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November 14, 2007

Microsoft launches Office Accounting 2008

By Nicholas Moody

Microsoft launches Office Accounting 2008

Microsoft has launched its new Office Accounting 2008 software aimed at the UK small business market as the battle for improving the performance of accountants and their clients’ businesses heats up.

Its new software is designed to help small companies, of up to 25 employees, easily organise their financial statements and communicate more seamlessly with accountants. The new program will be in direct competition to accounting software from Sage UK.

Rajat Taneja, general manager of small business applications and services at Microsoft, said the aim is to create a single portal so accountants can see all their clients’ books in one place. He said he hoped the software will expand the role of accountants so they become more like business advisers.

Jeremy Rihill, managing director of Digita, a UK IT company that helped develop the software with Microsoft, said the new program will give accountants more time to provide strategic management advice and add value to their services rather than focusing on compliance work, which is getting more and more competitive.

The downloadable software has been released in the UK after two years of testing in the UK and US markets. Microsoft said the initial response in the US has been promising with a free trial version being downloaded more than 2 million times since its October 2006 launch.

Microsoft said the new program had been tested by hundreds of UK small businesses and numerous chartered accountants. It has received accreditation from HM Revenue & Customs and from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

Microsoft has simultaneously released a bilingual Spanish-English version of the software.

HW Chartered Accountants, a UK practice with a client base of owner-managed businesses, trialled the programme for six weeks before its public release. The firm’s regional director, Charles Hunt, agreed that the software could help accountants move away from traditional accounting roles and provide more financial advisory advice.

Hunt said: “[Advisory work] is already happening with slightly larger businesses. [The software] will help us by providing better laid out information from the client that will allow us to help the client to control the business and produce more reliable information for that client. [It could give us] a bit of financial control, much more so than doing a traditional audit, no one wants us to do an audit. But if we can help clients to make money and control their business better then we get paid more for it.”

Sage is ready for the challenge; currently there are 14,000 accountants and 5,000 bookkeepers using Sage software and services in the UK. Sage chief executive Paul Stobart said the software developer welcomed the competition but believes Sage had a unique offering for UK businesses, including start-up and small businesses, with which it had worked for more than 25 years.

Stobart said: “We are committed to providing UK businesses with the tools they need to drive improvements in their business performance through software, services and support that they can trust and which are simple to access and use.”

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