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When ICAEW conducted research with firms in 2011, cloud adoption was negligible, barely registering single digit percentages. The practice software landscape has changed dramatically since then, with some incumbent providers moving to a cloud-first business model, while many new providers are cloud-only.

However, some variation in the level of cloud adoption remains, particularly across different software categories and by firm size.

There is a clear trend that software categories with broad, sector-agnostic benefits (such as CRM and accounting software) are becoming more cloud-based, while practice management, payroll and tax software, for example, continue to be dominated by desktop solutions.

Smaller firms appear to be using less cloud-based software. This may indicate that they have yet to fully embrace the opportunities that cloud platforms can provide, such as collaboration, integration and accessibility of information. Or, they may see the overheads in adopting cloud-based software as too high. With less hardware to manage, desktop solutions are not as challenging to maintain.

Approach to specialised software

Everyone interviewed for our 2023 research into the tech and software landscape for mid-tier practices is using specialised software to deliver at least some services, and over half are using specialised software across the majority of services.
The results are slightly higher than when the same question was asked of smaller firms (predominantly fewer than 11 partners) in 2019. This likely reflects the rapid progress in technology over the last few years, more than  the greater maturity of larger firms in this space. Indeed, when we break the 2023 responses down by firm size, it’s the smaller firms (11-20 partners) surging ahead, with 77% currently using specialist software extensively. 

Underdeveloped areas

Nearly a third of interviewees from our 2023 research considered practice management software to be the most underdeveloped, followed by document management, client onboarding and CRM solutions. All clearly have potential, but it appears that the solutions many firms are currently using lack the level of automation and user experience that is increasingly expected, and that individuals are accustomed to in their everyday lives.

Indeed, poor user experience, lack of functionality and inability to integrate with other software are cited as among key issues in these underdeveloped software areas. Interviewees felt that either key functionality was missing from some critical applications, or that poor user experience meant it was difficult to make the most of the functionality that does exist. It is also increasingly important to firms that software applications talk to each other, a common thread that ran throughout the survey.

Cloud-based solutions should help to solve some, if not all, of these problems, and firms should not be afraid to ask probing questions, both internally and of their software providers, when seeking to move to a cloud-first model.

Mid-tier Tech Forum

You can join the conversation by taking part in our Mid-Tier Tech Forum. Email techfac@icaew.com if you would like to be added to the distribution list.
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Further resources

Finance in a Digital World - support for ICAEW members and students on digital transformation and technology
Finance in a Digital World

ICAEW has worked with Deloitte to develop Finance in a Digital World, a suite of online learning modules to support ICAEW members and students, develop awareness and build understanding of digital technologies and their impact on finance.

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