What CPAs Want in Accounting Software

With only one in 10 fully satisfied, they want a lot more than they’re getting. New study pinpoints buying plans. Join the study; get the benchmarks.

August 2, 2007
by Rick Telberg/On Finance

No doubt about it, finance managers and CPAs love software. In the past couple of decades, accounting applications have gone from useful novelty, to powerful tool, to absolute necessity. No matter how much you like the good-old pencil-and-eraser solution, it just won’t meet today’s demands of financial regulations, tax codes and competitive urgency.

But that doesn’t mean that finance professionals love the software they’ve got.

Some do. Some don’t. Which means about one in three are in the market for something better.

We’ve been canvassing a broad spectrum of accountants to learn more about how well they like their accounting software or enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages — what they like about them, what they’d change if they could and how likely they’ll be looking for new software solutions in the near future.

CPA Satisfaction. Buying Plans. Key Purchase Criteria.

Join the study and get the benchmarks.

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The answers to all these questions depend a lot on how well finance professionals like their current software.

Atlanta-based consultant Gary Smith traces some of today’s dissatisfaction with the Y2K rush in the late 1990s. “A good number of CPAs in industry work for companies that implemented new integrated business software systems or ERP systems just before the year 2000. There was a great rush due to concerns that existing software would not work in 2000,” Smith told us. “Many implementations were done in a rush. The result was user dissatisfaction. However, the pain of changing systems is such that few companies will change software systems like they do company vehicles. I have read estimates that companies keep their systems for an average of seven or eight years. So it would not be unreasonable that a third are now ready to change.”

Overall, only about one in 10 professionals is “completely happy” with their software. And the satisfaction rate among only finance professionals (excluding CPAs in public practice) is even less.

So if I were an accounting software designer — and I’m “completely happy,” I’m not — I’d be paying attention.

And here’s what I’d want to learn from the finance professionals: What would you like to see in software, and how likely are you to shop for something new?

In hopes of endowing the profession with better software, we asked what one thing these users would change in their software packages if they could wave a magic wand and have it happen.

Ninety-nine percent wanted to see pigeons fly out of their PCs, but not one would admit it. Rather, they said things like “an all-integrated system” and “ease of use” and “drill-down everything.”

Some offered intriguing new ideas.

Kevin Cerutti, of MBIA MuniServices in Fresno, Calif., is “somewhat happy” but would use his magic wand to “have the ability for customers to modify or customize the application and reports … There is very little flexibility to customize and we are required to run our reports outside of the system.”

Some wanted to get back to basics.

“Burn it and replace it with anything else,” said Berlan Crouch, a senior staffer with Angel & Co. in Cassville, Mo., who described himself as “not very happy.”

It’s the less-than-happies of the world who will be in the market for new software. What they won’t be in the market for, however, are more problems.

Asked how important various criteria were in selecting an application or ERP package, “ease of use” was chosen overall by 97 percent as important. But “features and functionality” came in a close second at 95 percent. The “vendor’s long-term viability” followed.

There’s something disturbing about so many CPAs being unhappy with the tool of their trade, but it’s encouraging to know that so many of them aren’t going to put up with it much longer. They’re in the market. Let’s hope the market’s ready.

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN: What do CPAs want in accounting software? Join the study; get the benchmarks report.

COMMENTS:Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.

Copyright ©  2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.