A consortium of 15 software services providers are throwing in $100,000 as part of a proactive bid to stimulate the accounting sector, which has been in an extended trough since the frantic activity of Y2K and GST.
The group, Consulting Alliance, has secured the involvement and marketing funds of a number of accounting vendors, including MS Great Plains, Navision, Attaché and Triumph, to kick off six end-user expos. The first will be held next month in Sydney, followed by Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide. Bendigo has been added to the program as a test run for other regional centres.
Consulting Alliance director Colin Atkinson, who runs his own accounting software support business, CA Management Services, said the expo is targeted at second and third-round consumers.
"It's a prospecting exercise. The premise is that it's not a very exciting subject so no-one in their right mind is going to attend unless they're looking to purchase or install an accounting system now or in the near future.
"The aim is to raise the profile of accounting. It's not so much about quantity as quality attendance."
The expos will address customer issues such as how to select an accounting system and the difference between MYOB and Quicken, in addition to generic education about where the accounting market is going.
According to Atkinson, the accounting software sector has plunged dramatically, with budgets exhausted after GST. This has seen consolidation among vendors and support industries alike.
Rather than be dragged down in the slump, Atkinson chose to form the Consulting Alliance, a nationwide network of accounting software service provides that pool knowledge and resources, much like a buying group or franchise.
"The whole accounting sector is going through an upheaval at the moment. The local guys haven't been coming out with anything new," Atkinson said. "But in the next 12 months I think we'll start to see new improvements and feature sets. Businesses and the channel will then be able to go back to their own timetables, rather than the government's."
He believes the new feature sets will prove a differentiator for vendors beyond the core accounting modules, with some focusing on e-commerce, and others on ASP, job costing or integration into Outlook-type applications.
"Every supplier is looking at something different, so we're trying to get them all in the same room to see what the general direction is."