Monday, December 14, 2009

Not your father's accountant

I stopped by a prominent outdoor gear store in Seattle yesterday right around closing time. I noticed that the clerk was going through every single one of the days transactions by hand. I asked him if that's how they did everything? He replied, yes as a matter of fact this is how we process our transactions. I asked if he had every considered a POS software? He told me that due to the nature of selling consignment goods it simply wouldn't work. For the first time in my life I found myself crying out for an accountant. I envisioned some sort of super hero accountant with the ability to leap paperwork in a single bound and make all this go away! Then the real doozy, the clerk mentioned that yes, indeed his father was an accountant. Now THAT really got me thinking. I'm sure all the returns for his company are perfect but what about day to day basic operations of the store? We've talked here about this and I've heard it talked about elsewhere but the conversation evolves slightly. Accountants and bookkeepers are becoming technology experts and de facto time management experts (or even super heros). Imagine if someone had come in and showed this company how installing a POS software and the ability to track consignment goods would save them HOURS of time? Heck, you can even download something right now off of the Intuit Marketplace developed by guys at the IPP! Now let's sync that software with an accounting software and wallah! Paper virtually eliminated and everything shows up at the accountants office ready to go (almost). The more accountants embrace technology change the more valuable they'll become to their customers. Something no one will admit is that accountants are quietly leading a tech revolution on Main Street America.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Welcome to Twitter

So you're an accountant or bookkeeper who's new to Twitter. Now what?

1. Who should you follow?

- It's important to follow people who provide information and also a little entertainment. An important thing to remember with Twitter is that people quickly block out the "spammers". If you're a bookkeeper or accountant new to Twitter I recommend following these guys;

@CPA_Trendlines and of course @LinkedCPA

As @JasonMBlumer put it so succinctly - "they tweet value". After following these guys for awhile you'll find that they're all witty and funny while being informative and intelligent. Most importantly they're always themselves. You won't fail if you try to emulate them in your Tweeting. They offer insight into their personal and professional life. Which brings us to our next question.

2. What should I Tweet?

Be professional, be polite, be funny, but always be yourself! It's critical to have a personality on Twitter. Start by sending out updates and insights both personal and professional. People quickly ignore the advertisers/spammers.

3. Twitter Best Practices.

When you first get introduced to Twitter you'll notice a few odd things. hashtags, @ symbols and RT or a little symbol. The # came from people searching twitter. If someone wants something to be found they'll type a # mark front of it. For instance while attending the Sleeter Conference if you're looking for news on Twitter from the Conference you would search #Sleeter and it would only bring up tweets labeled from that conference.

4. Why are people following me?

If they're following you on Twitter you're safe. You'll pick up a few different types of followers; those who follow everyone, those who follow you because you are interesting, and reciprocating followers i.e. you followed them they follow you back. One thing, don't be fooled by follower counts. Just cause someone has 8000 followers doesn't mean they're tweeting value. Check out who follows them; are they the type of people you want to be associated with?

5. What to Tweet with? is where you head to set up your account. After that download a piece of Twitter software or use - These Twitter clients give you a lot of versatility over the interface of I personally use TweetDeck on my computer and on my iPhone. You can see Tweets, @ Replies, Direct Messages and searches all right in front of you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Top 5 Accounting Technology Trends for 2010

With December coming up tomorrow I thought it'd be a good time to start the obligatory "what's going to be big next year" blog. Even better I'm doing a Top 5 list. Here are my predictions for the Top 5 Accounting Technology Trends to watch for in 2010.

1. Twitter - It's amazing how quickly Twitter is growing and I think it's going to keep rocketing upward. Particularly with more of the younger generation latching on and making a name for themselves. Look for more accounting firms to establish a presence in Social Media but by starting out on Twitter and Facebook.

2. The Intuit Marketplace - Look for the role of Quickbooks Advisors to start changing with the advent of the Intuit Marketplace. Advisors will have to become experts in applications that make work more efficient for businesses. I'm still amazed that there's been little hoopla over what's going on with this. Something big is brewing here and expect it to break out in early 2010.

3. Going Mobile - More accounting applications and the increase in use of SmartPhones is going to provide us with Quickbooks Mobile and most everything else we want available on our phones. The world is going mobile especially since software is becoming so scalable and portable. Expect to see your ability to access documents and reports on the fly increase greatly.

4. Portals vs. SaaS - Websites are beginning to change and expect to see this next year. In the past the move has been to pretty up a website and put a portal for clients to sign in and access documents. With the move to SaaS and more online options expect to see accounting websites become more dynamic i.e. embedded Twitter and Blog feeds and less of the static "billboard" style that's been so prevalent. There will be less of a reason to go to an accountant's website unless they're keeping it updated with social media feeds.

5. The Cloud - Expect two things with Cloud Computing next year - one of them is for it to grow because of all of the IT cost savings. The second is for the inevitable backlash. There will be more than one case of lost, stolen, or corrupted data and there will be people sitting around saying "I told you so". I would expect to see both of these things in 2010.

Those are my thoughts on what 2010 will hold for technology for accounting firms.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Home from Sleeter

I thought I would give a quick recap on the Sleeter Conference partly to try to rethink everything I heard. By all accounts Sleeter was a great success! We met a lot of amazing people and had a great time showing off our product. It fired us up a lot for next year's Sleeter Conference and made us realize that we were talking to exactly the right people. As a vendor it's interesting to see what other technologies are out there. It's pretty amazing to see how developers, accountants, bookkeepers et cetera have come together to solve problems encountered everyday. There were a couple "surprises" in areas where I expected more advancement. One thing that was odd to me was that there wasn't a lot in the "out of browser experience" category. We were the only out of browser application at the show. Looking at where other industries have gone with this (ebay Desktop) I say it's safe to say next year's Sleeter show will feature a lot more Rich Internet Applications (RIA). The lack of RIA amazed me so much that we're actually going to have a guest blogger later on to talk to us about what's happening in that realm in other industries.

Next year I think will be a much different story as the Intuit Partner Platform continues to develop and offer applications to the business world. I suspect that over the next few years you'll see a big change in vendors at the Sleeter Conference as more products come out of Intuit's Federated App Platform. Expect to see a few more vendors next year offering applications on the Intuit Marketplace.

The second thing was the lack of iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, and Windows Mobile OS apps. It just doesn't seem like we've fully taken the plunge on going mobile. For vendors it means tons of opportunity but on the other hand it also means there's a lot to learn. I feel that some of the hesitance with going mobile is security fears.

Overall we had a great time. I wanted to say thank you for everyone who stopped by and made our trip down so incredibly worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Thoughts on Sleeter

I wanted to give some first impressions from the Sleeter Conference for a first time exhibitor. We arrived here on Sunday and found ourselves in sunny Orlando. Monday morning we had a chance to sit down with Alex Barnett from Intuit with the their Partner Platform. It's time to be excited everyone. You're going to be amazed at what developers have up their sleeve right now. We've all been scratching the surface with the possibilities of Quickbooks. Hold on to your seats.

Set-up went extremely well yesterday and the team from Viper was great in helping out. The show opened up and I have to say I've been very impressed with the quality of attendees at Sleeter. Having a chance to chat with people here has been great. The quality of questions and the insightful input from participants has been top notch. It's been great to hear from the attendees. Yesterday was a first pass at running our booth here and already we've all been super impressed with how great of a time we're having. I hope today and tomorrow end up being as productive as yesterday. Based off what we've seen so far though I think it's fair to say it will be.

The vendors as well have been quite impressive. It amazes me to see how accounting technology is changing and how rapidly. It makes me very curious to see what the landscape will look like next year at the same time. Will we see more Cloud based applications and a move away from the desktop? Will we see more vendors with applications sold on the Intuit App Marketplace? What will be the software next year that blows people away?

Thank you to everyone who's stopped by already and if you haven't please feel free to drop by sometime while we're down here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Go Big (Mobile) or Go Home

One of the great things about owning an iPhone is all of the apps. If you're not an iPhone owner than you have no clue as to what I'm talking about. If you are an iPhone user you'll agree that you can find applications for nearly everything. So why am I ranting about the iPhone? It's fairly evident with Google's new Android OS and Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry et cetera that things are moving to an increasingly mobile environment. My curiosity lies in how future iterations of accounting software will allow mobile access. Security issues aside (remember there was a time when computers were not to be trusted) and smart phones are simply very tiny very mobile computers. My vision of the future (which also includes the Phillies winning a second World Series ) sees a not too far off time when an accountant can leave the office and conduct all his business through mobile apps. Not necessarily having a full version of Quickbooks on your phone but rather an iteration that allows you to track everything while out of the office. I envision it as a workflow management system in the palm of your hand. Just imagine leaving your practice earlier because of an emergency knowing that several important tasks are still on your plate. You open up an application on your phone that gives you a list of pending tasks, notifications, and IM's from clients and staff. You open the app and switch your workflow so that all notifications are sent to one or more team members while you're out. Now of course you want to check up on those tasks while you're out. You'll also be able to view your practice's complete and pending assignments no matter where you are. Receive a notification from a client about a file? A few taps on the phone and it's immediately sent to a team member. With all the tools out there right now I can't see this application as being far off. I am slightly surprised that such an application doesn’t already exist. I think it's only a matter of time before we see accounting practices go completely mobile with their practice.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When will Accounting Technology catch up?

The Great Recession will greatly affect accounting technology over the next 4-5 years. With retirement portfolios taking big hits near retirement baby boomers have decided to hang on. Many in this demographic (I say many, not all) are late adopters of technology. As such it means that the move to newer technologies in most industries will slow down a little bit. Just two years ago, the stage was being set for a younger generation to start pushing new exciting technology very rapidly but that is going to slow down quite a bit. At the top of the page the Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Bell Curve gives us a great look at our different users in the accounting world. So who's using what in today's accounting tech world?

Innovators - The top 2.5 percent are our Cloud Computing and SaaS enthusiasts. They're probably using VOIP phones and texting their friends. If they're using Quickbooks they're already buying from the Intuit Marketplace. They have a website and they use it, the probably even know a little HTML. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn?! They've been dialed in for a long time. Windows 7 and Snow Leopard are already old hat.

The early adopters - In the same vein as the innovators but they're waiting for the bugs to get worked out. They're waiting on Windows 7 and some may still use Windows XP. They may have some information on the Cloud but they're more than likely doing it for cost savings and ease of use. They like being cutting edge but not to the point that systems fail. They're using Twitter and definitely have a website. They also have already updated to Quickbooks 2010. They're not as likely to be using VOIP phones as they're not entirely sure of the advantage but some do have them.

The early majority - They're using Quickbooks though probably just 2009. They have websites but aren't entirely dialed in to social media just yet. They're running Windows XP and as far as life goes there are no new big technology changes coming down the pike. They've heard of the Cloud but it looks dark and stormy to them. They may have social media accounts but it's mostly because some young college graduate insisted that they start one. Their first tweet was "trying to figure out how this works".

The late majority - Depending on the business there's a possibility they don't even have a website. Generally rely on word of mouth and the belief that they don't need to really advertise if they have a great product. They're using Windows XP and have software that's at least 2-3 years old and believe "if it ain't broke, don’t fix it".

The laggards - Our favorite pen and paper or even DOS users. Insisting that "it works for me!". Come on, everybody knows one. They're the AMC Pacer of software users. The late majority include a number of accounting professionals who due to the economic downturn will still be working for the next few years rather than opting for retirement.

So what does this mean overall for accounting technology? It means that things have slowed and will be that way for another few years. Don't expect the Cloud to take over anytime.