November 21, 2018

Technology

Would Your Clients Like a Side of DIY Legal Forms With That Tax Return?

As some of you know, I'm at Thomson Reuters SYNERGY this week, which is basically a 1,300 person party for Thomson Reuters CS Professional Suite users. I'll spare you the gory details of product demos and cheerful salespeople in bright orange shirts but I did want to share the big news out of this year's […]

PwC Ups Its Disruption; Gets on Gmail

Rejoice, PwCers, you all are joining the late 20th century!

Excel Can Help You Choose Where to Get a Meaty Lunch

The Internet’s viral sensation of August 2014 was an off-menu Arby’s sandwich known as the “Meat Mountain." For the low, low price of $10 you can get a stack of eight meats and two cheeses. I think even PETA has been too shocked to respond. And what exactly does this have to do with Microsoft […]

How To Add Any Website to Your iPhone or Android Home Screen

You guys have been asking us for an app for a long time, and trust us, we've been asking The Powers That Be for the same thing. Unfortunately, our favorite in-house developer who performs miracles for all of us on a daily basis doesn't have the ability to make one at the moment. What he […]

Hasten Your Departure with Pre-Written Microsoft Word Resignation Letters

Are you ready to pull the plug on your current gig, but feel intimidated by that blinking cursor at the top left-hand corner of a Word document? Microsoft Word has you covered with an array of prewritten letters of resignation. Yes, we here at Going Concern are always here to serve you. Microsoft has you […]

PwC Is Getting Into the Virtual Food Service Business

PwC learned me a new phrase today: digital spaghetti! dig•it•al spa•ghet•ti– the art of creating new words that describe something technical to educate your friends and co-workers; helpful when playing buzzword bingo in your next emerging technology discussion. Digital spaghetti terms share a characteristic of being relatively new and lack a universally agreed upon definition. […]

How to Transform Text in Excel

If you’re like most Excel users, you’re likely self-taught. Nothing wrong with that, I got here in the same fashion. However, from my perspective many users learn enough about Excel to wield it as a hammer when often more nuanced approaches are more appropriate. In this article I’ll give you several ways that you can […]

Sqrl’s Lead Developer Is Crowdfunding Potato Salad Right Now, And It Is Amazing

It seems you can crowdfund just about anything these days, from payment of your medical bills to oddly-named children's books about pit bulls. It's entirely unclear why Zack "guy who will be making the potato salad" Brown turned to Kickstarter to make a $10 potato salad, nor why he thought it would run a mere […]

How to Turn Off Error Checking in Excel

Ed. note: this is third in an ongoing series to help you make the most out of Excel setting-by-setting. If you have a specific Excel demon to slay, you can get in touch for our resident white knight and Excel-slayer David Ringstrom to help you out. If you’ve implemented the changes that I’ve recommended in […]

Use AutoRecover in Excel to Save Your Spreadsheet From Yourself

Ed. note: this is second in an ongoing series to help you make the most out of Excel setting-by-setting. If you have a specific Excel demon to slay, you can get in touch for our resident white knight and Excel-slayer David Ringstrom to help you out.   In Part 1 of this series I noted […]

Accountants Love iPhones and Shun Android, Says This

The latest CPA Trendlines survey — which is worth a glance if you're into mobile tech trends within the profession — reveals accountants favor iPhones to Android phones by two to one. More interesting, 10% of respondents say they use neither smartphones nor tablets at work. Yet half of respondents are billing at least 11 […]

A Creepy Dating App Apparently Cruised LinkedIn to Make You Think Your Colleague Wants You

This is, um, awkward. Even folks who make office romances as regular as 10 minutes in the can after the morning coffee might find this creepy. It's creepy. Kash Hill has the story at Forbes: Last month, many people received an email from a dating app called Sway letting them know that a co-worker had […]

The Future of Wearables as Visualized by Deloitte U Looks Terribly Dorky and Burdensome

I can't even with this. If the future includes walking around with an implant in my thigh (for what, exactly?) and all this crap strapped on me like I'm on house arrest in 1995, FORGET IT. The firms are really starting to hype this crap up, first with Deloitte shilling over at WSJ and now […]

The Secret to Getting Rich in Tech is Being an Accountant

Colin shared this in ANR this morning but I'm just going to leave this here to make sure you see it: David Ebersman did well as CFO of Genentech, regularly making more than $4 million per year at the biotech firm. But his next career move brought far greater riches. When Facebook was in the market […]

Does Your Future of Work Include Wearing Wearables?

Perhaps you've heard the story of a troll young lady who calls herself a social media consultant caught between a punk and a hard place at a San Francisco bar with Google Glass on her face. Perhaps you read Jody Padar's story on Glass and accounting firms. Now we have a piece published on Deloitte's […]

Here’s Why You Don’t Want Excel on Your iPad

When Excel for iPad finally arrived, my first impression was here we go, yet another 1.0 Microsoft product *insert eye roll here*. As you might expect, Excel for iPad only offers a small fraction of the functionality available in the desktop versions of Excel, but I realized it’s unfair to call it a 1.0 product. […]

Why Accountants Can (And Should) Take Over the Business World

We live in a world where everyone is trying to figure out what the hell big data means to them. But really, how much big data is there?

Going Concern March Madness: AND Then There Were Two LEFT in the Ultimate Excel Bracket

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of Excel functionality…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat. The cyber-drama of spreadsheet competition…This is Going Concern’s Ultimate Excel Bracket!

Going Concern March Madness: FIND your Final Four in The Ultimate Excel Bracket

¡Ay, caramba! Our field of 64 has funneled to the Final Four:
Keyboard Shortcuts: #2 Seed Ctrl-Z vs. Other Excel Features: #6 Seed Format Painter
Worksheet Functions: #10 Seed VLOOKUP vs. Data Analysis Tools: #12 Seed Filter
There’s only one more round before the final face off. Here’s how the strong have survived:

Going Concern March Madness: Only Eight EXCEL-lent Features Remain in the Ultimate Excel Bracket

We've reached the home stretch of brackets season and we're about to crown four spreadsheet saviors in each of our Ultimate Excel bracket regions. By this point in the tournament you know these contenders well enough so we'll dispense with any further pleasantries. Plus, since we're talking about features of a computer program, there are […]

Ultimate Excel Bracket Round 3: The Great Eight

Oh, snap! #1 seed Pivot Tables is out! Here’s a rundown of the standings: Worksheet Function#10     VLOOKUP#13     LEFT Keyboard Shortcut#1    Ctrl-S#2     Ctrl-Z Data Analysis Tools#2     Table#12     Filter Other Features#6     Format Painter#8     Format Cells Don’t get too comfortable folks, only half of these contenders will advance to the Final […]

Excel-lent April Fool’s Pranks For the Hated Spreadsheet Jockey in Your Life

With a few subtle changes, you can ruin someone’s day. No, you’re not wasting company time, you’re testing your colleague’s Excel moxy. Feel free to charge prank time as “training” if necessary.

Going Concern March Madness: COUNT the Sweet Sixteen in the Ultimate Excel Bracket

There’s no time to waste worrying about how the weepy fans of Text Box or MATCH/INDEX are feeling, there are 16 SWEET Excel contenders ready to battle it out to see who will move on to their respective regional championship match-ups.

The Debate Heats Up Over How Many Computer Monitors You Should Have

This is relevant to you all because we all know how you feel about multiple monitors. You will recall, before we get into the debate, that dual monitors are critical for success even if you are working on the weekend poolside. PwC realized it could suck the life out of its grunts in half the […]

Going Concern March Madness: Get SUM in Round 2 of the Ultimate Excel Bracket

We had a nice mix of upsets, domination and disappointment (I'm looking at you, Goal Seek!) in the first round of the Ultimate Excel Bracket. If you're just getting acquainted with this spreadsheet battle royale, then check out the results in the Functions and Key Shortcuts and Data Analysis and Other Features regions to catch up. You can also read analysis from our resident Excel expert David Ringstrom.

Going Concern March Madness: Recap of Data Analysis and Other Features

Annnnnnddd we’re back with the second half of your winners from Round 1 of Going Concern March Madness: The Ultimate Excel Bracket. This time Data Analysis Tools and Other Excel Features duked it out amongst themselves, with these features advancing to the second round (see the first batch of winners here):

The Big Problem with Big Data for Big Accounting Firms

If you made a Big 4 drinking game and included the words Big Data, Cloud and Analytics, you’d be in the hospital before you logged your first eight chargeable hours of the week. These all started as leadership buzzwords, but in reality they’ve started to gain real traction, at least in my firm.

Going Concern March Madness: Recap of Excel Functions and Key Shortcut Winners

Ladieees and gentlemen (yes, we’re using those terms loosely), here are your winners from Round 1 of Going Concern March Madness: The Ultimate Excel Bracket. The games began when Worksheet Functions and Keyboard Shortcuts squared off within their respective regions: FUNCTIONS #1     MATCH/INDEX#2     IFERROR#3     SUBTOTAL#6     SUMIF#8   […]

Going Concern March Madness: The Most EXCELlent Bracket Continues

Hello again, spreadsheet fanatics. Have you returned for Excel battle royale? Of course you have. If you're just getting caught up, be sure to go to our post from yesterday to vote in the Functions and Key Shortcuts regions.

Going Concern March Madness: The Ultimate Excel Bracket

Your firm may be able to stop you from streaming March Madness on company-owned devices or with company-owned bandwidth, but they can’t stop you from participating in Going Concern March Madness!

How to Use Excel to Manage March Madness

File this under: things you must know as a spreadsheet jockey and sports fan.

It Is Almost Certain You Will One Day Be Replaced by Machines

The future is scary sometimes. Even scarier, the prospect that you, dear accountants, are more likely to be replaced by machines than firefighters, editors, pilots, and dentists. In fact, the only humans more likely to be replaced by machines than you are telemarketers and I think we can all agree they should have been shipped off to the Island of Unwanted People a long time ago.

How to Stay Focused Using Technology When Technology is Keeping You Unfocused

Jumping off Colin's Open Item earlier today about Tracker — a Chrome extension developed by a former EY employee that allows you to better understand what you spend your time doing — we came across a few browser extensions you all might find useful in this, the most non-joyful time of year where every minute […]

How To Make a List and Check It Off Twice (In Excel)

Our brother from another mother over at AccountingWEB, David Ringstrom is a CPA and Excel wizard. It's not too late to join him for his December 19th webinar "High Impact Excel," which is worth 1 CPE credit and ∞ Excel expertise. Today, David is kicking down wisdom on how to use strikethrough in Excel… you […]

Jason the Hipster CPA Was Using the Cloud Before It Was Cool

Come on, people. It opened for Wilco in '94. Attention accountants everywhere: please stop talking about the cloud. #YesteryearsNews — Jason M. Blumer, CPA (@JasonMBlumer) November 19, 2013

Chegg’s Market Debut Is Not Nearly As Well-Received As Chegg’s Actual Business

So textbook rental company Chegg went public today. And here's sort of what happened… Chegg priced their IPO at $12.50 a share, which exceeded expectations. Here's what you really need to know though: Chegg said it earned $22.7 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, for the nine months that […]

Some Guy Says CPAs Better Adapt or Die, And He’s Right

An interesting piece from Accounting Today tells us that basically this guy says CPAs have to adapt or die: Accountants face irrelevance if they don't keep up with the continuing changes in technology, according to Jon Baron, managing director of Thomson Reuters' Professional Tax & Accounting. In his opening keynote at the company's 33rd Annual […]

Excel Art is a Thing, Apparently

I'm sure many of you consider yourselves more than mere spreadsheet jockeys, rather true spreadsheet artistes, manipulating one of Microsoft's finest products to satisfy your need for domination over data. And that's OK. But unless you have way too much time on your hands, you're never going to get to this level of Excel artistry. […]

Has Microsoft Excel Ruined the World?

This isn't a breaking news story or anything but since our Google Alert for "Microsoft Excel" is filed in the same folder as "Lotus Notes," we sort of didn't get right on this story when it came out earlier this month. Thankfully most of you were drinking yourselves into a post-busy season coma and probably […]

Everything You Need To Know About Blackberry 10 Because We Know You People Are Out There

Editor's note: Greg Kyte has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Blackberry 10 like Doomsday Preppers waiting for JC to knock on their door. Unlike the preppers, Greg didn't have to stockpile weapons or get into canning. No, he just needed a tent. Check out his journey on YouTube after reading this week's post. Believe it or […]

The Cloud Will Cause More Family Arguments This Holiday Season Than Ever Before

With our email addresses plastered all over this website, we get a ton of spam from "marketers" and "PR professionals" who try to pitch us topics completely unrelated to this website such as WHAT HAS MORE THAN 500,000 LED LIGHTS, A ROOM FULL OF REINDEER, AND A SANTA CLAUS JOLLY ENOUGH TO MAKE ADULTS BELIEVE […]

The Very First Microsoft Excel Ad Was Even More Clairvoyant Than Anyone Could Have Known

Human beings spend, on average, a third of their lifetime sleeping. They spend six total years eating, four years cleaning the house and a little over a year on the toilet.  If only someone would do a study to determine how many years the average spreadsheet jockey spends with their nose buried in multiple Excel […]

British Stationery Company Theorizes That Some Businesses Prefer Keeping Books on Paper Because They Are “Unaware” of Accounting Software, Other Bullshit Reasons

We all know someone who's a little too resistant to technological advances in accounting and the accounting business. The partner who never uses email. The office manager who insists on going to the post office rather than printing postage off the web. KPMG.   But even the fussiest Luddites have adapted to the various improvements […]

At Least One McGladrey Employee Is Skeptical of the Motives Behind the Firm Giving Everyone iPads

This just in from a tipster (confirming a Tweet that was pointed out to us) inside the newly reconciled laugh factory known as McGladrey: All McGladrey employees are getting a 3G iPad January 3rd. We found out in a big conference about our rebranding and RSM buyout.  It's still technically "company owned" so it's probably […]

Would Anyone Actually Download This AICPA App?

That’s a serious question.

I’ve been to events with lots of accountants huddled up in a room showing off their technology so I am not implying that CPAs don’t care about apps, I’m just wondering if anyone would download an app dedicated to a particular AICPA conference.

CrowdCompass released the AICPA Not-For-Profit Financial Executive Forum app on October 15th and as far as I can tell, no one cares about it.


The description reads as follows:

Between the slowed-down economy and a more stringent regulatory environment, the last few years have led to a “new normal.” Gaining lost momentum and getting back on track with smart new strategies and practical solutions are necessary for success.

This AICPA Not-for-Profit Financial Executive Forum is the solutions-based conference that features top experts and is designed specifically to address these issues and provide the answers for your financial, technical and structural operations. You’ll come away with valuable insights and tools to take back to your organization and implement immediately.

The 2011 NFP FEF (if that isn’t a mouthful…) sounds like a great time for anyone actually interested in non-profits (my unofficial research shows there are about 7 of you). Not-for-profit financial executive staff members, CEOs, CFOs/executive directors and directors of finance in NFP could probably learn a lot and enrich the very core of their work by hanging around at one of these forums. Hey, you can even check in on foursquare from the conference. But the Android app? I’m not sure I see the benefit there.

Does an app make navigating the conference any easier? You still have to remember the name of the person you met three hours ago who you’re being introduced to again and no app can help you with that. It’s not like there are several square miles of territory to navigate as you’re cruising the conference circuit, so is it necessary to have your exact position on the map? Maybe I’m just an old BlackBerry user who doesn’t get it.

Anyway, the conference is from October 27-28, 2011 at the Westin in my former hometown of San Francisco, CA so it isn’t too late for you to register and fly out there to the Land of Fruits and Nuts for some non-profity goodness.

If anyone actually downloads and uses this app, can you please get in touch with me? I’m curious to hear what you did with it. Sorry, that’s kind of lazy but the AICPA isn’t going to sell me the email list of anyone who buys the app so this is the best we’ve got.

Ten Most Expensive iPad Apps List Includes Becker’s Mobile Flashcards

The Most Expensive Journal recently came out with a top 10 list of most expensive iPad apps and – surprise, surprise – it looks like Becker’s mobile flashcards made the list.

The mobile flashcard set includes over 950 cards with questions on the front and brief answers on the back, which will look familiar to any of you who have used Becker’s regular flashcards.

The app works on iPhone or iPad but you don’t have the option to use it on both if you happen to own both devices; you’ll have to buy two copies of the app if that’s what you’re trying to do.

Curious to hear what your most expensive app is and whether or not you’d buy these.

Do Regional Firm Accountants Have Better Excel Skills Than Their Big 4 Counterparts?

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

I was having a discussion with a colleague concerning the Excel skills in industry versus public accounting. We agreed that, generally speaking and based on surveys of class participants in our respective Excel CPE classes, industry users are more advanced than public accounting users. Within public accounting, regional firm users are more advanced than local and Big 4 users. Why is that?

We had one computer for about 150 professional staff when I started out in Big 8 public accounting oh so long ago. Back then we were the cutting edge in spreadsheet use. We were consulting with our clients on how to use Visicalc to increase productivity and reduce errors. So how did the Big 4 apparently slide to the bottom of the scale?

Theory number one holds that the Big 4 does all their training from within. They take someone who has perceived advanced skills, and use that person to teach everyone else what they know. The problem is that the in-house trainer may not know some of the advanced features in Excel that would be useful to the group. The trainer may only know slightly more than everyone else. My own experience with selling Excel to a Big 4 firm is that they feel it would be nice to know more about Excel, but it’s not imperative to the job. Rather it is better to focus CPE resources on IFRS or the latest tax code changes.

Theory number two says that associates in the Big 4 are focused in on their in-house proprietary audit software which doesn’t allow incorporating new ideas into the audit process like pivot tables or form control objects. Stick to the audit program because there is no room in the budget to experiment with Excel.

Now that I’m done ragging on the Excel skill level in the Big 4 remember I said at the beginning of the post “generally speaking” and I know there are excellent Excel users in the Big 4. I just haven’t met them yet.

Chase’s New Expense Tracking App Will Cater to the Most Anal-Retentive Bosses

If finicky expense-tracking is going to evolve with the times, there has to be a way to track every dime spent from anywhere and it appears Chase is making an effort toward that goal with its newest offering: Jot.

Hot off the wire:

Jot will provide Ink from Chase customers a variety of mobile benefits, including the ability to:

— Receive text alerts within seconds of making a purchase with their Ink card;

— Immediately tag these purchases to custom categories on a mobile device or online;

— Enable employees to tag their business expenses;

— Immediately view all transactions on their account, including those of their employees, through their mobile device or online;

— Adjust employees’ card spending limits in real-time via a mobile device; and

— Create and download reports into accounting software, including QuickBooks(R) and Excel(R).

“Small business owners are innovative, passionate and hardworking, and Chase’s dedication to partnering with these business owners comes from the belief that this group of entrepreneurs is an integral part of the American economy,” said Richard Quigley, president of Ink from Chase. “Jot was designed with small business owners’ immediate financial needs top of mind. Jot will enhance the finance-savvy business practices of small business owners, allowing for additional time and an improved focus on the passion and sense of accomplishment they have for their businesses.”

Financially-savvy Ink customers who have an iPhone or Android phone can download Jot by visiting the Ink website. Once you’ve got it downloaded you and your employees’ spending will be reined in and you’ll be back agonizing over more important things in no time.

Will Barry Salzberg Join Twitter?

As we’ve mentioned, it’s the first week of the new (fiscal) year at Deloitte which means people are getting antsy and your new leaders are starting to get acclimated to their new titles, repsonsibilities and whatnot. One of the most important decisions that new global CEO Barry Salzberg will have to make is whether or not he jumps into the Twittersphere. His predecessor, Jim Quigley, has quit Twitter without getting all dramatic about it, saying, “My CEO tenure concludes today. Enjoyed trying Twitter. Thanks for following my updates. Stay connected w/ Deloitte @deloitte. Regards, Jim.”

So now that @DeloitteCEO is no longer in use, it seems to be a shame that the ol’ Salz decided to not to use it as a Twitty pulpit but we realize it’s not for everyone. However, being the charismatic mustachioed man that he is, I think he’d probably be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. And if he needs some pointers, he can always consult Adrienne’s Twitter case studies.

My only advice is, don’t get too sensitive on us.

Mobile Expense Tracking, The Easy Way

While we won’t all admit it, many of us are pretty lazy. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and given the right set of tools, lazy bastards like us can actually spend more time procrastinating and less time worrying about how to blow off whatever it is we’re trying to avoid.

When it comes to expenses, we can all use an easier way, lazy or not. Here are three apps that should help.

Evernote (free) MACPA CEO Tom Hood uses the Evernote iPhone app to snap a pic of his receipts, which he can then send directly to his office for safe-keeping and reimbursement. This means no stuffing random receipts into your pockets hoping they make it back to homebase. You can also use it as a sort of mobile Post-it note and scrapbook, capturing clips from newspaper articles, meeting notes and even business cards.

iXpenseIt This app ($4.99 in the Apple store) can help you track your own personal expenses as well as any you might incur for work. Voted one of the 50 Most Useful iPhone Apps by Laptop Magazine and a Best iPhone App by CNN Money.

ProOnGo Expense (free 30-day trial, pricing varies) goes a step further and even allows you to track your billable hours. It is compatible with iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and even Windows Mobile. Using the GPS feature, you can track your mileage too. The receipt reader feature allows you to put all your receipts into a neat Excel sheet or QuickBooks file.

Just for clarity’s sake, we’re sure you’re aware of this but here are the IRS rules on business expenses for your records. File it!

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Humiliated Tax Guru

There’s nothing quite as humiliating as a public fall from grace, especially when you’ve spent your entire net worth on infomercials and bad stripey highlights. For the tax crusader formerly known as The Tax Lady, going quietly into that dark night just wasn’t going to do.

As you can clearly see by her Twitter account, which we have screenshotted for eternal preservation just in case the State of California requires her to take it down, Roni Deutch made a last ditch effort on May 13th to spread word of her press conference last week to just about anyone who would listen. We don’t qualify an “@” as actually listening, but maybe it made her feel better to spam everyone from Consumerist (twice!) to a random “Redneck Zionist” with a link to her video.

Yes, Roni, we saw your video. And we laughed at it. Hard.

In a related note, this is not an endorsement but it appears that @IRSHelpOk is doing it right. Check out the many not-quite-specific-but-pretty-easy-to-figure-out digs at those who don’t obey the rules of their state bar association.

Getting Hacked Happens to the Best of Us?

Recently, I’ve been getting suspicious emails purporting to be from a high-up in my company. I have faith in this person and therefore would assume if (s)he wanted to push hot webcam videos on me, (s)he’d have the decency to text me with the hott linkks instead of using poor grammar in work emails. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw the same emails coming from – gasp! – my own email address. Now I knew it had to be a scam; surely I wouldn’t have to tell myself about some hot new webcam girrllss I’d discovered on an .ru domain, I’d have that shit deliciously bookmarked on my own machine.

Being incredibly careful with my logins, I knew I couldn’t have slipped up and gotten phished. Had I been hacked?

Whenever someone says “I got hacked!” I have to admit I always feel a bit of “blame the victim” is in order. After all, I find it a bit hard to swallow that some hardcore hackers in Russia are all that concerned with your personal Facebook page. To say “I’ve been hacked” implies that some outside source did some work to break through your rock solid security and gain entry, and makes no implication that the user themselves likely opened the door and let the “hacker” in, if unwittingly. More often than not, “I got hacked” means “I unknowingly gave up my password in a phishing scheme” or “I screwed up and clicked an unbelievable posting on Facebook that stole my login info because I never read the permissions I give third party apps.”

It’s been done a million times but for your sake, here are a few tips for staying safe out there in the big scary Internets.

Make sure your contact info is up to date. If an unscrupulous individual ever gains access to your Facebook account, you may be forced to lock it down, in which case you’ll need access to the email address you use to sign in to receive communications from Facebook to get your account back. Make sure you’re using an email you have access to, even if it’s one you don’t use often.

Diversify your passwords. It goes without saying that a good password is one that isn’t found in the dictionary but isn’t so difficult you have to keep it written on a sticky at your desk. Dennis Howlett recommends a LastPass account (via AccountingWEB UK) for harder to remember passwords if you must. Substitute numbers for letters (like “1” instead of “I” or “3” instead of “E”) and throw in some punctuation just to be safe.

If you aren’t sure, don’t click it. Spammers have gotten pretty smart since the days of the “ILOVEYOU” virus (which happens to turn 11 this week) and even the most technologically-adept can fall for their tricks. If you aren’t expecting an attachment, don’t open it. Common attachment scams include spoofed emails from UPS or USPS claiming to contain your tracking number or a package exception – while UPS may send you emails, they’d never send you a zip file (tracking numbers are always included in the body of any UPS communications sent on merchants’ behalf). Be wary!

And if you have been hacked, phished or otherwise compromised, delete any offending posts from your hijacked social media pages and issue an apology. You don’t have to beg for forgiveness, just let everyone know you got compromised and are sorry, it won’t happen again.

In my case, I just got spoofed, which isn’t really my fault at all. That’s where a nice email from the tech support department to the rest of the team comes in handy.

BlackBerry PlayBook vs iPad 2: Which Would You Rather Have Your Firm Pay For?

Tablets are the new Pocket PC and while we may question the viability of accountants preparing tax returns on iPads, it might be time to take a look at the new BlackBerry PlayBook versus the iPad2 for all things somewhat work-related. Let’s go!


Pros of the PlayBook:
• features: 7″ LCD display, 1024 x 600 screen resolution, 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1 Gb RAM
• runs Flash so you can watch YouTube videos at the client
• works with Android applications so you have 200,000 Android toys at your disposal
• doesn’t run native email so you have a great excuse for ignoring emails (for now you can use the device as a viewer to connect to your BlackBerry smartphone but cannot actually open emails from the PlayBook)

Pros of the iPad 2:
• features: 9.7″ LED display with 1024 × 768 screen resolution at 132ppi, Apple 1GHz A5 Processor, 512 Mb RAM
• looks awesome
• inspires jealously among your friends who work for broke mid-tier firms
• makes you more likely to get robbed using it on the train, helping you get over your awkward social phobia by forcing you to talk to your would-be thief
• doesn’t run Flash so you won’t be tempted to waste precious time watching YouTube videos at the client (unless you’re clever enough to have a decent converter)
•works with thousands more apps than Android/BlackBerry offerings, allowing you a much larger pool of distractions to access from company PP&E

Though this writer must disclaim this entire article by pointing out that she is a BlackBerry fan, it’s worth pointing out that without playing with one, we have to say the PlayBook is definitely disappointing on the surface. Technology ED is nothing to joke about, and this release was definitely a premature splurt on the face of BB nerds everywhere. No native email? That doesn’t even make sense.

The only selling point on the PlayBook for work may be that many of you already carry around company-issued BlackBerry devices, and we all know management is resistant to change. While iPads have been marketed as convenience devices, BlackBerry has somehow retained its reputation as a work device, allowing a bit of an in when it comes to getting management to spring for a handful of these little toys.

As for increased productivity? We haven’t seen any proof from either device that shows putting one in staff hands leads to any greater enthusiasm for work. Until someone comes up with a mind control app, we’ll keep holding out.

As always, let us know in the comments if you wholeheartedly agree with our obviously biased opinion.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s iPhone App For the Blind Seems a Bit Heartless

I know what you’re thinking, what blind person has an iPhone? We thought the same thing when we read this. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, at least 100,000 of them do. Regardless of the believability of that number, we all deserve the right to count our money.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has developed a free downloadable application (app) to assist the blind and visually impaired denominate US currency. The app is called EyeNote™. EyeNote™ is a mobile device app designed for Apple iPhone (3G, 3Gs, 4), and the 4th Generation iPod Touch and iPad2 platforms, and is available starting today through the Apple iTunes App Store.

EyeNote™ uses image recognition technology to determine a note’s denomination. The mobile device’s camera requires 51 percent of a note’s scanned image, front or back, to process. In a matter of seconds, EyeNote™ can provide an audible or vibrating response, and can denominate all Federal Reserve notes issued since 1996. Free downloads will be available whenever new US currency designs are introduced. Research indicates that more than 100,000 blind and visually impaired individuals currently own an Apple iPhone.

Wait a second, I know adults with perfect visual acuity that cannot work a touchscreen (I bet a lot of them work in your office), how on Earth would a blind person be able to do this?

If you’ve been accused of being fucking blind lately, you can give the free app a spin via iTunes. For the target audience, however, we have some concerns about the practical application and, more specifically, WTF the BEP was thinking.

Robert Half Offers New Rules for the Digital Age

Some business etiquette rules in this day and age are common sense (which we hope most of you have at least a little of): tweet as if your boss is watching, don’t threaten to stab your senior on Facebook (especially if said senior is in your friends list), and don’t leave a miserable trail of bad behavior behind on your company laptop when you leave the company.

For everything else that isn’t so clear, Robert Half offers Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age, tips and tricks for polishing up your online persona. Here are a few sticky etiquette questions and answers to whet your palate:

Can Facebook postings hurt my job search?

A good rule of thumb is to always post prudently: If you don’t want your employer to see it, get rid of it. A recent survey by our firm revealed that 44 percent of executives review the Facebook presence of potential hires. Even if your account is just for fun, keep it in check. To put your Facebook on a privacy lockdown, click on the drop-down “Account” menu in the top right corner and select “Privacy Settings.” Keep in mind that Facebook may change its privacy features at any time, and you might not be aware of the changes when they occur. Always assume that anything you post online may become public.

Should I friend my boss or coworkers?

This is the $64,000 question, and the feelings of those on the receiving end may provide the answer. (See “Thinking About ‘Friending’ Your Boss on Facebook?” on Page 10 of Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age.) If you do connect, utilize privacy settings and different friend lists to control how — and with whom — you share content. Be sensitive to your professional environment: some industries or companies are much more engaged in digital networking than others. If you’re starting a new job, take your cue from others before sending out “friend” requests to your new colleagues.

How responsive should I be to e-mail when I’m on vacation?

It depends on whether you want to have a real vacation. If your “Out of Office” says you’re not checking e-mail on vacation, don’t check and respond to messages. Doing so changes expectations and implies you’re more accessible than you said you’d be. Instead, be considerate to others’ needs while you are out and list a back-up contact in your Out of Office auto response.

We especially like that last one. Remember, being professional isn’t the same as being a bitch, and you are allowed to set reasonable boundaries without giving your partners a stroke while they fume over those damn incorrigible Gen Y kids taking over the office. And if anyone tells you differently, you send them our way and we’ll set them straight.

You can download Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age via Robert Half.

Five Tax Apps to Brighten Up Your Tax Season

Since IRS humor isn’t going to get us through the last few days of tax season, might as well turn to technology for some much-needed usefulness.


Let’s start with an app from the fine folks at the IRS themselves. IRS2Go lets you track the status of your refund and, if you’re of the tinfoil hat persuasion, may make you feel like you’re being watched by TPTB. Not using an iPhone? Try the Android version. To date, IRS2Go has been downloaded more than 250,000 times.

You knew it was inevitable that they’d come out with a tax app for iPad, which the TurboTax people have released just in time for April 18th. One small complaint from users is that the iPad version doesn’t let you log in to update or change current TurboTax info but other than that, this app allows you to prepare and e-file your taxes all without putting down your iPad. Make sure you deduct that $529 you spent on the thing while you’re at it.*

Also from TurboTax, SnapTax is a free app for iPhone and Android (what’s with the BlackBerry hate here?) that lets 1040EZ filers snap a pic of their W-2 to file. The application states it will do all the work for you and is free to try but $19.99 to file.

H&R Block’s free Tax Central app won’t do your taxes for you but it can help you find an H&R near you, estimate your tax bill and help you get together the documents you’ll need to file. It also features a nifty tax glossary in case you forget what AMT is. Tax nerds will enjoy the tax quiz!

Do you live in constant fear of both BPA-tainted receipts and an IRS audit? Stop filing your receipts away in a lead box and try TAX Organizer, which sorts your expenses and organizes your receipts on your device.

*Nothing on this site should be considered tax advice. If you’re really considering deducting your toys, please consult a tax professional.

Survey: CFOs Find Outdated Technology Slightly Maddening

CFOs admit that if technology is implemented correctly it can be pretty damn swell but over half of those surveyed said the biggest barrier to improving the finance department is “out of date and inflexible” IT systems. Also, nearly three-quarters of respondents said that these systems are also to blame for failing to reach objectives. Not good. How can we possibly solve this problem?

According to KPMG’s Steve Lis, “By adopting a unified approach to technology, CFOs and CIOs can transform their organizations to become more proactive, innovative and flexible.” That’s a pretty interesting thought but another possibility not addressed in KPMG’s press release was: spending money. I know, I know. Pretty crazy concept so it’s probably best to just keep things the way they are. [KPMG]

Before You Quit Your Job, You Should Do a Little Tech Housekeeping

Since apparently accounting is still booming and jobs are everywhere according to CNN, chances are you might be considering walking away from your awesome 70-hour-a-week grudge work for the sweet life of private industry or maybe the lucrative pastures of healthcare. Either way, if you’re going to quit your job, you will probably want to keep your former employer as a reference. The best way to do that is to erase your digital footprint as neatly as possible, just in case a team of nerds will be scoping out your computer and any embarrassing data contained therein post-employment.

Let’s be real, just about everyone uses company PP&E for non-company things; email, Facebook and, if you’re at the SEC, porn. We won’t judge your daytime browsing habits, let’s just get into how to make them go away before your last day.

First, it’s best to start scrubbing your history before you actually let on that you are about to leave. Granted, if you’ve gotten fed up to the point of quitting, it’s likely that no one in your office even realizes how miserable you are and won’t notice when your cube is suddenly devoid of personal items. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to take some of these steps before management is aware you’re running away.

So, you’ve got your final resignation notice saved on your desktop and are ready to send it to your boss. What next?


Erase your web history In Firefox, go to Tools, then Options, and then choose “clear your recent history.” While you’re in there, hit the Security tab and uncheck “remember passwords for sites” which, really, you shouldn’t have turned on at work anyway. Not using Firefox? Here are instructions for deleting your history and cookies in Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Unsubscribe from any newsletters or subscriptions you’ve been getting at work Maybe your firm doesn’t care if you get the Going Concern newsletter but just to be safe, spend some time combing through your work email and unsubscribing from any non-work-related newsletters. This way you can transfer everything to your personal account if you still want to receive it and save yourself some embarrassment when the person your emails are forwarded to after you leave gets your daily Bestiality Hotties email.

Delete any personal files you have on your desktop This could be that annoying photo of you and your boyfriend on vacation, your resignation letter (including the ultra-vulgar first and second drafts) and/or any third-party programs you’ve added to your computer (either with or without management’s permission). You never know how thoroughly IT is going to check out your laptop, so assume they’ll be combing through it and don’t leave anything of yours carelessly lying around. This includes your music collection, no reason to give them free mp3s.

Avoid deleting too much It would be awfully suspicious if you tried to clear out most of your emails and let’s face it, there’s a copy stored on the server anyway if management cares that much. This is about cleaning up after yourself, not looking like a paranoid weirdo. Be diligent but not psychotic.

Empty the recycle bin All of the above are useless if you forget to clean the recycle bin when you’re done.

The Doomsayers at Deloitte Have Come Up With a Crisis Management App

By crisis, we don’t mean 70 hour work-weeks and diversity training in the face of that A1 in your office who likes to wear short skirts and low-cut tops just to mess with you.

In the event of a catastrophic emergency like an earthquake, it’s good to know where your co-workers are if you’ve got to evacuate the building. Deloitte Australia has addressed the issue of safety and keeping tabs on the worker bees with Bamboo™, a Business Continuity Management (BCM) smart phone application (so far released for BlackBerry and iPhone only).

How does it work?


The BlackBerry application uses the device’s unique PIN (anyone addicted to BBM knows what that is) as well as voice, SMS and email to keep the team in communication in the event of an emergency. Emergency plans are readily available with Bamboo, eliminating the need to lug along a huge contingency binder stuffed with exit plans and instructions in a crisis situation.

Bamboo automatically logs all usage on each handset and when there is network access, sends these logs to the Bamboo server. The Bamboo Administrator is able to view all logs, from all users to understand its usage, retrace all steps taken and tailor training based on this usage. This data is also valuable in post-incident reviews and audits.

Don’t try to find it in the app store, Bamboo is an enterprise application and as such is deployed by the Company through enterprise application deployment, supported by the local Deloitte office.

Follow Deloitte’s Australian BCM team at @DeloitteBCM and stay tuned, they assure us they’re working to get the kids in America hooked up with their own BCM team.

Check it out in action below:

CFOs Think Cloud Computing (Whatever That Is) Might Be Important to Future IT Strategy

Asked about their current use of cloud-computing services, a majority of senior finance executives either have no plans to pursue it in the short term, or are doing so very tentatively. Nearly a third admit that they aren’t even sure what “cloud computing” really means. Yet, when asked how cloud computing might affect their company’s approach to IT longer term, almost half say they believe it will enable a significant restructuring of their entire IT strategy. [CFO]

Do You Want Your CPA Filing Tax Returns From an iPad?

Technology is a beautiful thing. It makes our lives easier, including work. It gives us supremacy over our late-to-adopt friends and colleagues who are still stuck with clunky old company laptops. And apparently it makes it easier to lug around several devices than just sit at our desk with one. Somehow this is more convenient, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Check out this revolutionary, wielding his iPad as a weapon in the war against April 15th 18th:

With the 2011 tax season in full swing, accountants and CPAs are searching for ways to save time and service geographically separated clients. A popular solution, QuickBooks hosting, allows for CPAs to securely access QuickBooks and client data remotely from any computer, phone or tablet with an internet connection. Recently, NovelASPect’s client, Scott Sanders, CPA, took QuickBooks hosting to the next level. Scott added his tax software to his QuickBooks hosting account on a NovelASPect virtual server. Using the Citrix receiver, Scott can now access his tax software from anywhere with his iPad. He then paired his iPad with his iPhone via Bluetooth to use the iPhone as a mouse for the iPad.

“Accessing my tax software and QuickBooks via my iPad has been a tremendous time saver,” says Scott Sanders. “Clients can review and sign their tax documents at their location. I can then efile the return with the government and email a copy of the tax return immediately to the client. I also have access to client financial information in Quickbooks anytime / anywhere.”

Quick question: can’t a laptop do the same exact thing?

Remember last June when 114,000 iPad user accounts were exposed by rogue Internet security group Goatse Security? Not to mention the fact that the iPad is not only a target of hacktivists looking to prove a point but also thieves who would love to get their hands on that overpriced toy you insist on playing with on the subway.

Here’s the issue I see with on-the-run tax preparers MacGyvering their iPads to shoot the data off to the client and then to the government from just about anywhere: WiFi is not always secure. We assume Scott Sanders knows a thing or two about protecting sensitive data if he’s knowledgeable enough to figure out how to use his iPhone as a mouse for his iPad (and what’s wrong with using a laptop and a, oh I don’t know, mouse?) but I would not want my tax preparer sending me my 1040 to sign; he can barely wash his grungy white dress shirt separate from his red socks.

I’m all for convenience but there’s a point when the work required to make it safe for all involved parties becomes inconvenient.

How to Backup Your Gmail in Five Simple Steps

Note from AG: this is the second in a series of tech-related posts which we are providing by popular demand. Please feel free to let us know what sort of content you’d like to see related to technology and gadgets specifically for accountants so we can make your lives easier. We aren’t mind-readers, so tell us what you want to see here and we’ll send our team of loser interns to fetch it. Double note, “AG blows” is not considered feedback.

How many of you use Gmail exclusively? I have two accounts; one for publishing JDA and ignoring Caleb’s constant Instant Pestering and the other to filter my JDA email and endless email subscriptions. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I woke up one morning to find everything gone and sympathize for anyone who knows what that kind of fear feels like after the Gmail fail that shocked us all earlier this month.

TechCrunch reminds us what went down:

While the initial reports had around .29 percent of Gmail users affected by the bug (about 600,000 users), those estimates were quickly revised to .08 percent (about 150,000 users). And today, those numbers were further revised to .02 percent. This means that only around 40,000 of Gmail’s 200 million (or so) users were affected.

Now, 40,000 pissed off people is still 40,000 pissed off people. But there was even better news out of Google today: all of their data is safe and sound. But it isn’t safe and sound in some remote server attached to the cloud. Instead, it’s safe on back-up data tapes somewhere in an undisclosed location.

Accountants know better than anyone that the cloud can make everyone’s lives easier, keep data secure and allow for freer exchange of information without obnoxious exchange of physical hard drives. They should also, therefore, know that the cloud allows for unforeseen snafus such as what just occurred when 150,000 Gmail users tried to log into their accounts and found nothing there.

Using POP, you can backup your Gmail account just in case. You’ll need a good email client like Outlook or, if you’re ancient like some firms we know (or our friends at the Federal Reserve), you can also elect to use LotusNotes or some other antiquated email client of your choosing.

From the Google folks:

Here’s how to download a copy of every message* in Gmail to an email client:

1. Sign in to Gmail.
2. Click Settings at the top of any Gmail page, and open the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.
3. Select Enable POP for all mail (even mail that’s already been downloaded).
4. Click Save Changes.
5. Open the mail client you’ve configured for Gmail, and check for new messages.

Gmail messages are downloaded in batches, so it may take time for everything to appear in your mail client.

* Messages in Spam and Trash aren’t downloaded unless you move them to your inbox or All Mail.

And now you have a nice copy of every email you’ve sent and received going back as long as your email client can handle. You’ll probably want to save this as a clean copy in your personal folders to keep your personal Gmails from splicing themselves throughout your work email, just in case anyone happens to check what you’re doing during work hours on company PP&E. Even better, do this at home on your own computer so you don’t even have to bother with worrying about anyone scoping your embarrassing forwarded jokes.

Happy Gmailing, people!

Intel’s Thunderbolt Makes FireWire Look Like Your Grandma on the Freeway

Sick of staring at your computer screen watching the data crawl by? Stare no longer, the future of data transfer is here with Intel’s new Thunderbolt™ technology:

From the company with the fastest processors comes the fastest way to get information in and out of your PC and peripheral devices. At 10 Gbps, Thunderbolt™ technology gives you great responsiveness with high-speed data and display transfers in each direction—at the same time. With a single cable, connecting a PC to multiple devices is simple, making it easy to get and see what you want, when you want it. Thunderbolt technology gives you incredible flexibility; high performance expansion is just a cable away for new and novel uses, now and in the future.

Intel boasts that you can transfer a full HD movie in less than 30 seconds or backup an entire year of continuous mp3 playback in around 10 minutes using this technology.

Thunderbolt is bi-directional and allows for daisy-chaining, making that tangle of USB cords hanging off your desk obsolete, as soon as hard drive storage size necessitates lightning-fast data transfer, that is.

New MacBook Pros come equipped with Thunderbolt ports but for the rest of us, it’ll be USB for the foreseeable future until PC technology catches up and new laptops begin shipping with bolts emblazoned on the side.

Just think how many years of SOX-compliant data you can transfer away from prying eyes no sooner than the front desk says “the PCAOB is here!”

Being Twitter Savvy Does Not Keep Accountants Awake at Night

Because we can never get enough surveys, Sage came through with the skinny on what keeps accountants awake at night (no joke). We’re proud to say that alcoholism and Caleb’s typos did not make the list but there’s always next year. Way to go, profession!


Sage surveyed more than 500 of its Sage Accountants Network members across the U.S. in December 2010 to figure out what gets accountants’ knickers in a twist. Results as follows:

Among the 533 respondents, 34% stated that getting new clients tops their list of concerns. 28% cited tax law complexity and changes as an issue; followed by the effect of new regulations and standards on small firms, keeping up with technology, and time management concerns, all at 24%. Work/life balance was cited by 20% of respondents, and keeping up with professional standards was a key concern for 17% of those surveyed. 13% of respondents cited access to affordable healthcare for employees as a worry for their firms.

Perhaps in response to the search for new clients, 83% of firms currently specialize or are planning to specialize in specific vertical business segments. By far, services/consulting was the most popular category for specialization (63% of those surveyed), followed by construction at 43% and retail at 39%. Other popular areas of specialization include working with nonprofits (35%), restaurants (30%), and manufacturing/distribution (29%) clients.

The full survey may be found here.

We found it a bit odd that retaining clients, retaining staff and managing staff came in at 9%, 3% and 2%, respectively. Obviously there is a bit of a work/life balance overlap in there somewhere but because we here at Going Concern know no such thing, we could not bring ourselves to analyze these results further.

It’s the social media section of the survey that shocked us most. Not to say that the results themselves were shocking, exactly, as the shocking part lies in how some of these firms actually manage to make money. What do they use to attract new clients, carrier pigeons and sandwich boards? Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents use their own websites as “social media,” though in our humble opinion the “social” part means using a more conversational form of communication than some .com with your firm name in it. Twenty-eight percent use LinkedIn, 19% are on Facebook and – wait for it – 7% have gotten into Twitter. 7%! A frightening 43% of respondents don’t use social media at all, perhaps explaining why 34% are concerned about getting new clients. They must not be that concerned if they aren’t using social media to put themselves out there.

Know what this says to me if I’m a firm looking to make a killing through social media? Hit Twitter, it’s a no man’s land and you won’t have to elbow out the competition. Really, people? 7%?!

Know what else this also says to me? All my evangelizing about not acting like an ass on Twitter has been in vain; if firms aren’t using it, they probably don’t know how to search for your tweets about getting wasted and wanting to stab the senior for acting like a jackass. So have at it, it’s just you and the MLM bots tweeting out there until these guys get a clue and jump on board.

I think you kids know what to do from here.

Your Company Smartphone Scares the Crap Out of Your Boss

Let’s be honest here, how many of you use your work-issued phone strictly for work? Promise I won’t snitch anyone out. Some of you might even be lucky enough to be able to tweak your wallpaper, add apps and get your significant other on BBM for all day sexting without the pesky messaging data trail.

The AICPA’s 2011 Top Technology Initiatives Survey is out and shows that IT professionals’ biggest business technology concern is not that they could be replaced with robots but the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices in the workplace.

The 22nd Annual AICPA Top Technology Initiative survey, conducted Jan. 13 to Jan. 26, shows control and use of mobile devices was the No. 1 challenge for IT professionals. The finding was based on responses from nearly 1,400 CPAs nationwide specializing in information technology. In addition to mobile devices, the survey signaled future IT issues will revolve around implementation of touch-screen technology, deployment of faster networks and voice recognition technology.

“The surging use of smartphones and tablets means people are doing business, exchanging sensitive data wherever, whenever they want to,” said Ron Box, CPA/CITP, CFF. “The technology is advancing so rapidly that the capabilities for controlling and protecting the information on mobile devices is lagging behind. What was once as simple as losing your phone, could now create an enormous security risk for organizations.”

Remember back in the day when you might, say, accidentally drop your phone in the toilet at the bar and simply have to worry about recouping your contact list? Now our phones hold pictures, banking information and even client information that is oftentimes carelessly stored on unsecured devices that are taken everywhere. IT professionals can’t be expected to manage the network when the network is in your pocket, and when your pocket sometimes happens to be in the bar (you are a professional, after all).

Some of the top issues identified by CPAs in public accounting included data retention, control and use of mobile devices and privacy.

The complete Top Technology Initiatives list as voted on by CPAs, IT professionals, and others responsible for making or influencing technology decisions includes initiatives and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should be aware of over the next 12 – 18 months.

The Future of Forensic Accounting is Now

Ed. note: Welcome to the first edition of Going Concern’s Guest Blogger series. We’ll be featuring both seasoned and new bloggers to share their views on various accounting topics. If you’re interested in participating, email us your submission to [email protected]. Please include “Guest Blogger Submission” in the subject line.

Imagine being able to take tens of thousands of pages of financial data and get it into a database in a matter of hours. Those mounds of paper are quickly turned into something useful to the forensic accountant, without spending hundreds of hours manually inputting the data. Financial data is suddenly transformed and the forensic accountant can quickly map the flow of funaction patterns, create charts and graphs that show entities and transactions of interest, and create customized reports.

Doing things the old way, such a result is only a fantasy. For decades, forensic accountants have spent their time manually sorting documentation, deciding which transactions are important, and doing data entry.

It sounds painful because it is. It takes a long time, there is a high risk of inaccuracy, and there is a great chance that an important transaction will be overlooked.

So if there is technology out there to change all of this (and yes, there is!), why aren’t forensic accountants using it?


The only real answer is that they’re afraid of changing their business model. Most accounting firms charge their clients hourly fees, so they are invested in a business model that is dependent on forensic accountants taking more time to perform work which results in more revenue.

Technology that nearly eliminates the need for teams to spend hundreds of hours analyzing financial documentation is not a welcome addition to the firm; it just causes them to lose money.

Of course, it’s not really true that such advances really cause forensic accountants to lose money. All that needs to happen is firms have to find different ways to bill their clients, rather than simply adding up the time of staff and multiplying by a big number.

In addition to this paradigm shift related to billing clients, technological advances also fundamentally change the way forensic accountants investigate fraud. That makes lots of them (especially the old timers) uneasy. After all, we’ve always done it this way! How can we rely on technology over our own hands and eyes?

Here’s the thing…. those forensic accountants who resist embracing technological changes are going to be left behind. I currently use a proprietary system to complete large forensic accounting engagements, making it possible for me to single-handedly do more investigative work in a few days than a team of 4 or 5 investigators can do in several weeks or months.

This is not a fantasy; it is my reality. And my clients are getting better results much faster, allowing them to plan their litigation strategy much sooner, and ultimately be more successful in finding fraud, defending regulatory actions, and competing in litigation.

Yet I am currently the only forensic accountant in the private sector using this system, or anything like it. The government has been using a similar system for years, and if a client is being investigated by a federal agency in a financial matter, there’s a good chance the government is using the latest technology to aid in their investigation.

The future is not going to wait just because so many forensic accountants don’t want to change how they investigate fraud or earn their money. Those who are unwilling to change are going to be left behind. Those, like me, who want to be on the cutting edge, will make more money and win more interesting engagements that previously may have been too large or complex for me to handle alone.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, CFF is a forensic accountant and fraud investigator with Sequence Inc. in Milwaukee and Chicago. She has conducted hundreds of high-stakes investigations involving financial statement fraud, securities fraud, investment fraud, bankruptcy and receivership, and criminal defense. Tracy is the author of Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide and Essentials of Corporate Fraud, and has been qualified as an expert witness in both state and federal courts. She can be reached at [email protected] or 312.498.3661.

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Narcissist

Following our previous Doing It Wrong case studies featuring the over-hashtagging accounting firm, the excited newbie and the hyperconnected crack tweeter, we humbly present you a criticism of one of our least favorite Twitter users: the self-absorbed narcissist.


You can spot the narcissist from a mile away by looking for keywords such as “I”, “me” and “myself.” The narcissist doesn’t really try to make it appear as though they are interested in others nor do they tend to share useful information, only their own personal triumphs, opinions, activities and musings. To the self-absorbed narcissist, this is really all that matters.

The self-absorbed narcissist is pretty easy to seduce into doing your bidding by expressing even the smallest amount of interest in their indulgent self-congratulations. This can be accomplished by retweeting their latest announcement (retweeting an announcement with lots of “me” and “my” statements will earn you bonus points in the eyes of the narcissist) and doing so might even get you a retweet yourself.

The narcissist may collect followers like nerds collect World of Warcraft gold and, if excessively narcissistic, will likely follow only 1 or 2 people to prove just how awesome and appreciated they are. To the narcissist, this is a sign of their importance and status in the Twitter community, as who needs communication when you have awesome credentials and incredible talent?

How can you avoid becoming the narcissist? Interact! Congratulate others, encourage your cohorts and share useful links that aren’t just things you’ve written or appearances you’ve made in the media.

How Accountants Can Best Utilize LinkedIn

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Many people who advocate online networking do so in a generic way that can be a turn-off. They may argue that the same principles apply regardless of our business or professional activities. However it’s long been my experience that accountants are special and need to be addressed differently.

De some other online social media, I actively encourage accountants to register on LinkedIn – even if they intend doing nothing else there. In my view it’s the only online networking site where you can benefit from simply having a decent profile online.


Generally, online networking can only work if you are active and netWORK. This is also true of LinkedIn but, unlike the other sites, it is the only one that people use as a directory to search for someone like you.

This passive approach to LinkedIn may not produce as good results for those who make more active use of its facilities. But for most accountants, it’s better than nothing.

I recently caught up with Mark Perl, one of the UK’s leading LinkedIn advocates and trainers. He also understands accountants and promotes the site as the one place where we should all manage our professional reputations online.

At a bare minimum, Perl thinks all practitioners should complete a LinkedIn profile to help them be found and to optimise their search engine visibility. At its best, the site enables individuals to showcase their specific expertise to attract clients. Perl goes further and claims it is also the most effective business development and client retention resource currently available. Mark Perl and I each have detailed profiles on LinkedIn as do an increasing number of accountants in practice.

Perl comments, “When you know how to use LinkedIn well, you’ll save yourself a ton of time. You’ll walk through open doors instead of making cold calls, you’ll enhance your personal reputation, and the profile of your practice, you’ll access outstanding information and opportunities that you would previously have missed and, ultimately, you’ll increase your revenue.”

I’ve previously identified five ways that accountants can benefit simply from establishing their profile properly on LinkedIn. There are numerous other ways in which you can benefit further if you are proactive on the site. For example, Perl encourages accountants to use their LinkedIn profile and the answers section to set out their specific areas of expertise. He points out that this offers an opportunity to differentiate your firm’s particular values and virtues.

LinkedIn now has over 75 million business people as members and during March this year UK membership rose above 4 million.

For accountants who are keen to grow their practices this is a veritable goldmine of prospects. “The Advanced Search capability within LinkedIn can uncover all the business leads you’ll ever need, within your geographic location, within the specific sectors that are of interest to you, within companies of the size you prefer to approach and with the very name and job title of the decision maker you wish to engage with,” says Mark Perl.

I think he’s also right that LinkedIn is “unsurpassed” for business development. If used properly, it can be far more effective at generating leads than spammy old direct mail/email campaigns and cold-call telesales drives.

Share your thoughts on this topic in the Accounting forum on our sister site, USBusinessForums.

Accounting Tech: CCH Mobile Brings Tax Research to BlackBerry, iPhone

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

CCH’s new application, CCH Mobile, is an extension of CCH’s IntelliConnect tax research platform and makes CCH’s content and tools available via BlackBerry and iPhone.

More than 1,000 professionals attending the 2010 CCH User Conference from November 7-10 in Grande Lakes, Orlando, will preview CCH Mobile. The new app is the latest offering from CCH designed to ensure that CCH resources will be with professionals wherever they choose to work.

“We’re providing an advantage for any professional who needs to conduct business beyond the boundaries of their office,” said Mike Sabbatis, CCH president and CEO. “And while that’s just about everyone, only CCH IntelliConnect customers will have the ability to conduct research on CCH’s premier content from the palm of their hand – anytime, anywhere.”


With CCH Mobile, tax and accounting professionals can access answers and tools on the spot – when meeting in person with clients at remote locations, or whenever they need content quickly, according to the company.

A limited-time free version of CCH Mobile is available. All current IntelliConnect subscribers can download the debut of CCH Mobile at no charge and all CCH User Conference attendees also have access to a preview version of this portable tax research tool.

After downloading the CCH Mobile app to a smart phone, users of the complimentary introductory release will have access to:

• Customized Tax Tracker News
• Primary materials including Internal Revenue Code and Regulations
• Tax tools and calculators
• Smart Charts (depending on IntelliConnect subscription level)

Following the introductory period through mid-2011, additional subscription packages will be offered to suit subscribers’ specific research needs.

Click here for more information and to view a demonstration of CCH Mobile.

About CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business:
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business, is a global provider of tax, accounting and audit information, software, and services. It has served tax, accounting, and business professionals since 1913. Among its market-leading solutions are The ProSystem fx Suite, CorpSystem, CCH IntelliConnect, Accounting Research Manager, and the U.S. Master Tax Guide. CCH is based in Riverwoods, Illinois. Wolters Kluwer is a global information services company. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Its shares are quoted on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices.

If Only Clippy Was Here to See This: Microsoft Office Moves to the Cloud

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Microsoft is beta testing a new subscription-based product called Office 3 following applications: Microsoft Office Professional Plus (Microsoft’s flagship productivity suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications); Microsoft Exchange Online (e-mail, mobile access, contacts, anti-virus, and anti-spam); Microsoft Sharepoint Online (collaboration tool for building public or team-based Web sites); and Microsoft Lync Online (an instant messaging and online meeting tool).

In 2011, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will join the above offerings. This is not Microsoft’s first foray into Cloud-based apps. Anyone with a free SkyDrive account can use the Office Web Apps (browser-based versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and store up to 25 GB of documents online. Further, Microsoft has been offering subscription plans for the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite that has offered a similar mix of communication products sans Microsoft Office.


Anyone interested can sign up for the beta of either the Small Business or Enterprise versions of the program. Those who are accepted into the beta program receive the desktop version of Office 2010 Professional Plus, along with online access to Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. Once Office 365 leaves beta, the service should be of particular interest to small business owners.

Exchange and SharePoint typically require dedicated servers, which in turn require specialized information technology expertise. These cloud-based versions will enable just about any business to take advantage of these powerful applications for e-mail, group calendaring, and collaboration.

The Small Business plan will cost $6/user/month for 1 to 25 users and will include:

• Office Web Apps
• Exchange Online, including 25 GB mailboxes, and the ability to send 25 MB attachments
• SharePoint Online
• Lync Online
• Support provided via a moderated community forum

The Enterprise plan will cost $24/user/month and will include:

• Office Professional desktop software
• Office Web Apps
• Exchange Online, including 25 GB mailboxes, and the ability to send 25 MB attachments
• Sharepoint Online, including Forms, Access, Visio, and Excel services
• Lync Online
• 24/7 IT-level phone support
• Financially-backed 99.9% uptime service, or, in other words, downtime of less than 9 hours per year

Larger businesses also will be able to subscribe to a kiosk plan that starts at $2/user/month to offer e-mail, SharePoint sites, and Office Web Apps to workers without dedicated computers. An Office 365 for education will be available in the future to help educational institutions provide services to students without maintaining servers.

Many businesses aren’t yet comfortable with having mission-critical applications and data residing in the Cloud, but this combination of low cost and high flexibility might cause skeptics to pause and consider the possibilities.

About the author:
David Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm. Contact David at [email protected].

Accounting Tech: Seven Considerations for Laptop Shoppers

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Laptop preferences often are personal, so consumers should try out a laptop – especially the keyboard and touchpad – before buying it. Consumer Reports says customers should carry the laptop around to make sure it doesn’t feel too heavy or big. The laptop should not feel so hot that a person has to move it off his or her lap while working, and it should run quietly.

The followtures (in alphabetical order) ranked high in tests, as well as by respondents of surveys conducted by a number of technology publications and companies. The laptops mentioned in this article are not endorsed by AccountingWEB.


Battery life

Long battery life is a feature ranked high in many laptop surveys and evaluations. When not plugged into a wall outlet, laptops use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power.

According to a recent survey of 776 respondents conducted by Frank Myhr of Berkley, MI-based FHM Technologies LLC, on building the ideal business laptop, long battery life ranked fifth at 76 percent as a feature most desired in a notebook.

According to tests conducted by Consumer Reports, a normal battery provided between two and nearly six hours of continuous use when running office applications. The publication stated that users can extend battery life by dimming the display, turning off wireless devices when not in use, and running only basic applications.

In its inaugural Notebook Decathlon, LAPTOP magazine put 10 notebooks through two battery endurance tests: a MobileMark test (run twice, both, with and without the WLAN receiver on) and a DVD movie test. The Lenovo ThinkPad T43 took top honors with a perfect composite score of 10. Its elapsed time of four hours and 43 minutes far outdistanced the next closest notebook (three hours and 50 minutes). The optional extra-capacity battery on the notebook’s rear panel was the reason for its long battery life, the magazine concluded.

In an evaluation conducted by Digitalversus.com, the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro was found to have a battery life of nearly five hours.

Display

The size of the screen can be anywhere from 7 to 20 inches. The smaller the screen, the more portable the laptop. A larger screen will be less portable, but easier to use for extended periods, according to a report on Digitalversus.com. Screen quality ranked third at 86 percent in Frank Myhr’s laptop features survey.

LED-backlit LCD is a new display technology that is making its way into laptops. According to Consumer Reports, an advantage of this technology is its more efficient use of power and, as a result, longer battery life.

Consumer Reports ranked several Apple MacBook models, Dell Inspiron I545-012B, HP G70-460us, and Sony Vaio VGN-SR420D/H as having very good displays in its December 2009 issue.

Durability

No matter how careful we are, laptops are eventually going to be accidentally dropped, stepped on, doused, or left out in the car during extreme heat or cold. According to the survey conducted by Myhr, 89 percent of respondents ranked durability as their No. 1 feature.

LAPTOP magazine put 10 notebooks through stress and durability tests in its Notebook Decathlon, including dropping the laptops 10 inches onto a layer of plywood placed over concrete, and spraying the keyboard with water. According to test results, four notebooks survived the stress tests without effort: 15-inch Apple PowerBook G4, Averatec 3360 EH1, Gateway M210XL, and Sony VGN-S360.

Hard drive/RAM

Most laptops come with a traditional 160 to 500GB hard drive, which is where files and programs are stored, although Digitalversus.com says that an 80GB hard drive should suffice for office documents and photos. Consumer Reports recommends paying attention to a hard drive’s speed: 4,200 RPM – while rare – is considered fairly slow; 5,400 RPM is common; and 7,200 RPM is fastest, but costs more. Some laptops can be equipped with two hard drives: solid-state or flash drives.

RAM is the memory the computer uses while in operation, and most brand-name computers have at least 2GB of RAM, according to Consumer Reports. For Windows Vista, users will need at least 1 GB, but Digitalversus.com recommends 2GB. Computers with 3GB can run slightly faster.

Keyboard/touchpad

Many of the respondents who participated in the survey conducted by Myhr commented that the quality of the keyboard is an important feature when buying a laptop. Keyboard quality ranked fourth at 83 percent in Myhr’s study.

Consumer Reports recommends that customers should look for keys that don’t feel mushy, touchpads large enough for your finger to traverse the span of the screen without repeated lifting, and touchpad buttons that are easy to find and press. The touchpad buttons should have a dedicated scroll area.

In its December 2009 issue, Consumer Reports gave the following laptop models very good ratings for keyboard/touchpad: Apple MacBook, Dell Studio, HP Pavilion, Sony Vaio, and Toshiba Satellite.

According to LAPTOP magazine, the 15-inch Apple PowerBook G4 ranked highest for design/keyboard in its Notebook Decathlon based on the laptop’s illuminated keyboard and two-fingered scrolling capability on the touchpad.

Portability

Business professionals are gravitating more toward laptops that are lighter in weight, and that portability has been a key marketing tool for netbook manufacturers. Consumers agree that portability is a great feature, as 60 percent of 600 consumers surveyed by market research company The NPD Group Inc., Port Washington, NY, said that was a main reason they bought their netbooks.

“Retailers and manufacturers can’t put too much emphasis on PC-like capabilities and general features that could convince consumers that a netbook is a replacement for a notebook,” Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, said in a statement. “Instead, they should be marketing mobility, portability, and the need for a companion PC to ensure customers know what they are buying and are more satisfied with their purchases.”

Consumer Reports gave the following netbooks a very good rating for portability: Acer Aspire One AOD150-1165, Acer Aspire One AOD250-1990, Asus Eee PC 1005HA, Asus Eee PC 1008HA, Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2, Samsung NC10-14GB, Samsung N110-12PBK, Samsung N120-12GBK, and Toshiba Mini NB205-N210. Digitalversus.com also gave a high portability rating to the 13-inch Apple MacBook White and the Samsung X360.

Processor

The brains of a laptop are in its processor – or CPU – which performs all of its calculations and has a direct bearing on everything consumers might use their laptops for, according to Digitalversus.com. Laptops generally come with a dual-core processor, such as an Intel Pentium Dual-Core or AMD Turion X2, stated Consumer Reports.

iPad’s Versatility Make It an Essential Tool for Some Accountants

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

With Apple generating much of the buzz, global tablet sales could reach nearly 20 million units by the end of the year, and nearly 55 million units by the end of 2012, according to Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory firm. In addition to Apple’s iPad, other manufacturers have developed f the tablet, such as BlackBerry’s PlayBook, Dell’s Streak, and Toshiba’s Journe Touch.

Not without its limitations, the iPad, which is larger than a mobile phone but smaller than laptop and netbook computers, has become rather indispensible for some accountants.


Apple adulation

“I got it because I work here in Arizona but I have 50 percent or more of my business on the East Coast back in Maryland where I originally came from,” said N. Mark Freedman, who has been a CPA for nearly four decades. “I had a netbook but it was too slow. Then the iPad came out and I started looking into it. For travel purposes, it’s phenomenal. It works faster than any computer I have worked with in the past.”

Freedman works off of a Citrix server that stores all of his programs; nothing is stored on any of his computers. He knew a Citrix application was available for the iPad and tested it before purchasing the device.

“By loading in that application, [the iPad] became a PC. I can open up my Citrix server [in Maryland] and use it to get to all my programs. I just couldn’t believe I could get my desktop on my iPad,” he said.

What’s more, Freedman recently purchased the latest generation iPhone, which he is able to use as a mouse when working his iPad.

“I am able to use this thing when I travel. It’s so light,” Freedman said. “When I see clients, I pick up my iPad and everything is there. It works wonderfully.”

Initially intrigued by the iPhone and how Apple devices manage data and information, Kathleen A. Carolin, CPA, of Scottsdale, AZ-based Kaiser & Carolin, P.C., purchased an iPad the day they went on sale.

“I just got done with tax season and had extra money in my bank account so I bought a toy I hoped I could justify buying,” Carolin told AccountingWEB. “I love that little toy.”

What she affectionately refers to as a toy, however, became much more.

“I am using my iPad to take notes at client meetings. It certainly beats walking into a client’s office and trying to hook up a laptop, wait for it to boot up, and then have it block my view of my clients. The iPad is much more unobtrusive,” Carolin said.

“I am able to get my e-mail on the iPad. So, unlike my BlackBerry, I can see attachments in full and living color,” she said. “I use [my BlackBerry] as a phone, but that’s all I use it for now. The screen is so small. Opening attachments on a BlackBerry is nuts. It’s barely worth doing.”

Carolin took her iPad to a recent American Institute of Certified Public Accountants conference in Las Vegas, using it with a wireless keyboard to take notes during three days of seminars. “It’s better than dragging a laptop with you.”

Using an app called LogMeIn, Carolin connects to her office computer with the iPad. “I was talking to an investment advisor and I said, ‘Oh yes I got a copy of that tax return today.’ He asked what that entity owns, so I was able to [access] my office computer and say, ‘Here’s the property that’s in that LLC.'”

Not only is the iPad useful for accounting tasks and handy for reading books and news publications, it also is quite the conversation starter.

“I have met so many people by carrying it with me and reading it at lunch,” Carolin said. “I went to the doctor and the nurse said ‘Oh, I have one of those,’ and we talked about the apps we have.”

Sour Apple

Despite what Apple idolaters might say, the iPad has its drawbacks – at least for accountants.

“I wouldn’t want to use it on a day-to-day basis as a regular computer. It’s a little more cumbersome to work [the iPad] with the mouse,” Freedman told AccountingWEB. “I fully recommend it as a backup, as a secondary computer, as a travel piece of equipment. For travel and going out to clients on a regular basis, it becomes your computer. I would imagine that if someone got skilled enough at it they could use it to perform audits out in the field.”

Freedman added that using the iPad’s virtual keyboard can be a bit problematic as it takes up nearly half of the device’s screen.

Although, the iPad has relegated Carolin’s BlackBerry to just-a-phone status, she said the Apple device isn’t ready to supplant her computer.

“It won’t replace my laptop yet, probably due to the size of it. I do audits and tax returns. If I go out to do an audit, I don’t think it will feel right to me just yet to use it to do Excel spreadsheets,” Carolin said. “I’m not there yet, but I’m not ruling it out, either.”

The Time Wasted Fiddling with Your Smartphone Is Adding Up

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

BlackBerrys and iPhones have become the latest bane for employers concerned about lost productivity, according to Employment Law Advisory Services.

The company reported that its help lines are taking more and more calls from employers worried about the amount of time staff waste playing with their smartphones when they should be working.

Over the past couple of years, employers have equipped their people with phones that let them send and receive emails. Now that worries about productivity are taking hold, one of the common questions is whether taking smartphones away from employees might constitute a change in their remuneration package.


“What started as a trickle is certainly building up to a stream as more and more employers start looking at what they really need from their employers,” said Peter Mooney of ELAS.

“Being able to email staff at seven or eight o’clock was certainly seen as a benefit, but now the phones can do more and more, they are realizing that giving staff such powerful technology has its drawbacks too.”

ELAS estimated that accessing emails on a smartphone typically saves the employer between five and 20 minutes a day, depending on how much time the employee spends out of the office. Time lost to Facebook, Twitter, checking football scores, and so on can amount to 30 to 90 minutes a day.

As well as being a potential distraction for them, staff with expensive phones are also more likely to have their phones stolen, the firm advised.

In the past year or so, social networking sites were employers’ biggest online bugbear and this concern was addressed by a range of web monitoring and blocking programs. But companies that restrict staff Internet access through computers are finding it harder to control staff surfing habits on their mobile phones.

According to Mooney, downgrading an employee’s phone from a smartphone to a standard handset does not constitute a reduction in their overall package.

“Because most companies’ IT policies state that any technology staff have is for business not personal use, then it is no loss of benefit to take that away,” he advised.

Share your thoughts on this topic in the General Business forum on our sister site, USBusinessForums.

This article originally appeared on our sister Web site, AccountingWEB.co.uk.

How Much Time Is Too Much Time to Spend on Social Media?

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

It’s likely that your employees spend a sizeable percentage of their time using social media. As work/life balance continues to blend into one homogenous string of activities, social media activity is happening in your workplace whether you realize it or not.

But isn’t social media just a big waste of time?

It can be, but lumping all socito the same unproductive bucket is unfair, and also unwise. Social media can be an effective tool for many key business activities – including business development, client retention, and employee retention and recruitment.

Because platforms like Facebook often blend personal and business colleagues, it’s very challenging to set black and white rules when governing the use of social media.


Free reign on social media = Trust

At Chrometa, we take a mostly laissez faire approach to our employees’ use of social media, with no official policies or restriction on what employees are allowed to do. I know this thinking is counterintuitive to what many accounting and consulting firms believe, but I think this boils down to a control issue more than anything else. It’s sort of similar to being told as a child not to get into the cookie jar. If firms set up policies dictating certain actions, employees are more likely to violate these policies if they feel they can get away with it without being noticed.

Each of our employees is encouraged to set up and maintain a presence on “The Big 3” social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Their participation levels, on the other hand, are completely up to them. A couple of our employees really enjoy and benefit, both personally and professionally, from their time on Facebook and Twitter. Ironically, our chief technical officer generally dislikes social media and personally avoids it.

At the core of our free reign is trust. We trust that our employees are 100 percent devoted to the success of our company, mission, and brand. As a result, I have complete trust they will not represent us poorly; to do so would be like representing themselves poorly. This level of trust is only possible if an employee does completely self-identify with his or her job and firm.

How much time is too much time?

I personally have spent too much time on many occasions on the Big 3 and blogs, as well, without achieving what I’d consider a reasonable ROI on my time. Going forward, I know I need to more accurately gauge the amount of time I should spend on each medium.

It’s not completely fair and accurate when people proclaim, “Twitter is a complete waste of time” because they probably just don’t understand what it can do. Twitter can be a drain, but it also can be useful if used properly and marketed to your stakeholders. Like anything, if you spend too much time on Twitter, you can end up wasting a lot of time if you don’t use it wisely.

How-much-time-too-much-time is something everyone must figure out for themselves. I give our employees the leeway to decide how much time is too much. I know they honestly want to be productive and perform their roles to the best of their ability. Because I know this, I find it’s better if they figure out these types of limits and best practices themselves, instead of having them come as edicts from above.

It’s About Time is a series of articles devoted to practice management techniques that focus on efficiency and productivity.

About the Author:
Brett Owens is CEO and cofounder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, CA-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation, and improving personal productivity. Owens also is blogger and founder at CommodityBullMarket.com and ContraryInvesting.com, as well as a regular contributor to two leading financial media sites, SeekingAlpha.com and BeforeItsNews.com.

Five Ways Windows 7 Will Make Your Life Easier

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Beyond the world of Windows XP, there lies a new age in computers. When the time comes for you to switch to Microsoft’s newest operating system, 7 will be waiting for you with enhancements that will make your transition extremely pleasing.

No need for overly pricey third-party software; these enhancements come ready out of the box and pack a punch that will make you wish you had switched to 7 sooner.


Jump ListsWindows 7 makes it easy to access your most used documents, spreadsheets, Web pages, and media. Simply right click on an item in your task bar and a list of your most recently used items will appear in a popup window. You also can pin documents, much like a bookmark, and your document will always be listed in the jump list, ready to open with a simple click.

Snap – Making two applications align on your screen is no longer a hassle. With Windows Snap you can drag the windows to the left or the right of the monitor, and the applications will simply and easily be aligned on your screen. You also can drag a window to the top of your screen for easy maximizing. This feature is incredibly useful while dragging applications from one monitor to another.

Shake – If you ever get distracted by countless number of open applications on your desktop, with Shake, you can click and hold on any of the applications’ task bar, shake your mouse around, and all of your other applications will magically minimize. If you want to restore the applications, click on your open application, and just give it another shake. The windows will reopen.

Location Aware Printing – Have you ever taken your office laptop home, tried to print that one file you needed only to realize that you accidentally tried to print it to your office printer? With Windows 7, when your computer changes networks from home to office or office back to home, your computer will remember what printer you last used at each location and will automatically default to that specific printer. You won’t have to waste time changing your default printers.

Windows Touch – With the rise of touch screen electronics, Windows 7 comes equipped to work with touch screen computers and monitors. Not only does this feature work with single touch monitors, Windows 7 comes equipped with multi-touch, for very simple and very easy navigation around your computer. You can fly through your applications, photos, and media all with just a touch.

About the author:
David Rowe is a managed services consultant at Xcentric, which specializes in Cloud Computing and IT consulting for CPA firms. Rowe graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. He can be reached at (678) 297.0066 or at [email protected].com. Follow Xcentric at xcentric.com/blog and www.twitter.com/xcentric.

Future Accounting Firm Tools? BlackBerry’s PlayBook Will Challenge iPad

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

As iPhones continue to impinge on traditional BlackBerry territory, Research in Motion (RIM) is countering with a competitor to Apple’s famed iPad – a tablet known as the PlayBook will be released in early 2011.

Geared toward business users, the PlayBook will serve as either a standalone device, or a larger screen for a BlackBerry smartphone. Users will be able to access any information on their BlackBerry smartphone, such as e-mail, calendar appointments, and documents, interchangeably on either device.


Internet access is available via WiFi or by sharing the wireless data service plan of a BlackBerry. Unlike the iPad, the PlayBook will offer full support for Flash, which means users won’t have to jump through hoops to view YouTube.

At nine-tenths of a pound, the PlayBook is smaller and lighter than an iPad. Current iPads don’t offer built-in cameras, but the PlayBook will have dual high-definition cameras facing front and rear to allow video recording or video conferencing.

The PlayBook is compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and offers secure corporate data access. Video playback will be available at 1080p, along with support for MPEG, DivX, and WMV formats. The PlayBook will use the new BlackBerry Tablet operating system, which includes full multi-touch and gesture support.

The PlayBook will ship with a 1 GHz dual-core processor, and will have four times the onboard memory of an iPad (1 GB RAM in a PlayBook versus 256 MB in an iPad). The operating system allows for full multitasking, meaning users won’t have to pause or shut down one application to launch another. The PlayBook will have a standard microUSB and micro HDMI ports, and the 7-inch screen will offer a screen resolution of 1024 x 600.

RIM has not yet announced pricing, but some analysts expect the PlayBook will be offered through the cell phone carriers that sell BlackBerry smart phones. Others expect that the PlayBook will retail for approximately $499, which is the same as an entry level iPad.

About the author:
David Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm. Contact David at [email protected].

What Do We Make of The Sage and SAP Rumors?

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB UK, a source that delivers topical, practical content to accountants and accounting professionals.

Merger rumors. What would we do without them? The past decade or so of my professional life has been shaped by the regular appearance of bid rumors around Sage, usually of the “who are they going to buy this week?” sort.

So you can imagine my surprise to hear on the grapevine that Sage’s share price had surged almost 5% on Tuesday night on rumors that it was an acquisition target for SAP, with Microsoft and Gapgemini reported to be sniffing around the undergrowth in Newcastle too.

I’m not a stock market analyst, so I don’t really need to chase geese like this, but I couldn’t help myself from doing a little background checking. The Daily Mail appears to have broken the story, without naming sources, around 10:30 pm on Monday night. By the next morning, Reuters and numerous other outlets had picked up the trail and various analysts were puffing up the story with blogs and tweets.

There was a tweet from China Martens at 451 group of “late night activity in Walldorf” to verify that something was up, but with none of the companies involved breaking cover this really was one of those stories where one bit of unfounded gossip was feeding off another.


Years of industry-watching have taught me never to be surprised at what a software company with a wedge of cash in its back pocket can get up to, but neither SAP or Microsoft strike me as being suitable suitors for Sage. Microsoft’s entire business solutions strategy has been in turmoil for years and if it ever enters Steve Ballmer’s consciousness, my guess is that he wishes the company had never got into bed with Great Plains and Navision.

SAP meanwhile, is everything that Sage isn’t: a technology-focused global monolith that still has trouble thinking of an SME as having anything less than a $500m annual turnover. On this point Dennis Howlett blogged, “So much of Sage’s business is at an end of the market about which SAP has little understanding. Sage is on a declining organic growth curve, has a rat’s nest of code from acquired companies, is propped up by maintenance fees and has a nightmare in the US to manage with the ongoing Emdeon fiasco.”

It doesn’t happen often, but for once I find myself in complete agreement with him.

Strangely, by Wednesday afternoon the rumors had simmered down and so had the share price (although somebody seems to have done very nicely out of the rumors with 1.7m of shares shifted at the peak of the frenzy on Tuesday night).

Now I’ve voiced my doubts, they’ll probably turn around an announce the deal in the morning.

This XBRL Thing Appears to Be Really Happening

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

There’s no time to take a breather when it comes to XBRL implementations. New projects, regulations and initiatives are launched or introduced somewhere around the globe just about weekly, it appears. CFOs with firms that have yet to join the group won’t be out of the loop much longer.

XBRL, the acronym for eXtensible Business Reporting Language, means that the data contained within financial reports is constructed as individual elements, rather than blocks of text. Each piece of data comes wit and is linked to accounting definitions or rules. So, a number that makes up annual revenue has a different identity than a number that goes into payroll expense. The result? The data becomes “computer readable,” or interactive, so analysts, investors and regulators can easily compare one set of financial data to another.

Consider the following announcements and events:


Public company filings in the US: The last group of public companies that have yet to file XBRL financial statements with the SEC will start doing so for fiscal periods ending on or after June 15 of next year. These generally will be companies with market caps of less than $75 million or annual revenue of less than $50 million.

Domestic Banks: Earlier this month, Citibank announced that it was participating in a pilot involving the use of XBRL within dividend announcements issued by American Depositary Receipts, or ADRs. ADR dividend announcements were a logical starting point, because they’re concentrated among a relatively small number of issuers, and currently require lots of paper and re-keying of information, as this article in Earth Times points out.

US Legislation: True, a provision contained in early versions of the Dodd-Frank bill, and which would have required federal regulators to use a standard electronic format, like XBRL, when collecting info from the financial sector never made it to the final version. However, this summer Rep. Darrell Issa of California introduced a bill (H.R. 6038) that would amend Dodd-Frank to again include this provision. On July 30, it was referred to both the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Agriculture.

Along those lines, the House and Senate currently are hammering out legislation, the 2009 Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act (S.303), which would require federal agencies to post spending data online in a uniform fashion – most likely, XBRL, NextGov reports. Just as XBRL will allow for easier analysis of corporate finances, this move would enable taxpayers and regulators to more easily examine federal spending and contracts.

Credit Agencies: Just before Labor Day, the SEC announced that a list of XBRL tags had been published on its website, and that nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) would need to begin using them by November 1 of this year.
Mutual Funds: By January of next year, mutual funds will be required to provide the SEC with summary information on risk and return from their prospectuses in XBRL format.

While XBRL’s benefits for investors have been the focus of much attention, the XBRL-related initiatives underway should benefit corporate America, as well, judging from a study by two researchers at Fordham University. In “XBRL and its financial reporting benefits: Capital market evidence,” Christine Tan and John Shon of Fordham write, “the findings of this study suggest that firms that file using XBRL experience a reduction in information asymmetry.” Moreover, XBRL may help smaller firms attract an analyst following, they add.

AT&T CEO Isn’t Impressed with Deloitte Study That Says Half of iPhone Users Would Switch to Verizon at the Drop of a Hat

Confidential to AT&T BSDs: Steve Jobs may be an asshole, but he’s not stupid.

Close to half of Apple Inc iPhone users in the United States would be “very interested” in dumping AT&T Inc for Verizon Wireless as a service provider, according to a study from professionals service firm Deloitte.

“If another carrier were to pick up the iPhone, you would probably see a number of defections,” said Ed Moran, director of insights and product innovation at Deloitte.

AT&T’S Chief Executive Randall Stephenson played down the potential impact of the loss of iPhone exclusivity at a Goldman Sachs conference on Tuesday.

Stephenson said about 80 percent of AT&T’s iPhone users were either in family plans making it difficult to cancel service or had received their phone through their business. [Ed. note: rumor has it that after making this statement, Stephenson was heard laughing maniacally]

Study finds iPhone owners want to switch to Verizon [Reuters]

Are Boomers Embracing the Always-Connected Attitude of Gen Y?

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

The technology use gap among the generations is closing rapidly. There may be no better example that hits home than Michael Winerup’s “Generation B” column in The New York Times, “On Vacation and Looking for Wi-Fi.” We all are touched, most of us are trapped by the psychological effect of being accessible 24/7 and the desire to keep on top of the deluge of messages and data coming in unstoppable torrents.

Winerup points out that just a few years ago the middle-aged members of his three-generation, geographically extended family vacationing together left their work and tech gadgets at home. Three years ago, a few made a visit to an Internet café on their vacation, just for the novelty of it. This year some of them stood in a long line in a resort lobby to pay for 25 hours of Internet service, brought laptops, and checked e-mail daily. This way they reduce the e-mail build-up awaiting them the first day back at work. I surely relate to that post-vacation return anxiety even as I resist checking e-mail every day when out of the U.S.


“We expect ourselves to be available,” said Winerup. That’s the Boomers’ mindset. Technology is making us work harder. Gen X and Y have been continuously connected for years, but many of them don’t want to be always available for work.

Winerup says we all are expected to use all the Internet tools for research and client relations. No more depending on secretaries and assistants.

The hit film “Up in the Air” made the point that critical human interactions, like layoffs, still require in-person contact. All the electronic connectedness not only can be a poor substitute for in-person higher touch contact, but it also leaves little time for the high touch. Now the connectedness has even invaded vacation time away with family and friends.

Is it positive or negative that the generations have something else in common?…I guess it depends.

Please share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over 20 years ago, A special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners (www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com). Phyllis is the author of “The Rainmaking Machine” and “The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists” (both West 2009). [email protected] URL: www.pdcounsel.com.

An Argument for Techie Accountants

My one piece of advice for the next generation of accountants right now is, enroll in some Computer Science courses. Learn to code. Learn how to manage a small server farm. Learn APIs, SQL, HTML5, JAVA, etc.

Drop that Poli-sci course right now.

Technicalntant’s best friend nowadays. It should be self-evident as to why. Data. Data. Data.

My first accounting gig was in a tax firm. We had an old mainframe crunching numbers and all the programming was in COBOL. In industry, reports would have all been generating output as text files; but who cares, there’s no ‘export to file’ function anyways.


Actually, that’s a good test. If you want to know whether your current software vendor is investing in the future of their product, look at the file output from your reports. If they come out as text files (you open Excel and each line of output is just one cell), this means the reporting architecture is really, really old.

It’s kind of like when you and your friends one-time go for an afternoon horseback ride. Inevitably, one person gets plunked on the beatest, tired old nag you ever seen. Yeah, technically she still rides but she ain’t even long in the tooth. All the teeth, they fell out.

Consider it the carbon dating of your accounting system.

You see, just because there has been consolidation in the ownership of companies in the enterprise software space does not mean the units have consolidated their products. Most units (purchased or raised) continue to operate independently. Revenues are generated from new sales obviously; but equally important, from a big, juicy installed base of maintenance contracts within the business units. You know that. And it’s fine. The amount of new investment in the product however, would be a corporate management decision from head office. Some products are the equivalent of that tired old nag.

Back to the point on technical skills though. Unlike back in the day, technology is no longer just auxiliary to what we do. It’s central and 100% pervasive. A commenter last week summed it up really well when I talked about the accounting tools:

“Three letters for you bitches, S to the Q to the mofo L.”

Getting a bit more techie will help you appreciate the humor in this quote. It’ll also help you recognize the tired old nag before you saddle up and ride.

In practice, normally we’re simply subject to whatever system happens to be installed. You deal with it, right? And that’s fine too. Recognition goes hand in hand with acceptance.

The reports kick out to Excel in text files; you find the delimiters, execute a ‘text-to-columns’ command, split up what you can and do your reporting. In the past, I’ve also had to occasionally create an Excel formula for pulling out text that’s really buried using the LEFT, RIGHT, functions. Then, I write a macro to automate as much as possible. Poor tired old nag.

Technology and data are just like riding a horse. With the correct instruction, you can get the horse to do what you want. But you’ll always be limited by what the horse is physically able to do.

If you don’t know anything about horses, this analogy might not make much sense at all. Which, I would say, just proves my initial point. Learn your technical skills now while you’re still in school. Leave all the fluffy horsebackriding and philosophy courses to the guys who’ll be serving you coffee after graduation.

In my view, technology skills are just as important for accountants as debits and credits. You may or may not like it, but it’s time to see how the dog food is made.

Enjoy.

Old farm adage: “If you’re going to have livestock,… you’re going to have deadstock.”

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

Credentials for Accountants – Your Wheelbarrow Barrel Needs Tech Tools

Over the last couple months, GC has been profiling various accounting-related credentials. CPA, CFP, CMA, CIA, CFE, CVA, CFA… it’s a veritable alphabet soup of designations and employers are more and more likely to ask for a second helping these days. And you might want to pick up an MBA while you’re at it too. Y’know, in your spare time. In Canada, you can go ahead an//www.cga-canada.org/en-ca/Pages/default.aspx”>CGA, CA, and CBV to the mix as well.

Another day, another designation for yet another self-regulating body.

We’ve all heard of “grades inflation.” Well, in my view, we’re currently subject to “credentials inflation” at a rate that would make a Banana Republic cringe. In contrast, Zimbabwe Ben would likely nod in approval.


Beyond credentials though, there’s another critical piece in the employment puzzle that you would be well advised to consider as you venture into the field. Tools.

What are an accountant’s tools?

I’m not talking about the wheel barrel you’ll need to cart all those credentials to your job interview. I’m talking about the business software that more and more employers want pre-installed on their prospective employees.

At the entry level, it tends to be more of a ‘nice to have’ than a ‘must have’. But more and more, your progressive career path is affected by the type of tools you learn early in your career. There’s just no way to separate accounting and finance from the technology that facilitates accounting and finance work.

In the small business space, this is less of an issue. One small business accounting package is much like another. The “canned” reports (built in) will largely suffice, point and click. Just get yourself a healthy functional skill level with MS Excel and you’re ready to go.

Moving up into the enterprise, it’s a different story. The difference between having experience with Quickbooks versus SAP is akin to the difference between a degree from Eastern Michigan University and Princeton.

Think about that when you are venturing out into the job market for the first time. What are your aspirations? Where do you want your career to take you?

It’s difficult to blame employers for this predilection. Enterprise software is complex, subject to cryptic reporting languages, and training is expensive. The expertise is seldom institutionalized within the enterprise instead residing in the head’s of one or two key people. The “gurus.” Sometimes the expertise just walks right out the front door. It’s just way, way easier for everyone when “the new guy” can hit the ground running.

We may see this sad reality change in time.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, is a key person leading the charge for change. He is an out-spoken advocate of the “consumerization” of enterprise software. In Benioff’s view, enterprise software should be as easy to use as Facebook and we’re seeing this manifest with every iteration of the Salesforce.com platform.

Unfortunately, Salesforce is the exception rather than the rule and the incumbent systems are deeply rooted in business. The technology “stack” as it’s called is built up over time and choices of enterprise systems are traditionally big, capex decisions. Change is rarely proactive and technology is normally kept well beyond the end of its useful life.

The complex enterprise systems will continue to be persistent for sometime to come. So be prepared to factor this into your career calculations. When you’re out there looking for work, ask the question of prospective employers. What systems do you use? Then, research that system to figure out its prevalence in the market: Are they using some niche software product built upon an ancient architecture? Is it a proprietary system that you’ll never see again? Is it a “legacy system”? Is it vertical specific?

Don’t underestimate the importance of these questions. No one has the bandwidth to learn all the tools currently offered. Examine your career aspirations carefully within the context of these technology tools because it can be difficult to backpedal. The tools you learn have just as much bearing on your career as the credentials you chose.

And inflation is a fact of life.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

Cautionary Tales: Enterprise Software Edition

A few weeks ago, I was talking about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Essentially, CRM should help a company (as Dennis Howlett – business software blogger put it), “sell more stuff.”

I don’t have a problem with that result. We can argue all day long abo really “needed” as opposed to “pushed”. That’s a philosophical debate, indeed, it’s a MORALISTIC debate. In Obama’s address to the USA (re: BP oil sands) he prayed for a “hand to guide us.” Was he talking about the hand of god, or the invisible hand? … But I digress.

My point about CRM was much less lofty. CRM systems are simply about attempting to know your customer. How much data can we collate and analyze in order to maximize our value proposition? Or, if you’re a cynic – how can we, as Homer Simpson would say, “cram one more salty treat into America’s already bloated snack hole?”


Sidenote: Back in the heyday of the SUV craze, there was a great interview on 60 Minutes with some analyst/pundit who described the motivation that seemed to underlie the populating of these beasts. He described it as “reptilian.” The term stuck with me and I find it helpful to think about in around any purchasing decision of consequence. A well executed CRM can create a veritable “Jurassic Park” of suckers if that is what one is so inclined to create. Although, it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be evil.

My point this week though is less about CRM per se and more about what happens when an enterprise software implementation goes awry. A different kind of evil. There have been two big stories recently detailing lawsuits being leveled against firms who had been contracted to install an enterprise system and had allegedly failed to deliver on the contract.

In one case, EDS (now owned by Hewlett Packard) just agreed to pay British Sky Broadcasting $460 million for a failed CRM implementation. This was from a project undertaken in the year 2000 and abandoned two years later. The settlement is four times the value of the budgeted project cost.

In a second case, Marin County, CA is suing Deloitte Consulting for an alleged failure in rolling out an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. Marin County is seeking $30 million. Their contention is that Deloitte didn’t have the technical skills on the software in question. That’s an important point. This type of technical skill is of the “use it or lose it” variety.

So, is that the answer? When a software implementation goes awry, you sue everyone? Well, sometimes.

You see, buying an enterprise software system isn’t like buying a vehicle. You can’t just hand the wheel over to your reptilian brain and pray for the invisible hand to hook up financing and you’re on your way.

There’s work involved, normally a third party, that is paid to configure the software and integrate it into your organization’s existing infrastructure. In a complex business model, the process of defining and integrating all the business rules, data flows, and connections can be daunting… sometimes, impossible. Failure, unfortunately, is always an option.

These recent examples deal with alleged failures on the part of the third party implementers, but failures can occur anywhere within “hell’s half-acre.”

I’ve seen examples where it was clearly a management failure to provide project leadership that created an implementation failure. The example I am thinking about resulted in the company taking a $2 million dollar charge then having to start over. When I went to see them, it looked like they were heading right back down the same road. Making the same mistakes. Me? I can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

Some folks point to Saas products as a way to alleviate these nightmare scenarios. If only it was that easy. Wherever a business has an existing IT architecture, there is the possibility of an integration problem (assuming you want integrated systems which I have to believe that you’ll want). There is another company I can think of who, when I met them, had been working for at least 6 months on an integration with a Saas ERP system and their back office. For a number of reasons, it really just didn’t seem like it was going to work. And the red flag for me was that the CFO and the Director of Finance had vastly different views as to how the project was going.

These are just a couple examples I can name from my own experiences and I’m not even in the software implementation game!

The moral of the story is know the statement of work inside out. Understand the terms of the contract. Technical skills are finite. Be very clear on the desired outcomes.

And beware of the reptilian brain.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

AICPA: CFOs Want More Input from Auditors on IT Matters

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Certified Public Accountants are increasingly being asked to solve information technology problems for clients and prospective clients, according to a survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

But that raises a potential conflict of interest of the sort that led the Securities and Exchange Commission to keep auditing and IT consulting separate. The pressure for auditors to help provide IT solutions will persist nonetheless, says the AICPA.


“The tide has really turned this year with the economy and increasing regulations,” said Joel Lanz, co-chair of the AICPA’s Technology Initiatives task force in a prepared statement.

“As small and medium-sized companies increasingly place IT under their chief financial officers, it’s becoming much more of a broad scope of responsibility,” added Ron Box, Lanz’s co-chair.

With a renewed focus on IT-related issues, the survey makes clear that CPAs need to be literate about information technology in order to collaborate effectively with clients and their IT partners.

Data security clearly is driving the new interest, and CPAs believe the issue will persist in importance for years, the survey suggests.

The biggest surprise from the survey, Lanz told CFOZone, is the fact that “CPAs are not only providing guidance on financial issues, but there is an expectation by audit committees that CPAs could advise on different IT governance issues. CPAs are now commenting to audit committees about business operations in addition to pure financial issues.”

It’s not that CPAs are expected to be the technology expert, but the expectation is that the CPA is able to provide business insight and IT guidance which then enables their clients to effectively leverage their technology to enhance the businesses value, he added.

Is this simply recreating the problem that led to the separation post-Enron and WorldCom of audit services from consulting, much of which was IT oriented? There’s the potential for a conflict of interest here, and a slippery slope toward bad audits as result. SEC rules specifically say audit firms cannot provide IT consulting services on matters that relate to financial reporting for the same client. And the audit committee must sign off on other types of consulting services.

Lanz concedes that CPAs will have to be careful. “It is a fine line,” said Janis Parthun, senior technical manager – IT, for AICPA, but she added that CPAs can help companies avoid problem here. “Sometimes audit committees do need some education in these areas and this is where they can reach out to CPAs that have some understanding of IT to give the audit committee options to make the right decision.”

Lanz adds says that the AICPA has helped on this front with some recent guidelines. “Recent standards provide CPAs with specific criteria for when they need to communicate with audit committees, as well as the type of communication required,” he said.

A spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment on the trend.

Convio Users Indicate That Things in the Nonprofit Sector Aren’t So Bad

Convio provides technology solutions to nonprofits and recently released a bit on its user base, showing pretty reassuring data that things are not that bad in the nonprofit sector.

When the Nonprofit Finance Fund released its 2010 outlook earlier this year, a nice calming Xanax was recommended before reading. So this is certainly a bit of good news for nonprofits, at least for the customer base from which the data was compiled.

Online giving grew 14 percent despite a difficult economy. Overall, 69 percent of organizations raised more in 2009 than 2008, while 31 percent saw declines in their online fundraising.

An increase in gifts drove fundraising gains. Of those that grew fundraising in 2009, 92 percent saw an increase in the number of gifts in 2009 compared with just 43 percent of organizations seeing an increase in their average gift amount.

Small organizations grew fastest. Organizations with fewer than 10,000 email addresses on file, many of which are participants in the Convio Go! program, grew online revenue by 26 percent, and gifts by 32 percent.

Web traffic growth continued for most, but at a slower rate. 60 percent of organizations grew their website traffic from 2008 to 2009. Web traffic growth in 2009 was in the single digits at 6 percent compared with double digit growth seen in previous years.

Web traffic was strongly correlated with email file growth. 38 percent of an organization’s success building large email files could be directly attributed to the amount of traffic to the organization’s website.

This year’s study analyzes data compiled from 499 nonprofit organizations that have at least 24 months of data to compare. The study aggregates results into benchmarks that nonprofit organizations can compare against their peer group and the industry as a whole. In addition the study provides separate benchmarks for 15 nonprofit industry sub-groups, or verticals across 19 key metrics. In total Convio’s clients raised more than $920 million online in 2009.

Convio Releases Annual Study of Nonprofit Sector’s Online Fundraising and Marketing Trends [BusinessWire]

The Technology Productivity Bureau Accounts for All Stakeholders

We all know about getting a credit rating. Whether it’s for a personal credit card, a supply chain vendor authorization, or the much maligned oligarchy who rate public companies and entire nations. Based on alion, a score is developed that (attempts) to capture the inherent risk of a credit failure.

How much could firms benefit from getting a Technology Productivity Rating?

What is the risk of a technology failure?

If an objective ratings agency existed that scored a company’s use of technology, how well would other people score your company? Who is the ‘Greece’ of technology?


To rate technology productivity, the rating has to encompass the entire organization and the way in which technology extends to external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, staff, etc). Optimal productivity from technology doesn’t simply mean newest technology. It’s not just about what technology a company uses that matters. It’s about how the technology is used. I met with a colleague in the technology industry recently who went so far as to say there’s still times when a FAX is the optimal technology for a task. It depends on the potential outcomes and workflows.

To date, I think the focus of technology productivity has been too inwardly focused in companies. Companies say, ‘How can this technology benefit us?’ instead of looking at the workflow effects for external stakeholders too. Granted, most organizations are completely overwhelmed simply by this one-sided approach. But if you look closely at some productivity software, part of the “technology” benefit is actually a workflow transfer to external parties. If I had to rate the technology, the score would decline in the event of workflow transfer being masqueraded as technology.

For example, look at productivity tools around supply chain management and recruitment:

Supply Chain Management
As a means to increase productivity, big companies implement supply chain management systems that effectively transfer the burden for account administration to the vendor companies (sometimes they even charge a fee!). For the implementing company, it is great. All the vendor information is keypunched and filed away into the database for free.

The system integrates with the ERP for invoice approvals all the way to point of payment. The internal technology productivity score is high. For the vendor, every new customer could conceivably mean a similar routine resulting is a productivity loss and therefore would rate the technology lower. A vendor with a lot of customers practically needs a Mechanical Turk just for the data entry!

Seeing these scores could be really beneficial when vendors are choosing what customers to prioritize.

Recruitment
Recruitment technology can be burdensome to external stakeholders while being helpful to internal stakeholders in a similar way. The key to recruitment technology is capturing candidate data to enable filtering and search. Some technology in this field is simply transferring the data entry task to the candidate. Each candidate types out their life story field by field, row by row. From the company standpoint, they see the output of the technology. It is good. From the candidate standpoint, they see a time sink.

Taken in isolation, this candidate time commitment is not a big deal. One candidate typing their qualifications one time in response to one job posting is fine. But what happens when the candidate is applying at a dozen jobs? Two dozen? At what point does the opportunity cost of doing a whole bunch of data entry deter the brightest candidates from these particular employers?

The brightest candidates will apply to the companies that DON’T require a massive typing drill first, selecting away from this less productive technology until it’s unavoidable. The overall technology productivity score would take this into account.

For a company purchasing new technology, understanding the opportunity costs both from your perspective and that of external stakeholders and developing a Technology Productivity Rating may not become a formal process. There is no Technology Productivity Bureau, or least, there isn’t anymore. There was… for a short time… an idea before its time… may it rest in peace.

Perhaps it’s enough to look at it from a more macro-level. Ask yourself, is my business technology liberating for stakeholders or, or are they being repressed? Then, act accordingly.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

Marin County Accuses Deloitte of, Among Other Things, Using ‘Neophytes’ on SAP Project

Deloitte is being sued by Marin County in California, who is alleging fraud by misrepresenting its “skills and experience.” In other words, the County says that D used their ERP project as more or less a training ground for its newbie consultants. And no client likes it when you bring the blades of grass on site. They can’t even turn on their laptops without causing some sort of scene, amiright?


Channel Web has some of the particulars:

The County in April 2005 hired Deloitte to implement its SAP ERP system. However, the County alleged in the court document, “rather than providing the County with SAP and public sector expd the County’s SAP project as a trial-and-error training ground to teach its consultants — many of them neophytes — about SAP for Public Sector software, all at the county’s expense.”

Plus! The County claims Deloitte promised their very best people. From the complaint: “Deloitte further represented that for the County’s SAP implementation, Deloitte had assembled a team of its ‘best resources’ who had ‘deep SAP and public sector knowledge.’ ”

A Big 4 firm promising their best and brightest on the job in an RFP? There’s a shocker. “Best” being relative, as we all know but Marin County (obviously not familiar with a Big 4 sales pitch) must have been expecting a team to fly in from hyperspace that could slap this thing in lickity.

Thankfully, Michael Krigsman explains over at ZDNet that this isn’t exactly rare:

1. The court filing describes sales practices that are common through the consulting and systems integration industry.

For example, the complaint alleges that Deloitte committed to “dedicate our best resources and bring tailored implementation strategies to meet [Marin’s] long-term needs.” Many IT customers complain their system integrators do not follow through on such commitments and use inexperienced labor in attempts to reduce their own costs and increase profits.

We’d be so bold to say that this true of many Big 4 engagements, whatever the service line. Newbies have to get their teeth cut somewhere – why not on a public service job where money obviously grows on trees?

Deloitte isn’t impressed with this gnat of a lawsuit, claiming that they did exactly what they were supposed to do (not to mention to put up with the amateurs at MC that have zilch ERP experience) and the system was working just fine when they left:

As stated previously, we fulfilled each and every one of our obligations under the contract, as evidenced three years ago when all of our work was approved by the County officials responsible for the project. To be clear, the SAP (NYSE:SAP) software was working properly when we completed our work in November 2007. Not only is the complaint without merit, but we are filing our own claim against the County for breach of agreement and unpaid invoices. Although we are confident that we will prevail in court, it remains our belief that this dispute can and should be resolved in a more logical fashion that benefits the County and its taxpayers.

So Deloitte gets a little huffy basically saying, “Suck it, Marin County. MBAs love Deloitte. OH, and btw, you owe us some money,” but ultimately wants to keep things civilized for the sake of the taxpayers. Let’s hope it stays childish just for the sake of entertainment purposes. Taxpayers in California are f—ed anyway.

Marin County complaint against Deloitte Consulting on failed SAP project

California County Sues Deloitte For Fraud In SAP ERP Project [Channel Web]
Marin County sues Deloitte: Alleges fraud on SAP project [IT Project Failures/ZDNet]

Customer Relationship Management – Know Your Customer, Know Yourself

The first rule of business is “know your customer.” So, how do you do that?

This is the question that brings you into the field of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). I remember working in a tax firm back in the early 2000s and all client correspondence was hardcopy in the file. Our “CRM system” was rows of filing cabinets.

A sales forecast? rked at a company where the sales forecast was an excel spreadsheet that physically gave me vertigo just looking at it. Updating that thing was like a game of Tetris.


A “real” CRM system consolidates all of your company’s customer interactions and sales activities into one database. It enables sales and marketing to detail the entire sales process from Lead to Close. And now it’s the difference between “knowing your customer” and living in the dark ages.

I only started seeing these systems spring up in mid-sized businesses a few years ago. How much are you guys seeing CRM out there now? Does your CRM system integrate with your other business systems? Or is it more of a Contact Manager?

For example, I have seen an instance where the CRM software operated as its own sphere of information. Then, we had the company financial information as its own separate sphere. To connect the sales pipeline info (from the CRM) to the financial results was a manual task.

I’m throwing it out there because my own experience with CRM in the SMB/SME space is limited to using Salesforce.com. I spoke about them briefly when I introduced Saas and Cloud Computing a few weeks ago. I must sound like a Salesforce salesperson but I’m not. I just found that Salesforce 1) put CRM on the radar for the SME I was working for at the time and 2) was inexpensive and easy to deploy.

The other main Saas CRM play is Sugar CRM. Both Salesforce and Sugar CRM have free versions. A very small business could probably operate on the free version for ever. Most mid-sized businesses could use the free version to test the fit of the product’s process flows before committing to rolling it out throughout the business.

In large enterprise, the CRM is probably big enough to just be called “the system”. Let’s say you are working for a bank or an insurance company. “The system” knows things. Next time you are speaking to a call center representative, ask for a summary of your own history. You might be surprised what details are lurking within the system. These can be simply contact histories or can also incorporate decision-making capabilities (i.e. loan or credit card approvals).

Retailers capitalize on this technology through the use of Loyalty Programs.

The real power behind CRM, for those not currently using this type of software, is the ability to clarify the sales pipeline and to consolidate customer interaction. You can detail right from Cold Call to Close and you can get the analytics to visualize the process too.

We’re right on the cusp of even bigger innovations in this field. Just look at some of the things Google is doing right now with respect to data and data visualizations (Google TrendsGoogle public dataGoogle Analytics). Sentiment analysis is appearing to gain traction as well. To blow all that out into the CRM realm means really powerful insight into customer behavior.

The success or failure of the CRM is linked directly to the quality of data in the system. This is where the “know yourself” bit comes into play. Where you can automate, do so. Trusting a salesperson to voluntarily do data entry is like trusting your road-trip navigation to a poet. Not good. Again, great strides continue to be made here. Between the increasing migration of transactions and activities online, and the tools allowing for Salesforce Automation (SFA), the direct maintenance on this type of system can be minimized.

For those of you unfamiliar with CRM technology, maybe you’re working in smaller companies or companies with a legacy of paper-based CRM, Saas solutions like Salesforce and Sugar CRM are worth checking out. It’s a place to start. And it’s free to start.

We would really like to hear from you on this issue as well. What has your experience been with CRM?

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

How Much Can Switching to Cloud Computing Save Your Business? Ask Google’s Cloud Calculator

Still blindly dismissing the benefits of cloud solutions for your small business? Fine. But at least crunch the numbers.

Using the Go Google cloud calculator, any sized business, at any stage in its life can calculate the savings by switching to, in this case, Google Apps:


As you noticed, you can change the assumptions for your own company including the number of employees, your IT Manager’s salary, the size of your employees’ inboxes are and more to calculate not only money saved but time saved. At the end of the little Q&A, you can present your findings to your business partners and employees to evangelize your great idea.

Take a test drive into the cloud [Google Blog]

Mario Armstrong: Cloud Computing, SaaS, Social Media Are Tools for All Small Businesses to Consider

Earlier this week we got the chance to speak with Mario Armstrong, on-air tech contributor for NPR’s Morning Edition and tech contributor to CNN. We discussed several technology issues, including SaaS and social media, for small businesses to consider to mark National Small Business Week.

There you have it! Cloud solutions, SaaS, social media. They’re all important tools for small business owners. You can spend your weekend boning up.

Survey: Stone Age Processes Combined with Unrealistic Deadlines Lead to Accountant Stress During Closing Period

Lots of you in-house accountants have the unenviable task of magically closing your company’s books on a monthly basis come hell or Hurricane Katrina. Unit4 Coda’s recent survey found that this can be a stressful time (shock!) but, despite what you hear from that dick technical accounting manager, it’s not all your fault.

One problem, according to the survey, is that several accountants are still relying on spreadsheets for many of their closing processes. Now we realize that your Excel addiction may not be something you’re interested in kicking to the curb but it really might be for the best.


But your resistance to change isn’t the only problem; you can blame management’s bullshit deadlines too and the fact that they don’t listen to you when you try to tell them (via whispers to yourself in your cubicle) that said deadlines are completely unrealistic:

Contributing factors include being held to unrealistic deadlines, ineffective processes, an over-reliance on spreadsheets and inaccurate reporting. The survey also revealed that among the top contributors to stress was the apparent disconnect between executive management teams and accountants.

Over 66 percent of the survey’s respondents(1) said an average close period takes over five days to complete, but the survey also revealed that more than 55 percent of accountants are expected to complete a close in a maximum of five days.

With tight management deadlines to meet, efficient systems and processes need to be in place in order to ensure accuracy and speed. However, the survey results also revealed that 53 percent of finance departments do more than 20 percent of their close period activity manually via spreadsheets, leaving larger room for error and a requirement to improve automation.

So if this sounds remotely like your work environment you have a couple of options: 1) have a frank discussion with shot callers in your office about investing in some technology from the 21st Century so the deadlines can be met or 2) continue with the current approach until you go postal. Choose wisely.

Inefficient Period Close Processes Are Major Cause of Accountant Stress, UNIT4 CODA Survey Finds [Unit4 Coda via Web CPA]

Cloudsplitting: Recognizing the Tech and Business Cloud Narratives

Cloud Computing can be an intimidating subject area simply due to the sheer number of articles, blogs, conferences, and information on the matter. My goal in this post is to split the discussion based on the perspective of the writer.

While researching this post on “Cloudsplitting”, I became formally acquainted to the concept of an unreliable narrator:

“a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised.”

The nature of the narrator may be immediately clear or it may be revealed later in the story. Sometimes it is revealed at the very end, at which point you find out your narrator has been totally unreliable! This makes yo story… which you should…. the guy was unreliable.


I think it’s a great concept! The first example that jumps to mind would be Kevin Spacey’s character in The Usual Suspects (Warning: Swears… Gonzalez sized swears).

I stumbled on the concept, the actual term, thanks to Cloudsplitter, the book. It’s a fictional retelling of Harper’s Ferry from the FICTIONALIZED point of view of John Brown’s son.

The author, Russell Banks, creates new context around the real events through his imagining of what Owen Brown’s views might have been. In this case, John Brown comes off as a lot less crazy than he may have come off otherwise.

(It’s also a hill in upstate NY near Bank’s home – ‘Tahawus‘ is the native Algonquin name for Mt. Marcy – the highest peak in the Adirondacks. It translates to ‘Cloudsplitter.’)

Emotional attachment and years of hermit-like isolation warp the perspective of our fictional version of Owen Brown. Unreliable. Quite frankly, I’ve seen the same in business.

I don’t want to fall for the same mistake.

We’re not hermits holed up in a cabin somewhere living on bottled water and beef jerky.

That’s one of the biggest differences between the introduction of Cloud technology and the introduction of previous computing technology. This time around information abounds. Whereas in the past, information about new technology was carried through very limited channels. And even then, it may have traveled indirect routes.

With our proliferation of information, it’s more important than ever to consider the source of the information. After all, the greatest trick the narrator ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist…. or something.

Be it me and my Cloud Computing story or the guy at your office who waves his arms and decries this “parlour trick” technology.

Where is your information coming from?

I’ll point you to a few resources in a minute that, hopefully, will pass the narrator reliability test. First, if I may, I want to take the opportunity to split Cloud Computing into two separate camps.

In one camp, we’ll have Techie Cloud. In the other, we’ll have Business Cloud.

Techie Cloud:
This is the stuff relating to the functioning of a cloud environment. What’s the architecture? Where’s the data? How do I manage it?

It’s the kind of stuff your Systems Administrators and DBAs and IT Managers would want to know. For instance, I want to play around with Amazon Web Services to create a new computing environment. Do I need any special tools to work there?

Yes, there’s a front-end tool called Rightscale that makes creating a computing environment easy.

While interesting from an academic perspective, your average business user will probably get limited value from seeking out tonnes of information about Techie Cloud. Recognize it when you see it.

Business Cloud:
This is the stuff relating to using cloud-based software. The business user who is looking for a “consumerized” web experience. What does it do? Is it easy to learn? What’s the cost? How do I sign up?

It’s the kind of stuff the accountants, marketers, and salespeople would want to know. For instance, I want to find a way to manage my team’s projects. Can I get going with something quickly?

Yes, try Basecamp.

And Business Cloud is separate from the business of cloud which we’ll get into later.

The reason I am going around Cloudsplitting is because the content I’ve been finding lately doesn’t discriminate with respect to audience. You are as likely to jump into an article that’s geared toward IT as you are to find an article for a Business User’s perspective.

Forward the Techie Cloud articles on to your IT departments. There’s a view out there that Cloud is going to make IT deparments obsolete. I disagree. I think Cloud will free up IT from the mundane custodial services of server maintenance becoming a more strategic partner with management. I’ve written before about accountants being the dishwashers of business. We’re the dishwashers and IT are the custodians (or janitors if you want to be unkind about it).

And remember:

Evaluate the reliability of the source. Evaluate for audience.

Techie Cloud

8 Tips for Getting Started in Cloud Computing (by Rackspace)

What Does the Future Hold for IT? (Bloomberg)

Cloudcamp – formed to provide a common ground for the introduction and advancement of cloud computing

Business Cloud

ICPA Trusted Business Solutions (CPA2Biz) – all of these are Saas offerings

Tourist in Techie Land: Reporting from Cloudcamp Vancouver (me)

IBM CTO at Interop: Consumerization of IT is a Driving Force (ZDNet)

Geoff Devereux works in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals. You can see more of his posts for GC here. H/t to Jesse from Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides for the translation and Greg_Smith for the pic.

Spreading the Good SaaS Word

“How dare Sage criticise anyone else! They exist because clients and accountants don’t want to change. If only clients could see what SAAS would give them (provided they had the right accountants). Perhaps I need to become an evangelist!”

~ Unnamed accountant, commenting on Sage’s tepid position on SaaS.

Grant Thornton Survey Shows That CFOs Might Be Ignoring the SEC’s XBRL Deadline

It has been well established in these pages and elsewhere that the SEC has had its share of problems. Take your pick: 1) missing the biggest financial fraud in the history of the world 2) hiring an army of porn-addicted accountants and lawyers to protect our markets 3) waffling on IFRS 4) did we mention missing huge frauds?

To be fair, the Commission has been working hard to redeem itself by cracking down on dubious activity (from Goldman to Overstock), hiring more fraud experts and giving those tranny porn-obsessed employees a second chance.


Regardless of the turnaround-in-progress, CFOs in this country seem to have ceased taking the SEC seriously. Sure the 10-Ks and Qs still get filed but those were in place long before the wheels fell off.

In a recent survey, Grant Thornton found that, despite a SEC deadline for public companies to utilize eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), a fair amount of CFOs don’t seem all that worried about reporting their financial statements using the technology:

64 percent of public companies do not currently report financial results using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL); and of those, half have no plans to in the future even though the SEC mandated that public companies have to report their financials using Interactive Data by 2011.

“It’s concerning that almost a third of public companies still have no plan on using XBRL to report their financials despite the requirement that all public companies comply with XBRL filing requirements by mid-year 2011,” said Sean Denham, a partner in Grant Thornton’s Professional Standards Group and a member of the AICPA’s XBRL Task Force. “I foresee a lot of companies playing catch up as the 2011 SEC deadline approaches.”

Whether this lack of action can be attributed to defiance, fear of technology, or pure laziness is not explained but we wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the SEC has an outright mutiny on its hands.

A third of public companies have no plans to use XBRL – despite SEC mandate requiring XBRL use by 2011 [GT Press Release]
Also see: XBR-Lax [CFO Blog]

Just Because Cloud Companies Pay For a SAS 70 Doesn’t Make It Any Less Legit, Does It?

Confession: not 100% sure on the hype surrounding SaaS, cloud computing, living in the cloud and whatever but apparently it’s the next big thing (if it’s not already) and might make our lives just one notch short of Jetsons flying car awesome.

Ask guys like Geoff, he’ll tell you all about it. I buy it and I don’t even need to use it, have heard amazing things, and have even evangelized it once or twice.

But it’s your data so instead of jumping on the SaaS/Cloud bandwagon without asking what happens to it once you do, it might be wise to check out the SAS 70 certification and the strange relationship that legitimizes it.


Complying with the AICPA lends a certain bit of credibility to vendors who want to show how tight their control systems are so auditors can rely on them, right?

Perhaps not, says Jay Heiser via Gartner in “Analyzing the Risk Dimensions of Cloud and SaaS Computing,” who is concerned by a sense of deja vu between the faulty systems that collapsed throughout the financial crisis and cloud computing. In an extremely risk-adverse environment, a bit of caution is due before jumping head first into the unknown.

Or you can just trust the shiny marketing materials and forget that it’s your data.

Now back to cloud computing and SAS 70. Okay, let me get this straight: So the cloud companies pay accounting firms for SAS 70 certifications just as the financial organizations paid Moody’s for an investment-grade rating?

“Yes, if you see someone who claims to be SAS 70, they have paid an accounting firm. Not only have they paid an accounting firm to go do the test, but they’ve told the accounting firm what processes need to be tested,” Heiser says.

And that’s different from an audit client paying an auditor how?

In a financial crisis corollary, Big 4 opinions are fetching less these days than they used to. Cloud computing marketers don’t really get what they are pushing but cloud provider clients certainly should understand what this means for the shift to life in the cloud.

Better start updating those marketing materials.

How Cloud Computing Security Resembles the Financial Meltdown [Datamation]

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…or: Cloud Computing and SaaS Briefly Explained

Figuring out how to sum up Cloud Computing and Software as a service (SaaS) in the space of ~800 words would absolutely require the biggest, puffiest, most cumulus metaphor that ever precipitated understanding over the dry, barren plains of ignorance EVER! Something like….

king Business Applications By Storm, or
– Burning off the Fog Around Cloud Computing, or
– Cloud Computing goes from Light Showers to Torrential Downpour, or even
– Quit Jiiiivin’ Me Turkey, You Got to SaaS it! (a Turkey is a bad person)

Why?

Because this thing is growing like a Class 5 Hurricane sucking up warm air over the Gulf of Mexico in mid-September, and you’re in the eye of the storm baby!


Enough! I can’t… I just can’t brew up another hackneyed metaphor!

All joking aside, Cloud Computing and SaaS are now “required reading” if you’re even remotely involved with technology (i.e. you use a computer). I can help you understand this stuff better, but first some disclosure:

I work for a SaaS company. My paycheck depends upon acceptance of this technology.

If you can accept this embedded bias, I’ll try to suppress any overt advocacy while providing a synopsis of this space over the course of the next few weeks. Call it Saas 101.

So, what is it?

We’ll get into this in more detail soon because there’s more to it, but very simply:

Software as a Service – A software application that you access online without having to download anything to your computer.

Cloud Computing – Provides computing power and data storage on an “as needed” basis much the same way as a public utility provides electricity.

Why should you care?

At the very least, you should care because you are already using this stuff for personal web activities (e.g. Facebook – think privacy, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, etc). And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the next software sourcing project your company undertakes will include Cloud and Saas representation.

This is a bet I’ll win because even the big, established players in the software world like IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft are running to try and get in front of this thing on the business side.

You want to know about this.

Where did it come from?

How did Software as a Service and Cloud Computing as we know it come about?

Well, what’s in a word?

Again, there’s more to it, but without rekindling the internecine nerd-fighting I think tracing the roots of this movement back to Marc Benioff, the founder, Chairman & CEO of Salesforce.com is not unreasonable for our purposes. He was arguably the most vocal advocate for looking at software delivery in a new way back before this stuff HAD a name. Salesforce.com launched as an unknown start-up back in 1999 and is now one of the leading CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products Cloud or otherwise and is traded on NYSE with a market cap of over $10 Billion.

Along with another early entrant, Netsuite, these guys let the genie out of the bottle. Interestingly, both companies have deep, deep roots back into Oracle Corp., Oracle, a company that, according to Oracle, “would change the face of business computing forever.” I don’t dispute the claim though. And I would take it one further saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The Rain Fell in Torrents…

The creation of Salesforce and Netsuite were both extremely capital intensive. In order to host their customers (i.e. users of the software), tens of millions of dollars were required to build the data center infrastructure. You’re not required to buy servers and hardware, so where do you think all your data is residing? In a cloud? We haven’t advanced that far.

But we have advanced.

Today companies building Cloud apps don’t tend to build their own data centers, at least not right off the hop. Another important innovation in Cloud comes from companies like Amazon. Apart from books, Amazon has a whole other line of business providing computer infrastructure on a rental basis. It’s like a power grid for computing.

This changes the business model for companies who build software in the same way these Cloud app companies are changing things for you.

Suddenly, your IT goes from being a Fixed Cost to a Variable Cost.

More next week.

Enjoy!

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. He regularly attends and contributes to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city through the Vancouver Enterprise Forum, guest blogging on Techvibes.com, and as a mentor with ISS of BC. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. He is currently working in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals.

It’s Time to Bury the Business Technology Medicine Show

Business technology is a continually changing landscape, but one underlying theme seems to remain constant – the general presumption on the part of sellers AND buyers (especially buyers!) is that their new technology will magically cure a business of all its ills. Since ly buyers of this stuff, take note.

I think this fallacy of thinking transcends the saccharine marketing tactics and arm-waving that normally accompanies these offerings. Sure, a slick sales and marketing troupe can juice the numbers, but there’s more to it.

The deeper message is that we, all of us, are predisposed to WANT to believe in a cure-all.


It’s as true for business & technology as it is for weight-loss, depression, ADHD, and erectile dysfunction. We have been falling for the same old Medicine Show forever, only have our own naive human nature to blame.

During the late 1880s and all the way up to WWII, Medicine Shows peddled their dubious Snake Oil offerings all over the USA. Trumpeting cures for everything from arthritis to cancer, these guys were enthusiastically welcomed into communities despite the dim prospects for validating their claims.

That was a long time ago but how less true is it today? How often are we still willing to download the responsibility for our own well-being onto a pill? How often would we rather buy our way out of organizational inefficiencies with the purchase of a new software application than undertake the grind of fixing a broken or outdated business process?

We have made massive technological advances in both medicine and software and continue to create innovations that move us forward, enhancing user experience as we learn from our mistakes. The outcomes resulting from today’s medicinal fixes may be more tangible today due to the advent of regulation and certain minimum standards (when operating under the auspices of the FDA… not always the case!). The outcomes from new software are improving, but the human element is still critical for driving user adoption.

But there are side-effects. Beyond the cash out of pocket, what price will be paid? A well known anti-depressant lists the following as possible side-effects:

I’ll allow for the fact there are tens of thousands of legal hours that go into these disclosure documents to protect against litigation, but holy smokes man! There’s a couple real dealbreakers there in my view.

So how about new business technology? What sort of side-effects may result?

• The need for extensive training
• Upgrades to hardware
• Incompatibility with other business software
• Inability to capture the business processes properly
• Retaining business processes unsuited to the new environment
• Time to implementation
• Cost of consultants and additional IT guys
• Continued risk of obsolescence
• Internal resistance to change

Examining the possible side-effects and unintended consequences is a critical element of ANY software selection process. Software salesmen won’t be able to distill this inevitable contingency. They didn’t concoct this brew, they just sell it. I’ve known software salesmen that can barely crack open an Excel doc without crashing their computer. Only through a reflective process within your own company can you hypothesize on how the introduction of new technology will affect operations.

Further, it is absolutely critical to examine your existing business processes in the context of a new software. The tendency is to try and maintain existing processes even though they may be as obsolete as the outgoing software. For example, a local company was implementing a new system. The works! ERP, Accounting, and CRM. These systems would aaaallll work together.

Oh, but they weren’t going to purchase the Financial Statement Consolidation Module. They would develop a work-around in Excel instead. It was not surprising to me that they had already failed once on an implementation (to the tune of $2 million bucks).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I saw a company bring in a powerful reporting technology and allowed a whole bunch of poorly trained users to run hog wild in there significantly reducing the value of the system. The reports being produced could not be trusted. The fix was to lock everything down and bottleneck the reporting process which just led to more work-arounds as users were unwilling to wait it out.

The software being produced today tends to follow a Best Practice approach. If you choose to proceed outside of that framework, it might be an indication that your company is operating outside of Best Practice.

The truth about business software is that it’s work. Productivity gains resulting from new systems are typically back-end loaded. On the front-end, there’s cost, there’s risk, there’s effort, there’s training, there’s the harsh reality that can only come from looking in the mirror and facing the truth about how work ACTUALLY gets done.

Understanding this means burying the Medicine Show paradigm.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. He regularly attends and contributes to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city through the Vancouver Enterprise Forum, guest blogging on Techvibes.com, and as a mentor with ISS of BC. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. He is currently working in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals.

Three Social Media Trends That Will Never Catch on with Accountants

CPAs have pretty much dominated social media and infested the blogosphere to the point that when I tell people that I cover accounting news for a living, I don’t have to explain just what on Earth accounting news is. That’s a step in the right direction but the reality is, some web and/or social media trends may never catch on with accountants. I’m suggesting three but fairly sure there are plenty more; if you know of one, do share.


Foursquare Paranoid stoners and anti-Big Brother types aren’t hip on it either but I guarantee you Foursquare will not catch on among CPAs. Who is dumb enough to track their own billable hours where everyone (and the boss) can see? What fun is checking in at the office day in and day out?

Get Satisfaction Listen, I know the smaller firms and personal, hometown CPAs are all about client satisfaction. Some of the mid-tier firms might also give some type of shit about the level of service they provide to their clients and how effective they are in doing it. But as a general rule (and especially for the larger firms), they really don’t actually want to know if they are delivering it or not in the direct manner that Get Satisfaction provides. If you aren’t familiar with how the site works, check out Comcast (several Comcast agents, actually) against the pissed off subscribers who lost their digital channels after the 2009 conversion but as a direct result of Comcast’s decisions. Can CPAs handle that sort of brutal, misspelled, angry honesty? Doubt it.

Blippy Though most CPAs love to hear the promise of yet another tool meant to make their lives easier, the remote chance that their credit card information may accidentally, kinda sorta end up on Google might make them a tad Blippy-adverse. And hey, while you’re at it, see what your friends are buying (while exposing what you are at the same time), what fun! I think they’ll pass. Hell, who would want Facebook for their bank statement, CPA or not?

Productivity Means Accepting The Fact Reinforcements Are NOT Coming

Are you feeling strapped for time? Have more work than hours in the day? Still waiting for that new person in the department???

I hate to be the one to break it you, but reinforcements are NOT coming.


You can find the evidence here, here, here, and here. The economy jumped off a skyscraper, hit the pavement, and now everyone’s trying to figure out whether or not this “recovery” (NBER says the US is still in recession) is real or is it a Dead Cat Bounce. Hiring for your little Cost Center will have to wait it out.

Of course the REAL evidence is probably already in your possession. Crack open the budget file; what’s the headcount look like for your department next year? The truth is right there in front of you in bits and bytes. If you’re doing the job of 2 people, chances are pretty good you’re going to continue to do so. You’ve become a 2-for-1 special!

The good news is that the unemployment picture has probably hit bottom. Those of you who remain employed probably don’t have to worry about losing your jobs anymore. After all, as the investor/pundit Kevin O’Leary likes to say, “a company can only fire 100% of their employees before they have to find a way to generate revenue.” Departments have terminated everyone they can terminate.

The bad news is that your job survived. It’s a classic case of the survivors envying the dead.

But I’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness.

There’s plenty of glib mantras I could be extolled at this point:
– do more with less
– work smarter, not harder
– corporate business process re-engineering consultancy services
– stop reading this slogan and get back to work, slacker!

The dirty little secret behind all of this kind of rah-rah, cheerleader stuff is that YOU are still the one left to actually DO all the work. Getting more productive is the only way to help you help yourself. You don’t need the BPO consultant to pull a Beetlejuice on you (“move in with you guys for a while, become real pals”) to figure that out! You need to look at every activity you do and ask:

1. Why am I doing this?

And if the answer doesn’t smell like a dead cat,

2. How am I doing this?

And finally,

3. What’s the alternative?

And for the love of Pete, watch for the technology trap! The technology trap is the assumption that, just because you are using technology to complete a task, it automatically means it’s the best way to get it done. Technology is like a dog. Do you walk the dog or does the dog walk you?

I’ve worked in accounting departments for years. There’s been times when I felt more like a dishwasher than a business professional and I was booking crazy overtime with zero comp! Over the years, little routines became big, dogmatic, time sinks and my hands were permanently puckered. I can only imagine what that sink would like on a skeleton crew.

The upside is that you have a bit of leverage suddenly. Since you’re the only one left, you’ve become that much more difficult to replace. Hiring sucks and it takes a long time. No one wants to deal with another recruiter, no one! You have a chance to redefine how you get your work done so take advantage. Wouldn’t it be great to use leverage for good for a change?

Sage Seeks to Bring SaaS to Nonprofits

As you probably already know, the only place to work these days is in the cloud. Even the AICPA has gotten in on the fun, evangelizing cloud computing for small to midsize companies and accounting firms.

Sage Nonprofit Solutions seeks to provide easier fundraising and tracking of donors to nonprofits of all sizes who may otherwise be priced out of technology through Sage Fundraising Online, a pay-as-you-go solution without the large software pricetag.


The breakthrough allows nonprofits to respect their bottom lines without sacrificing the benefits of technology; easier “client” tracking, fundraising through social media, and monitoring the conversation, to name a few. The application will also allow for specific marketing campaigns, integration with existing cloud options like Salesforce.com and even promises ease of use and cooperation with an organization’s existing software.

“We’re offering Sage Fundraising Online in a way that allows even smaller, more resource-strapped organizations to take advantage of the service, because we’re keeping the cost to entry low with a ‘pay as you go’ model,” said Sage senior vice president and general manager for nonprofit solutions Krista Endsley. “Likewise, development professionals and nonprofit executives expect software vendors to supply tools and services that are flexible, dynamic, and provide great value. Sage Fundraising Online helps to meet these needs for nonprofits and their constituents.”

Relationship management, “client” retention and reporting requirements are slightly different in the non-profit sector but not at all different fundamentally. Clients still need to be retained, relationships cared for and reports pristine – in the case of non-profits, it’s the donors that need answers, not shareholders. It goes without saying that an efficient non-profit can provide comprehensive answers without burning excessive manpower hours and precious funding to do so; Sage’s latest application promises to give non-profits that very efficiency minus the large upfront cost associated with most cloud computing options.

Announced at AFP’s 47th International Conference on Fundraising, the product does not appear to be live on Sage’s website as yet. We know at least one technology professional who might be foaming at the mouth just thinking about its release but we don’t name names and for now, we are somewhat but not excessively excited to see what Sage Fundraising Online can do for NFPs in the future.

New ePhilanthropy Service From Sage North America Can Help Nonprofits Increase Giving, Participation, and Overall Support [Marketware]