The Software Your Colleagues Are Using

Article excerpt

To help in making software buying decisions, the authors report on their survey of software usage by small and medium-sized firms The results are analyzed and compared to the results of a similar survey done four years ago and to usage by large firms.

What software should you use to operate more efficiently and effectively? You are aware of the expansive amount of technology and software available, and may wonder where to best spend your money. You may not be aiming for a front-row seat on the leading edge of technology but you don't want to be working harder than you need to. Specifically, what investments will give you the biggest bang for your hardearned money?

One guide to help make software purchasing decisions is to learn what other accountants are using. This information is not the only data needed for making decisions, but it is an important input.

To learn what computer software other accountants in small and mediumsized public accounting firms are using, we systematically gathered and analyzed data from a random sample of the members of the AICPA in the summer of 1995. We received 143 usable responses for a response rate of 49%. The respondents were classified into several groups, two of which were mediumsized (local firms with 20 or more professionals and all regional firms) and small public accounting firms (local firms with fewer than 20 professionals).

The findings from the study that relate to accountants in medium-sized and small public accounting firms may be of particular interest. The practices of national and international firms are from time to time introduced as a contrast to what medium sized and small firms are doing.

Computer Usage

In case you're wondering just how important technology purchasing decisions are, consider this. The daily use of microcomputers in the office by a typical accountant in a medium-sized firm was an average of 2.2 hours a day four years ago. This was based on a similar study the authors conducted in 1991. Since then, use has increased tremendously; today, accountants in medium-sized firms say they use a microcomputer at their office an astonishing six hours a day. And if this were not enough, 43% of these accountants also use microcomputers at home for office work a little more than four hours a week on average.

The daily use of microcomputers in the office by accountants in small firms was an average of three hours a day four years ago. Currently, these accountants average almost five hours a day on a microcomputer at their office, and 49% of these accountants put in an additional 61 hours a week for office work on home computers.

Operating Systems

The most basic decision is what operating system to adopt. Ninety-five percent of accountants in medium-sized firms use the MS or PC-DOS operating system and five percent use UNIX. All the responding accountants in small firms use the MS or PC-DOS operating system. Interestingly, no accountants we surveyed in medium-sized and small firms use Macintosh or OS/2. However, 19% of accountants in large firms use Macintosh.

A large percent (79%) of accountants in medium-sized firms use Windows. Furthermore, the accountants who use Windows spend 63% of their computer time in Windows. Many accountants not already using Windows volunteer they plan to purchase it in the near future. Current and planned usage of Windows may be the reason accountants say they think an adequate amount of RAM is 12 megabytes.

Only 62% of accountants in small firms use Windows. Not only do fewer accountants in small firms use Windows than accountants in medium-sized firms, but those who use Windows spend less (46%) of their computer time in Windows. Approximately 20% of accountants in small firms say they plan to purchase Windows in the near future.

These findings suggest many accountants are clinging to some DOS-based programs. On the other hand, a steady shift to the Windows environment is indicated by a considerable amount of current usage and planned purchases of Windows software. …