Accounting Technology Has a Promise to Keep

Accounting Technology Has a Promise to Keep

Accounting Technology Has a Promise to Keep

Business often involves repetition (at least the things that work are usually worth repeating !) however have you ever found yourself repeating the same old tasks without making any real progress? Just like re-living your own Groundhog Day, over and over again……… well Accounting Technology maybe just awakening from its own (20 year) Groundhog Day!

I can vividly recall the buzz around desktop accounting software back in the mid 1990’s (not too dissimilar from the excitement of the Cloud today) and whilst much progress has been made since then it is arguable that “The Promise” has actually been delivered to small business.

So what is “The Promise”?

Part of The Promise was that technology would provide a platform for more efficient businesses, creating a connected, streamlined world with systems that dealt with compliance behind the scenes (the BAS, Bookwork, Tax Returns all being dealt with) in order to make the process of accounting invisible. The result being that Trusted Advisors (Accountants, Bookkeepers, Consultants – The ABC’s to SMB’s), could then get on with delivering Proactive Business Advisory services. In the process adding value to the clients business and their owners lives.

Imagine a world in which technology Completed, Complimented and Enabled a platform upon which the business owner could fast track the realisation of their goals and dreams of why they entered the world of business in the first place (perhaps seeking more time, more money and even that elusive notion of freedom).

The reality has been that Small Business Accounting Technology systems have been mostly delivering Compliance Computing for the past 2 decades, leaving the big picture promise widely under-delivered. Then just when the systems were being refined to cater for streamlined business processes, the cloud arrives with the bold promise to deliver on what the desktop world largely failed to do, so it’s out with the old and in with the new.

So a few years in are we seeing this new medium delivering on the Promise? It’s still early days and whilst there are tremendously exciting developments, there is also concern that we are re-living the Groundhog Day world all over again. One trend we are seeing is Accountants and Bookkeepers (AB’s) getting bogged down in “The Switch” process and once an SMB sees you as their lifeline to the new world you better be ready to gear up to support an insatiable appetite for change and forget about your day job. Fundamentally AB’s will need to decide if they are going to move into the Consultants world or look at the option of partnering with specialist systems (cloud) integrators (Lego Masters

as my good friend Doug Sleeter puts it) who’s job is to identify which pieces actually exist in the clients puzzle and how do you join them all together.

Doug Sleeter says – Think about what it takes to become a “Lego Master.” These masters can quickly identify the right Lego pieces from thousands of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, and assemble them using the right connections in order to create the most complex and interesting structures. These skills are a perfect analogy for what we must develop to succeed with clients in the new world of cloud-based, chunkified accounting software

Whilst many businesses have already devoted time and resources to making the switch from the Desktop to Cloud environment, the Early Majority wave is yet to come. The spotlight is now on us all delivering The Promise, enhancing business efficiency with the roll out of carefully considered solutions that add value to the business. This involves more than just removing obvious pain points of the desktop world, although that is part of the reason for the transition – It’s Not the Place to End At! Otherwise we will be just repeating the transition phase and fail to truly deliver the Promise – Again 😦

The potential is certainly there for the Promise to be delivered this time round, however it is going to take an environment of active, continued collaboration by all stakeholders in the Accounting Tech profession to make it a reality. We all have a responsibility to participate with a Focus on the End at the Beginning to ensure that this time – the Promise is delivered, Small Business certainly deserves that we do, and I believe we can 🙂

Luck (Success) is When Opportunity Meets Preparedness !

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This blog post is probably more for the ABC’s (Accountants | Bookkeepers | Consultants) out there who provide services to those of us in SMB (Small to Medium Business) land. Although business owners and/or operators are certainly welcome to read on for a sneak peek into the future services that ABC’s will be offering you and your business, and perhaps not before time too!

But first some philosophy – Lucius Seneca (first century philosopher and tutor to the young Nero) has a famous quote: “Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity”.

We have been brought up to believe business success is achieved through hard work, customer service and going the extra mile, not really on Luck. So what about this notion of preparedness meeting opportunity? How applicable is it right now to us – the Trusted Advisors who champion the small business community?

As ABC’s we are all facing an Inflection Point (Opportunity) which has the potential to finally deliver on the long standing promise of providing true Value Added Business Advisory services and solutions to our clients. However as Seneca put it, Success (Luck) is reserved for those of us who are truly Prepared.

So what are Business Advisory Services? And how can we best prepare for this unique opportunity? In order to answer this it is perhaps best to have a look at what Business Advisory Services are Not !

Business Advisory Services are not compliance work e.g. Tax Returns, BAS Preparation, Payroll End of Year, Software Conversions, Compulsory Audits or providing Reactive Business Advice requested by the client. So perhaps it is worth considering that all services/ solutions offered by ABC’s to SMB’s that is not compliance are in fact Business Advisory Services.

We have all heard the doomsday predictions that ‘Compliance is Dead’ and whilst I don’t fully subscribe to this fear driven notion, I do believe that Compliance work is fast becoming a commodity, the value of which is being eroded. I don’t meet too many young budding ABC’s that want to spend all of their time in the compliance world. They’re keen to move through this level as quickly as possible to get to the real fun and meaningful roles which are found in the Business Advisory space.

Business Advisory has not just arrived with “The Cloud” (Take it from me this really does feel like Groundhog Day from 1990’s with the Windows, Desktop PC explosion). Now more than ever the tools are becoming available to realise the opportunity. It is important to remember that whilst technology is certainly the Enabler, it is not the solution……YOU are the Solution! (always have been). It is your willingness to take the available technology and deliver it in a way that achieves the overall Goal of delivering true Value Added Business Advisory services that clients actually want.

So, what if you are currently not prepared for this opportunity – what do you do? Well my advice to you is to do whatever it takes to get prepared and quickly! It really is an amazing time in history to be an ABC working with SMB’s.

Opportunity for Accountants and Bookkeepers to play the role of Trusted Technology Identifier for their clients?

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With the pace of change accelerating for small business who do you turn to assist with charting your course into the digital future?

Much of the technology adopted in business today has traditionally centred on the Accounting, Payroll and Administration systems; however there is a transition underway to further extend from this hub to cater for more of the overall business processes.

We are seeing the role of your Accountant and/or Bookkeeper evolving too. The traditional compliance (tax return) and data entry roles are becoming commoditised and streamlined, with some new generation software systems removing entire swathes of work previously undertaken by each party. This change is providing the opportunity for your Accountant and/or Bookkeeper to take on the role of Identifier and Connector. They can identify which business processes could benefit from using technology and then connect you with the provider(s) who specialise in those solutions.

Adoption of further technology in your business leads to increased efficiencies and systems that streamline your business operations; however it is important to get it right.

The Accounting and Bookkeeping professions are working feverishly to identify the solutions that will serve their clients (you) in building stronger businesses for the future. We can see the world becoming further specialised in this space with Accountants and Bookkeepers continuing to favour 1-2 core accounting solutions and building on their skill sets to identify the add on solutions that connect with the core accounting system.

So what solutions will help round out the use of technology in most small to medium sized enterprises? Let’s start with a “Big-6” pack of solutions that may be appropriate for many small /medium sized businesses;

  1. CRM (Customer / Client Relationship Management Systems, Email Marketing, Time Billing)
  2. Web Store Integration (Connecting your Online Store with your Accounting System)
  3. Electronic Document Management (storing and linking documents)
  4. Payroll Portals (Including Rostering and HR)
  5. Advanced Inventory (Including Manufacturing & Distribution)
  6. Dashboard (KPI) Business Intelligence Reporting

Whilst all of these areas may not apply to your organisation it’s highly likely that some do and here is an opportunity to identify and assess which may be appropriate – now and in the future.

So who do you turn to for advice? Your Accountant and/or Bookkeeper. They know your business, are a great place to start and have strong vested interests in seeing your business develop integrated systems that work effectively. Whilst it is early days in the professions, we are also starting to see specialist consultants who can integrate the “Big-6” solutions (and beyond) into your accounting system.

Should Accountants Really Know Accounting Software?

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Now before you start screaming at the page, with an answer that seems blindingly obvious – let’s take a moment to explore this question a little deeper.

Like many small business owners and operators your accountant was possibly the one who suggested your current accounting software solution to you, which in many cases has proven to be a perfectly suitable recommendation.

However there is a dilemma facing accounting firms in working out how far they go in recommending, consulting in and ultimately supporting specific software solutions and many firms are currently assessing their role in this entire process.

Whilst many see this as a totally appropriate service for our accountants to be offering, there is the issue that it requires a commitment of resources to a totally new business division.

Accountants (and I am one so will hopefully get away with this comment) have been traditionally viewed as “Someone who knows a little about a lot of things!” – a generalist, who has some broad knowledge in the various components of business (there are a lot of components and thank goodness someone takes on this role). So perhaps it’s a tad unreasonable of us to expect our accountant to know all about Accounting Software Solutions, even though they may have recommended it to us in the first place.
I am not suggesting that your accountant doesn’t have a role to play in your software selection process – they certainly do, it’s likely they have had some exposure to many of the commercially available software products (both Desktop and Cloud) and can be an important piece in the puzzle of choosing an appropriate solution for your business. But don’t expect your accountant to be the absolute authority on all available software solutions, that would be unfair.

Most accountants would certainly view your business software as a necessary tool and it’s an advantage if they have a strong working knowledge on how to use it, but just like driving a car there are not many of us who know exactly how the engine really works. Just like your vehicle when it needs some repairs we don’t always take it back to the salesman who sold us the car, especially if the best mechanic in town is located somewhere else.

So with the current transition to Cloud Computing we see accounting firms having to make a fundamental business decision – either commit to building a Software Consulting Division or partnering with trusted specialists who already provide this service. Either way this is just another example of how your accountant continues to be one of your most trusted advisors and a vital cog in the wheel of business.

Accounting Software – Entering the “Twilight Zone”

Caught Between Desktop Software and The Cloud

Just like the good old manual cashbook (c’mon you remember those) – desktop accounting software may soon have had its day due to the rise and rise of Cloud Accounting Solutions.

The rapid uptake of “Cloud / Online” Accounting solutions is partially due to the fact that so little of their Desktop Counterparts overall capabilities are actually being used. Desktop software vendors seem to have also stalled in the innovation of their existing solutions. This is perhaps making it easier to entertain a transition to internet based systems that promise so much but in reality are still being built out to the levels of functionality of their current Desktop competitors.

You could argue that current Desktop Software is only ½ used whilst Cloud Accounting software is only ½ built!

Although early adopters have taken the leap, the masses are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the market to validate who are the suppliers of choice. Like all technology adoption life-cycles there comes a “Tipping Point” when the product becomes mainstream (seemingly overnight to the uninitiated) and this is where Cloud Accounting is fast approaching.

Although the future destination is clear we seem to be approaching an uneasy “Twilight Zone” where both solutions exist and neither dominates. Software providers are feverishly building their solutions to achieve this “Base Camp” level where feature sets can be easily compared between solutions. Once this phase (often described as the “End of the Beginning”) is complete the discussion will move from comparing features to philosophy and tangible long standing business benefits (both for Clients and Advisers) which is far more emotive and compelling.

It’s fascinating to watch how long standing software corporations are grappling with the process of continuing to enjoy the rewards from their established Desktop software products whilst knowing that their future lies in providing Cloud solutions. Whilst this Twilight Zone exists I wouldn’t expect any new ground breaking enhancements to your Desktop software, the developer’s interests and passion lies firmly in the development of cloud based solutions.

So right now you have 2 choices: Continue to finish implementing efficient business systems using your current Desktop Accounting Software as the base (whilst devising your cloud transition strategy). Or, take a leap of faith to the New World.

However be warned – if you approach the Cloud Solutions roll out in the same (incomplete) ways as your Desktop days then don’t expect to get a different result. Incomplete systems fail to deliver the potential benefits whether on your desktop or in the cloud. Worse, you could be taking a backwards step, particularly if you haven’t articulated what you wish to achieve by transitioning to the Cloud. This transition will often involve Re-learning a completely new program and paradigm in the way you work whilst hopefully tying down those efficiency loose ends which remained in your Desktop software set up.

So whilst the destination is set the course and duration of the journey is unknown – one thing for certain is that we all need to – Prepare for and Embrace – Change!

Clouds Have Different Shapes !

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Cloud Computing is a term business owners, operators and advisors need get their heads around – and fast.

Simply put “Cloud Computing” is the ability to access your information and applications (often stored on mainframe computers in a Data Centre), using the Internet. Giving you mobile access to your business anywhere / anytime via an internet connection.

Whilst the term “The Cloud” may be new the fact is that many small / medium sized businesses have been operating in the cloud for many years. In our own case we have been using the internet to access our server (located in our office) and work remotely for nearly 10 years. So why change now?

Anyone who uses a computer knows that when they work they are fantastic, however when they stop it can be a disaster. The Cloud is being sold on the offering of a more reliable service, greater efficiency via mobile access from various devices, enhanced security, constant backup, a platform to collaborate and connect various business applications and generally a more cost effective solution than maintaining computers in your office.
So let’s look at the 3 main types of cloud models on offer:

“Pure Cloud” – This interface is built around the use of web pages to navigate and process your accounting information. Access is from any internet enabled device (Safari, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer etc). Think of Facebook, Internet banking and Gmail as examples of pure web based applications. The ‘Pure Cloud Version’ will appear very different to your desktop accounting software even if they are produced by the same major software company.

“Hosted Cloud” – Taking all of your current business software that you have on your server and storing it on the servers maintained by the “Hosting Provider” and you just use the internet to access it. This is an easy first step to the cloud as you just take all of the programs you are used to and put them in the cloud. This sometimes requires additional login details and possibly loading software onto your mobile device to enable access.

“Hybrid (Sync) Cloud” – This requires you to load an application on your device and store information online. At first glance it looks like you are stuck in the middle of both the old and new worlds and appears to be a convenient transition product for the software supplier. It is sold on the basis that you can work online and offline (no internet) and the data sync’s when you get back online.

Whilst each of these cloud solutions have similar characteristics in so far as your business data is ultimately stored on a computer somewhere and that you can access it. There are some very specific pro’s and con’s of each cloud model so feel free to talk to us before you make the leap to the cloud.

For further information contact 1300 289 846 or visit the QA Business website

Do Add on Applications Add Up ?

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With increasing challenges facing businesses today, now is the time more than ever to apply focused effort to your business by working on it and not just in it. Taking time to explore the ever growing world of business Add On’s or App’s to enhance your business systems is vital.

At the hub of most businesses today is the Accounting/Bookkeeping software system and though there have been tremendous technological advancements over the past 10-20 years, the future is all about the new breed of Add On solutions.

Add On’s or Apps are essentially a solution that bolts onto, integrates or synchronises with your existing accounting software program relating to aspects of the business not provided by your main accounting software program.

Traditionally the void consisted of business processes that were considered “outside the scope or on the fringe” of the mainstream software providers. Large Software vendors haven’t been interested in developing numerous applications to support and maintain, whilst satisfying a relatively small percentage of their existing market. So filling this need has been taken up by smaller entrepreneurial software developers with the hope of leveraging off the already established databases of the major accounting software providers.

So what Add On applications are emerging? The following list details just some of the areas that we have seen Add On’s implemented into businesses in the last 12 months:

  • Mobile Time & Billing systems.
  • Rostering and Payroll Scheduling integrating with existing payroll systems.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
  • Web / Online & Facebook Store integration.
  • Manufacturing / job tracking / advanced inventory management.
  • Online email Marketing Systems / eNewsletters / Surveys.
  • KPI’s & Dashboards Business Reporting.
  • Backup and redundancy systems, offsite & automated.
  • Advanced management / business reporting.
  • Online point of sale.
  • Document Management.
  • Plus much, much more………

Add On’s are a great way of building your business systems and adding value to your business and ultimately helping you Buy Time. Make sure you do your homework before you decide to implement an Add On service into your business, some things to consider should include:

  • Does the Add On fully integrate with your mainstream Accounting / Bookkeeping System?
  • Is it a Cloud/Internet based application?
    • Where is the Data Stored and How is it Secured?
  • What is the reputation of the Solution Provider?
    • Perform online searches for ratings and reviews of the product and company.
  • Ask for testimonial sites and follow these up (preferably in your industry).
  • Does the software work with the Australian version of your Accounting software?
  • What local support is in place?

So what areas of your business could be streamlined with the use of an Add On Application?