Building a successful future for charities

by Paul Sparkes 8. October 2012 15:14

Under increasing pressure to perform, the not-for-profit sector is facing some of its biggest challenges to date.

With budgets under scrutinisation, investing in new accounting software may not seem like the most obvious solution to save on your budget. However the investment is possibly one of the best decisions you can make in improving efficiency and reducing costs.

We like to hear our customers' success stories so when The Epilepsy Society told us that Exchequer; "Has delivered a significant return on our investment both financially and increased productivity", then we know that we're doing our job right.

With advanced levels of automation and integration, a new financial system could provide much greater support and help you to increase productivity and gain greater organisational insight. Impressive when The Epilepsy Society report that they save over £40k a year with Exchequer.

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Accounting Software

Building a strong business case for IT investment

by Paul Sparkes 2. October 2012 15:05

The British Chamber of Commerce has reported today (2 October) that the economy is still in the depths of recession. The results of the new Quarterly Economic Survey released today shows that most key Q3 balances are weaker than Q2, with the economy defined as ‘stagnant.’

In summary the Q3 survey results show the following:

  • Worsening confidence and investment levels from both manufacturing and services firms
  • Despite previously strong reports this year, export growth has dropped back
  • Domestic orders in both manufacturing and services are weak and far below pre-recession levels
  • Firms are less confident in taking on staff
  • Companies are reporting cashflow problems

No-one expects the next few years to be anything but challenging, especially if looking to refinance existing borrowing or to raise new credit. While many FDs and businesses have taken decisive action to mitigate the impact of the downturn and have implemented tough survival tactics that are undoubtedly working, caution remains about the strength and timing of the recovery.

As we move into yet another cycle best described as pre-recovery, we need to take a fresh look at the best tactics to weather the current economy and to thrive in the months ahead.

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Accounting Software | News | Topical

IRIS Exchequer rolls out Microsoft SQL 2012

by Paul Sparkes 31. May 2012 16:22

 

Highly anticipated version of SQL Server accelerates Exchequer’s performance

FDs and IT managers have very different agendas and priorities but there is a common theme, and that’s a successful organisation.  The FD needs an accounting software solution that meets the needs of the business and the IT manager needs an IT infrastructure that’s reliable.

IRIS Exchequer MS SQL edition delivers both.

IRIS Accounting & Business Solutions has worked closely with Microsoft around the recent release of SQL 2012 and is delighted to announce that IRIS Exchequer now supports SQL 2012.

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Accounting Software | Microsoft | News

Chancellor must ‘pull out all the stops’ and deliver a Budget for business

by Paul Sparkes 12. March 2012 13:45

 

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is today (Monday) urging George Osborne to deliver a Budget for business, which allows firms to drive growth, invest and create jobs.

This view is echoed by IRIS Exchequer customers. Some 30 per cent of businesses think that reducing administrative burdens would encourage them to grow, while more than a quarter (27 per cent), feel that tax breaks would provide the best incentive for expansion, revealed from our recent study of 150 companies on the IRIS Exchequer Roadshow surveying our accounting software customers.

A further 30 per cent say the uncertain economic climate will continue to be the greatest challenge for businesses in 2012, followed by operational costs (23 per cent) and staying competitive (18 per cent), with 12 per cent feeling that customer retention would be a challenge for them in the next 12 months.

If business is to prosper then George Osborne has to pull out all the stops to create an environment in which they can thrive, create jobs, and export our goods and services abroad

Just days ahead of its Annual Conference, however the BCC believes the Chancellor should stick to Plan A, but use the wiggle room he has within the current spending envelope to bring forward substantive changes that will stave off stagnation and weak growth.  

 The BCC suggests that there is sufficient latitude within the fiscal rules to implement three specific initiatives to support business growth, at a maximum cost to the Exchequer of £4.2bn. 


Scrap the upcoming business rate rise which is anathema to growth

·         In April 2012, the 5.6% up-rating of business rates will severely aggravate already uncertain business cashflow and impose hefty new costs without offering any real improvement in business conditions.

·         In addition, the BCC is calling for the restoration of the Empty Property Rate Relief (EPRR) to £18,000. The current threshold for EPRR creates perverse business incentives, deterring investment. 

Cost:   £2.2bn

Introduce a time-limited £1bn capital allowance scheme for medium-sized companies

·         A ‘when its gone, it’s gone’ capital allowance scheme would provide an incentive to firms who have put large investment projects on hold

·         Providing a two-year window for medium-sized companies to make crucial investments would create a real incentive for businesses to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Cost:   £1bn

Incentivise employers to take on young people

·         The BCC is calling for the Chancellor to double the amount of money available for employer wage subsidies and funded placements under the new Youth Contract (from £1bn to £2bn), or consider changes to employer National Insurance Contributions for young people.

·         This would provide a cost-effective way to prevent the alienation of young people, and assist businesses with the development of the skills base required to drive future growth. Furthermore, the BCC records its continued commitment to work with the government to investigate new ways to fund business start-up for young people. 

Cost:   £1bn

In addition, the BCC is recommending the following low-cost or no cost changes to the business environment to allow companies to grow, export and take on staff. 


·         Implement an effective credit easing programme, and consider the creation of a fully-fledged SME bank, which would be backed by the state at first and later returned to the private sector. This would go a long way to improving the follow of     credit to viable businesses.

·         A speeded-up National Infrastructure Plan and delivery of the mechanisms promised in the Autumn Statement to increase private investment in infrastructure projects. 

·         An aviation strategy that delivers both capacity for the South East and growth opportunities for Britain’s regional airports. 

·         Delivery of radical reforms to the planning system in the National Planning Policy Framework to help businesses expand, invest and grow. 

·         Help for SMEs trading internationally, through improved access to mentored outbound missions, smarter use of inbound missions and greater financial support for promotional activity and tradeshow attendance. 

·         Real de-regulation that makes a difference to businesses on the ground. This should include the reform of dismissal rules, such as relaxing the collective redundancy rules and introducing a new no-fault dismissal route. 

 

Without concerted action in these areas, the potential for businesses to grow will be limited, and so will the economic recovery.

 

Source: http://www.britishchambers.org.uk/



 

 

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Accounting Software | News | Topical

Is the FD more important than the CEO?

by Paul Sparkes 23. February 2012 15:00

The role of the FD has traditionally been seen by many companies as a goalkeeper rather than the star midfielder or centre forward. But more than ever, the role has become far more diverse. Has the FD become more important than the CEO?

It’s no longer just about the finance ledgers and cash flow. These days any FD wrth their salt is an expert in all aspects of the business in which they work.

The key reason for this has been the recession, which has been both a vast challenge and a huge opportunity for FDs to prove their worth. It has changed the way the FD is perceived in the board room.

“With austerity measures still in force across many organisations, FDs are continuing to make decisions every day,” says Paul Sparkes, accounting software product director at IRIS Accounting & Business Solutions. “The recession has given FDs a real opportunity to prove their worth, with many rivalling the authority of the CEO.”

Research conducted by The Real Business Satisfaction Survey in association with ICAEW supports this.

The results show that in 58 per cent of companies, the amount of time discussing finance in the boardroom has increased. And for 43 per cent of respondents, the amount of influence yielded by the FD in the boardroom has increased.

But according to some, it isn't just the FD's role that has increased: other roles have grown in prominence as well, strengthening the board.

"Like all good working democratic boards, important decisions are not taken by individuals in isolation but as a collective, with experts in different areas of the business combining to make the right decisions for the business as a whole,” says Rob Amar, MD of fine foods importer R.H. Amar.

“In today's economic climate, the FD – like the marketing director, MD or chairman – has to have his or her finger on the pulse of what really makes the business tick, and needs to display creativity and agility when faced with sudden difficult challenges such as key currency fluctuations or potential business exposures.”

This expanding role is seeing FDs become responsible for other areas of the business.

“Site viability decisions, disposal of non-core business, contractual negotiations, business development, business relocation, etc – FDs are becoming more influential in other areas of their business,” says John Seaton, financial and commercial director of Nova Laboratories, a manufacturer of trial medicines.

“Their exposure to and understanding of the dynamics involved in their particular sector increases their insight; finding the key drivers for success, differentiating them from competitors and spotting trends in that particular market.”

As FDs successfully make the move into general management, could the FD become a co-CEO?

“It's no surprise that more FDs are becoming CEOs than ever before. The turmoil of the last few years has thrown FDs into the spotlight but they have clearly risen to the challenge,” says IRIS Exchequer's Paul Sparkes. “We're seeing a breed of FDs coming through, who have greater and more varied skill sets and can therefore wield more influence at board level.”

 

This article originally appeared in Real Business.

 

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Accounting Software | News | Topical

Government must do more to support the economy

by Paul Sparkes 18. January 2012 13:14

You know we’re living in austere times when almost nine in ten businesses believe the government must do more to encourage growth.

Some 30 per cent of businesses think that reducing administrative burdens would encourage them to grow, while more than a quarter (27 per cent), feel that tax breaks would provide the best incentive for expansion, revealed from our recent study of 150 companies on the Iris Exchequer Roadshow surveying our accounting software customers.

A further 30 per cent say the uncertain economic climate will continue to be the greatest challenge for businesses in 2012, followed by operational costs (23 per cent) and staying competitive (18 per cent), with 12 per cent feeling that customer retention would be a challenge for them in the next 12 months.

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has an opinion on the challenges we are facing. He said we are living in "momentous times" with slow but seismic shifts in the world economy. With changes afoot around the globe, the UK simply cannot afford to compromise on economic performance, he claimed.

"If we fall behind, the future could be very different for our children and grandchildren," Mr Longworth stated. "Britain does have the potential to recover and make its way in the world. We have the talent, the energy, and the enterprise. All we need is an environment that puts business first." Boosting growth in our businesses will boost the economy and let Britain lead on the international stage.”

I believe that most businesses have already been through a sustained period of operational cost cutting but many are still under pressure to look for further savings. Tax breaks are just one solution that will help to encourage entrepreneurial activities and business growth, but it’s important that the government considers this as an urgent priority.

Regulations and administrative burdens will continue to hamper growing businesses, so it is important that they take time out to look at how they can improve procedures and efficiencies from the inside out.

“Britain needs an enterprise culture where people are helped into self-employment, enabling them to one say provide jobs for other people,” Longworth says. “Politicians have shown a level of resolve and determination to help business succeed this year, however, they have been nowhere near radical enough and have not been able to tackle the culture that deems business and wealth creation as negative." But the government can restore UK business confidence, he said, by facilitating the flow of credit to viable businesses, improving the UK planning system, and by overhauling the infrastructure and skills system.

With Longworth’s thoughts in mind it’s essential that businesses assess their existing processes and ensure they have the right tools and information they need to enable business growth – it’s a small but simple step towards improving efficiencies and making better, more strategic business decisions.

John Longworth concludes this point "Business is not just good for Britain, but is essential. 2012 could provide the tipping point for our economy. Not just because the next year is the nadir of a crisis, but because it provides an opportunity for lasting change. It could be a new start to an exciting future, the beginning of a renaissance in our fortunes based on enterprise, wealth creation and a new world view."

Here here.

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Accounting Software | IRIS ABS News | News | Topical

Productivity Future Vision

by Paul Sparkes 2. November 2011 10:21

Microsoft released a video in 2008 and another one this week that together predict the sleek, wireless, connected gadgets we'll all enjoy by the year 2019.

It’s a beautifully produced vision of the future of mobile and remote business solutions which isn't surprising that a film produced by Microsoft would celebrate business travel and efficiency. As you watch the viseo, think about how the technical trends we observe today can be extrapolated to create the experiences Microsoft depicts in the future.

Why these are great predictions

What’s probably the most amazing thing is that everything in this video is being worked on, refined and developed. If you follow current trends for compute power, display technology, networking speeds, device miniaturisation, flexible displays, touchscreens, gesture technologies and others, you will get this future.

And Microsoft itself is working on much of this. The intelligent displays are really just advanced versions of what's possible now with a Microsoft Surface table. The in-air gestures are advanced versions of what Kinect for Xbox 360 users are already doing.

While the future is impossible to predict, at IRIS we too are constantly looking forward, analysing trends, and gathering insights to gain a deeper understanding of how our developments in software and technology can further develop the remote working capabilities of our products.

This video portrays how future tech will help us make better use of time, attention and strengthen relationships by getting things done at home, work and on the go.

It’s an exciting business vision and I’m looking forward to strengthening our Microsoft relationship to make the most of its Productivity Future Vision both now and in the future for IRIS Exchequer customers.

IRIS Exchequer LIVE

IRIS is committed to responding to customer and market demands and as a result, has further developed the remote working capabilities of its award-winning product, IRIS Exchequer.  IRIS Exchequer LIVE uses the latest technologies to enable users to operate and collaborate efficiently by providing real-time access, irrelevant of location, through an intuitive and highly functional new interface (IU).  By taking advantage of leading edge developments, IRIS has created a new ‘Rich Internet Application’ (RIA), which enables both office-based and remote users to have access to live data, providing an essential gateway to accurate business information. 

IRIS Exchequer LIVE is not purely for remote workers; the solution delivers the capability for office-based users to access, manage and tailor transactions to their individual working requirements.  Key to the design of this all new solution is the ability for users to create a personalised view of key information.  An intuitive panel provides a ‘snapshot’ view of activities, unique to each specific user. 

IRIS Exchequer LIVE has responded to the challenge of the demands of the changing working environment by providing a fresh and dynamic approach to accessing critical business data from both an office and remote environment. 

To find out more about IRIS Exchequer LIVE, please visit www.irisexchequerlive.co.uk    

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Remote Working – A trend or necessity?

by Paul Sparkes 27. October 2011 13:45

Remote working is not a new working practice, but is one that as a society, we are becoming increasingly reliant on.  It is now the norm that today’s working environment demands instant access to key business data and the emphasis falls on IT systems and software developers to be able to provide this access, in a secure and reliable fashion. 

Today’s technological advancements can enable an ‘anytime/anywhere’ working philosophy, if organisations choose to invest in software capable of facilitating access to live systems from remote locations.  But just how important do organisations view remote working to be and is it a priority, in particular for finance departments to be able to work remotely?  In this post I’m going to look at how remote working is affecting the modern day finance department and consider how organisations are responding to changes in technologies. 

The Benefits of Remote Working

The competitive nature of the working economy depicts that key decision makers need to have instant access to live, accurate information at their fingertips.  Remote access can empower employees, enabling them to make informed decisions at anytime.  This can be critical in today’s competitive business world, especially in a fast paced sales environment.  Competent business software should not only facilitate remote working, it should also make it easier and be able to automate the delivery of essential and valuable information directly to a mobile phone or PDA device, providing a ‘snapshot’ of organisational KPIs. 

On another level, remote working also allows employees the attractive and flexible option to work from home, from a different office or location or even whilst commuting. From a green point of view, I believe it has a positive impact on the environment encouraging reduced travel.

The Importance of Remote Working 

To understand how important remote working is, IRIS conducted a recent survey with 167 UK finance professionals.  The results highlight and re-enforce the ever growing importance and reliance on the benefits of remote working.  You can see more in the Slideshare presentation below.

76.6% of those asked felt that remote working was essential or important to their organisation.  Only 6.6% had no remote workers within their organisation.  These statistics clearly demonstrate the increasing dependence on software capable of facilitating such mobile working environments. 

The survey also indicated that the demand for remote working is on the increase with 96.4% claiming that over the last 6 months remote working had stayed at the same level or increased.  Over a third of respondents claimed an increase. 

The Role of Software in Remote Working in a Finance Environment

It appears that software providers have been responding to the demand.  Only 15.6% of those questioned stated that their accounting solutions software prevents them from accessing the financial data they need.  When asked specifically what financial data they required access to, respondents cited a variety of requirements:

  • 74.3% required information on individual accounts
  • 35.3% required detailed data on debtors
  • 32.3% needed to track KPIs
  • 24.6% needed access to exception reporting data

These responses highlight the need for accounting solutions and business systems to provide live access to all spectrums of the data in a secure, reliable and safe environment, and also represents the breadth of workers who take advantage of remote access.

In terms of the technology adopted to facilitate remote working, respondents used multiple methods, with 65.9% using their home computer and 43.7% using a lap top or notebook.  Nearly twice as many respondents use a RIM Blackberry as all other forms of PDA or Smartphone.  Surprisingly, considering many accountants work away from the office visiting clients, only a very small number of accountants in practice use a Blackberry or Smartphone to access financial information.  The vast majority of hand-held devices are used by FDs.  It will be interesting to see how this trend develops in the next 12 months as the iphone and other devices become more readily adopted. 

Conclusion

Instant access to accurate and relevant information is essential to organisational agility and success and therefore remote access has become a crucial feature of modern accounting systems.  Developers therefore need to consider carefully a number of methods for accessing their systems remotely, including via web-browser as well as through more mobile forms of technology.  Due to the sensitive nature of the data, software developers need to provide a secure access route, ensuring security is not compromised.  Users need a fast and reliable connection to the data they need to work from so efficiency is also not compromised. 

Recent external environmental events beyond our control have pinpointed how crucial it is for workers to be able to access systems and data remotely and organisations need to ensure that their software developer can provide a secure and reliable platform to facilitate this.

IRIS Exchequer LIVE

IRIS is committed to responding to customer and market demands and as a result, has further developed the remote working capabilities of its award-winning product, IRIS Exchequer.  IRIS Exchequer LIVE uses the latest technologies to enable users to operate and collaborate efficiently by providing real-time access, irrelevant of location, through an intuitive and highly functional new interface (IU).  By taking advantage of leading edge developments, IRIS has created a new ‘Rich Internet Application’ (RIA), which enables both office-based and remote users to have access to live data, providing an essential gateway to accurate business information. 

IRIS Exchequer LIVE is not purely for remote workers; the solution delivers the capability for office-based users to access, manage and tailor transactions to their individual working requirements.  Key to the design of this all new solution is the ability for users to create a personalised view of key information.  An intuitive panel provides a ‘snapshot’ view of activities, unique to each specific user. 

IRIS Exchequer LIVE has responded to the challenge of the demands of the changing working environment by providing a fresh and dynamic approach to accessing critical business data from both an office and remote environment. 

To find out more about IRIS Exchequer LIVE, please visit www.irisexchequerlive.co.uk

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Bad debt – more than a finance concern?

by Anne-Marie Fast 1. September 2011 09:46

Bad debt is often seen as purely a ‘finance’ issue, predominantly by those outside of finance but also, surprisingly at times, by those within finance. As a non-finance person, I too held this view until quite recently. It had never occurred to me that I could play a part in preventing bad debt until I sat in on a presentation by our CFO.

No one would deny that the finance function is ultimately responsible for monitoring the financial health of the business, including pursuing debtors.
It is the finance team who must keep their fingers on the pulse of the company, implementing the correct processes to spot and resolve emerging bad debt to nip
it in the bud before it can cause serious problems. But the rest of us can most certainly play a part.

Take the sales force - with their customer relationships and regular contacts, they can easily contribute to the resolution of disputes and overdue payments in a more amicable manner. They can also avoid accepting new orders from defaulting customers or from those who have breached their credit limit in the first place.

A less obvious one for me was the whole issue of over-selling – sales and marketing unwittingly making claims that products or services – what they will do, ease of use, the support available and so on – in reality cannot deliver. When times are tough it can be tempting to overplay the positives and potentially gloss over the limitations when trying to close a sale with a customer. A customer who has willingly paid your invoice will have every right to demand a refund or discount if the product or service fails to live up to their contracted expectations. This will impact your bottom line and consume large amounts of time and effort to turn the situation around.

Product development teams too, play their part, as failure to deliver on time can affect payments and, worst case scenario, can make an order null and void. After-sales is another area which can disappoint the customer. If you keep them hanging on the phone and fail to resolve issues, they will have valid cause for complaint. In some industries, strict SLAs will even entitle them to compensation if service performance does not meet agree timescales and quality.

There are obviously many more examples of areas where other departments play a part in preventing bad debt but in essence, it’s all about creating awareness and changing habits. Looking back, it’s so obvious, but without my recent wake-up call, I’d be plodding along still believing bad debt issue were purely the domain of my finance colleagues.

If you're interested in knowing more about making bad debt more than just a finance concern, please read the recently published IRIS Exchequer white paper, which includes 10 great tips for getting the whole company on board with bad debt resolution … and better still, prevention. Click here to download.

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Welcome to the IRIS Accounting & Business Solutions Blog

by Anne-Marie Fast 17. August 2011 10:17


 

Welcome to the IRIS Accounting & Business Solutions Blog, our opportunity to share insight gained from developing solutions and working with users across an array of industry sectors including wholesale and distribution, construction and not-for-profit, to name but a few. 

Our expert contributors will bring you their news and views on the latest in the world of business and accounting. Featuring a broad range of business topics, the blog will cover everything from the latest in software developments and technology updates, to industry sector news and events.  

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