprise – it’s the first time in two years that we have seen a rise over two consecutive months. From a gloomy start, UK manufacturing data shows an improved outlook, which was a drag on output in the first quarter and could allow us to see GDP maintaining a more consistent and positive path over the coming months.

KPMG too has revealed that the manufacturing sector could be regaining traction, reporting that the UK is the top three most popular sourcing destination. According to its 4th annual Global Manufacturing Outlook report published in May, the top strategic priority for global manufacturing companies was reducing cost structure, ahead of sales growth, and increasing agility.

Despite the prolonged uncertainties for manufacturing, many companies are emerging from the downturn with significantly reduced cost structures, and improved systems enabling them to be far more responsive to customer requirements and market trends

These agile systems are no longer the preserve of large companies with generous IT budgets – in fact the reverse is true. Smaller companies have the flexibility to adapt their processes, and mid-market ERP systems now include advanced logic to maximise customer service levels and minimise costs. Sherwood Scientific is one such company expanding its export market and championing the UK as a destination for future profit growth.

The Cambridgeshire based development and manufacturing company manufactures and distributes a range of scientific instruments and apparatus worldwide. It utilises Exchequer’s financial software to handle stock control and workflow. The Works Order processing (WOP) enables Sherwood to syncronise various functions of the business; from picking components and transferring work in progress to receipt of finished goods back into the stores. This allows the team to manage the supply of products to their customers on time and within budget.

Sherwood Scientific’s products are sold worldwide and it supports its customers with one of the most extensive distributor networks in the industry. Accurate information and Key Performance Indicators are crucial to effective management in this environment. General Manager Nick Sugden says; “We have distributors across most countries and Exchequer allows us to look at their sales numbers on a wide variety of parameters. Sales can be determined by product, by unit numbers, by margin, by time period and by comparison to previous periods. Exchequer also permits the export of data into other products such as Microsoft Excel where further data processing and charting is possible.”

It is encouraging to know that global markets are increasing their focus on the UK for growth in sales, profit and sourcing. We should be celebrating the ‘Made in Britain’ marque; localisation of production would help lower Britain’s trade deficit as UK-made goods would replace imported ones

Robust and flexible business systems which meet the needs of the manufacturing and distribution industries will have an impact in all areas of operation. By achieving greater control of stock, and establishing a continuous and auditable workflow through the manufacturing process can only result in increased  visibility of performance and ultimately of the sales distribution network.

Over the next five years and in an age and industry where volatility has become a given, companies that possess these attributes and pursue these strategies will likely define the standard of success.

For more information on manufacturing management software, please click here.

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Accounting Software | Topical

Retail sales figures may have taken a dip but online is booming

by Neville Merritt 9. May 2013 15:09

THE total value of UK retail sales in April was down 0.6% on the same month of 2012, in contrast to a 3.7% year-on-year rise in March, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) publishing its figures this week.

It appears that retail sales figures have proved volatile in recent months with bad weather to blame for the weak figures and high petrol prices deterring motorists from filling up their tanks.


It’s not all doom and gloom though – According to the BRC, snow and the prolonged cold were not ideal but not a disaster. They brought mixed fortunes for different categories. Food sales rose by 0.9%, boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and wintry fare such as roasts and chocolate. But demand was cool for new season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories.

Internet sales during the month have seen a boost too, rising by 8.3% with online sales of non-food goods picking up.

So in spite of the squeeze, how are the retailers getting it right doing so in a recession?


When Exchequer customers and  internet entrepreneurs Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish launched Notonthehighstreet.com in 2006, they not only have become one of the most high-profile e-commerce business in Britain, revolutionising the way we shop but have helped SMEs to thrive in a downturn.


After launching, the founders learnt quickly that keeping an eye on the bottom line was key - from implementing their business model and legal requirements to selecting an efficient accounting software solution, taking business growth from £100,000 turnover in the first year to £100m at the end of last year.

The expectation is to grow by 100-percent this year and with their eye on Global dominance, the duo have introduced multi-currency functionality to their Exchequer system plus its first tv ad campaign along with a best-selling book.
As Tucker says in this month’s Director Magazine; "We didn't set out to break glass ceilings. We didn't set up to become a female-led entrepreneurial business with five of the best VC backers in the world, supporting the UK and changing the economy. That wasn't our mission, we don't want to be famous – we've got a job to do. We didn't realise the outcome of all that energy would be that we support 5,000 people now in the UK, not just through our business, but through the people our partners employ."

MDs face a challenging time ahead as the uncertainty of the state of the economy continues and there appears to be little respite from the challenging trading conditions. To thrive in these difficult times, Tucker and Cornish have embraced the tools available to them and taken advantage of the latest technologies to improve their business performance.  MD’s can learn a lot from the Notonthehighstreet model - through employing interactive ‘live’ dashboards to keep track of the status of the business, valuing and rewarding staff and keeping your pulse on not only your business but the wider economy will all assist in driving success and delivering results.

For advice on boosting your retail sales figures and thriving in difficult economy why not download our latest guide from Exchequer - 7 top tips for MDs to thrive? Click here to download.

To read this month’s Director Magazine article profiling Notonthehighstreet.com’s success story in full click here.

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Accounting Software | Topical

Mobile working - Can your organisation perform 'on the move'?

by Paul Sparkes 6. March 2013 10:31

On-demand access to instant information is not a new trend; successful, dynamic and fast-paced organisations fuel their business with the power to access key information anywhere and at any time. This infographic explores the face of today's business landscape and what mobile working will mean to us in the future from checking our bank balances to accessing our mobile accounting software. 

 

For further information, download our latest Whitepaper - Mobile Working on the Move.

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Accounting Software | Mobile | Remote working

Optimising business performance

by Paul Sparkes 21. February 2013 15:12

A proactive and agile business will always employ performance indicators to measure, evaluate and optimise success. It is relatively easy to compile a set of objectives and goals that are important to your organisation, but there are some simple steps to consider when deciding which KPIs are right for your business;

1. Firstly, the KPI must reflect organisational goals. It may be the case that your organisation adopts several sets of KPIs, each set relevant to individual departments. It is perfectly acceptable for each team to strive towards a personal set of goals, but the organisation should set company-wide KPIs, applicable to the overall targets of the organisation.  KPIs should take into account the strategic objectives of the organisation and be integrated into all business plans.

2. Keep the number of KPIs to a minimum – say a maximum of 5 company-wide performance indicators and then a sub-set of 3-4 for each department. 

3. Share and communicate KPIs throughout the business. Whether this is on the company intranet, on wall displays or in company briefings – ensure each staff member understands and comprehends their contribution in achieving each goal. Performance indicators will also enable management to share specific, tracked information with shareholders and board members. 

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5 critical factors to consider when selecting a cloud hosting supplier

by Paul Sparkes 13. February 2013 11:13

 

Reviewing, selecting and choosing the right supplier to host your IT requirements challenges the traditional buying model. The hype of the cloud has created an influx of new organisations, all claiming to offer the best levels of service. The recent demise of 2e2 should send warning signs to anyone looking to migrate their software or IT services to a cloud solutions provider. Additional steps and care and attention should be applied to the buying process.  

This 5-step guide provides tips that you should take into consideration to ensure you make the right selection. 

1. How reliable is the supplier?

This is critical. With so many new start-ups offering to ‘host’ your IT infrastructure, you need to choose carefully. The stability of the hosted supplier is vital. If the cloud bursts – what happens to your data and your IT network?  Ensure you fully research how many clients the organisation has, how long it has been trading, who is it backed by (if anyone) and overall use your gut to decide if you would feel confident trusting them? In this instance, you may think it wise to opt for a long-standing provider, who can offer back-up and security as opposed to a new start-up. 

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Accounting Software | Cloud computing | Hosted solutions | News | Topical

Real Time Information Checklist

by Paul Sparkes 9. January 2013 16:56

From April 2013 Real Time Information (RTI) will become the standard PAYE/NIC reporting. Make sure you are ready to go live with this handy 6-point real time information checklist from IRIS Exchequer to help you with the migration to live RTI submissions. Remember that you will need to send RTI data to HMRC online, every time a payment is made.

If you would like more information on Real Time Information (RTI) or to have a discussion about RTI preparation, payroll software or training, please contact the Exchequer team on 0844 815 5608 or email RTI@irisenterprise.co.uk
Further information can also be found on the Exchequer website at www.exchequer.com/rti

To add this infographic to your blog or website, please copy the following HTML snippet into your page:

<a href="http://www.exchequer.com/rti" title="Real Time Information Checklist from IRIS Exchequer"><img src="http://www.exchequer.com/Blog/image.axd?picture=2013%2f1%2frti-infographic.jpg&source=remote" style="width:600px;height:2860px;border:none;" alt="Real Time Information Checklist - from IRIS Exchequer" ></a>

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Infographic | Real Time Information (RTI)

How to run your business from a mobile device

by Paul Sparkes 13. December 2012 13:02

 

Advances in technology are seeing mobile devices become a key way in which businesses can boost their productivity and remain competitive in challenging times. Mobile working gives businesses the flexibility and agility they need in a 24/7 economy and can even help to create business opportunities. For some, working away from the office is becoming the norm and it’s essential that they can work on the move as easily as if they were in the office.

We’re so used to using smartphones, apps and tablet devices in our personal life that it’s inevitable that this way of working is starting to become more widespread in business. There is now a range of technology tools to help businesses offer remote working to their employees. Here are a few that are particularly helpful;

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Hosted solutions | Microsoft | Mobile | Remote working

Trends in remote working

by Paul Sparkes 28. November 2012 16:34

Three Quarters of Businesses Now Offer Remote Working

Cloud computing is now providing real business benefit and the use of mobile technology is increasing rapidly for businesses who manage their day to day operations on the go.

Research from IRIS Accounting & Business Solutions shows that three quarters of businesses now offer remote working to its employees, with 76 per cent claiming it makes their organisation more profitable and one in ten saying it gives them the edge over their competition.

If you spend a lot of time out of the office or if your team are heavy mobile users then utilising the devices and technology that your business is familiar with (be it iPhone, iPad, Android, ios or Blackberry) then business solutions on the go such as mobile accounting software empowers your business to provide increased efficiency, service and sales whilst working remotely.

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