Accountancy firms should spend 7% of their turnover on computers if they are to survive in the age of e-commerce, according to a US expert in accounting IT. Gary Boomer, who heads the technology working party of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said IT was set to overtake office space as the second biggest business cost to accountancy firms. In the US, spending on IT is already higher than on premises 'except in very high-rent districts', he said. One drain on IT budgets has been the switch from desktop to laptop computers, which are more expensive and have shorter lives, Boomer told the Accounting IT 99 show in London last month. Firms should replace one third of their IT equipment every year and follow a written strategic plan. Today, less than 10% of accountancy firms have a modern practice-management system, according to Dariush Mogtader, managing director of Dataflow, a specialist supplier. The good news is that good IT practices can greatly increase their profitability, according to Mike Sturgess, managing director of IT training company SWAT. But few UK firms have systems that are flexible enough and even fewer are using them properly, he said. 'You need a system where you can write your own queries, not where your data is held captive by someone else.' Sturgess said good IT systems should contain: a database to identify a firm's best and worst clients; automated routines to consign bill dictation to the dustbin; online timesheets to allow billing in six-minute units; and alerts for bad debts. Sturgess urged firms to embrace e-commerce, which he said was growing at 10%-15% a month in the UK. 'Some firms earn up to one third of their income from computer consultancy. IT is the future,' he said.
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