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.

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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.”