A year ago, payroll processing remained a class of software striving to serve both accountants and their customers. Still making the transition from service bureaus to the desktop and on to the Internet, the focus was less on how to help accountants than on how to get directly to their clients.There were exceptions, of course - AccountantsWorld, which worked only through accountants, and Payroll CS. But for the most part, the software reflected the ambivalence of the accounting industry itself in approaching payroll. For many accounting firms, payroll was a mechanical, time-intensive and low-margin business that was best outsourced. Three factors changed all that.

* The move to the Internet. The move to the Internet changed payroll processing from an exercise in data entry and check-signing to an interactive, customer-focused service that could enhance client relationships while requiring less data handling. And it pushed the pricing down into the range that accountants and their clients could afford.

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