Technology

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 info@xcentric.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 david@acctadv.com.

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). pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com. 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]

AICPA Pushing Members, Small Business to Adopt More Cloud Solutions

The AICPA is in the cloud and wants you to join them, accounting industry. Being a preferred financial application for the AICPA can pay off so before you start ripping on accountants remember they (and especially their clients) have a metric shit ton of money.

The technology push came quite some time ago (XBRL anyone?) and CPAs are generally on top of it. You can’t get them to blog (Tracy Coenen can tell you more about that) but you can definitely get them worked into a lather over something that will make their lives easier.


Intacct is learning what being on the AICPA’s good side can do for one’s business.

CFO.com:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is pushing to accelerate adoption of cloud solutions among its 350,000 members, focusing especially on small and midmarket companies as well as CPA firms. The AICPA’s first official endorsement of a cloud vendor, payroll solutions provider Paychex, came several years ago. But the institute has rolled out more such partnerships with increasing frequency, including with bill.com for invoice management and payment in 2008, financial management and accounting software maker Intacct a year ago, and tax-automation supplier Copanion at year-end 2009.

Intacct president and CEO Mike Braun was beside himself when the AICPA began pushing his product, acknowledging that an endorsement from them meant unprecedented reach in the industry. Awesome, the AICPA has finally joined with technology instead of fearing it. How dare I make broad generalizations about the AICPA’s conduct over the past few years?

A previous example of the AICPA’s tech phobia: It only took them 6 years to figure out what to do with BEC on the computerized CPA exam and they still aren’t sure how to treat it. No one is bitter but it’s a tad disturbing that CPAs were taking a professional licensure exam with paper and pencil up until 2003. They’ve had all this time to assemble BEC into something that isn’t the CPA exam’s junk drawer but still can’t manage to cobble together a storyline for the section.

One can only hope that the cloud can get the AICPA BoE to have an epiphany on that point. In the meantime, this is one hell of an endorsement so good for technology but even more credit is due to the AICPA for getting with 2008.

Then again, you have guys like GNU founder Richard Stallman and Oracle’s Larry Ellison who say cloud computing is “complete gibberish” and nothing but a slick marketing campaign for pricey third-party software. “Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it’s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true,” Stallman told UK’s Guardian. Wait. Are you telling me the AICPA would engage in such shifty behavior just to make a few bucks?!

Nahhhhhh.

Brightbook Gets a Groovy Review But Questions Remain

GC reader Geoff Devereaux pointed us to something that we were honestly surprised to see, a “glowing review” for the psychedelic-inspired online accounting application, Brightbook.

Accounting Web UK interviewed the two designers, James Henderson and “his colleague Warwick.” If Warwick isn’t a acid-dropping Dead Head name, we don’t know what is.


Anyhoo, the AWUK asks the question that you would expect from an accounting pub, “how will Brightbooks make its money?” To which, Hedernson responds, “this isn’t about the money man, it’s about sharing the love of accounting software for free.”

More or less, that’s what he said. Free software that does what small business owners need it to do. What WE still want to know is WTF is up with the T-Rex in the party hat? What is he celebrating? Or is it something that the partygoers are seeing?? Speaking of the rager, why isn’t the egghead guy partying with the hula-hoop girl or topless chick (or the dudes, whatever his preference)? Has he not dropped yet? All important questions.

Brightbook: Free web accounting software [AccountingWEB UK]

Earlier:
Brightbook Knows That Dead Heads Need Accounting Applications Too

Brightbook Knows That Dead Heads Need Accounting Applications Too

As you’re acutely aware, the canvas that is your life as a spreadsheet jockey is full of less-than exciting palates. Everything from the dull grey hue of your perfectly squared section on the cube farm to the taupe paint that encompasses every wall in your office.

This is not lost on the creators of Brightbook. They also realized that your lives are devoid of dinosaurs and topless cartoon girls:


We discovered this little treasure of online accounting by way of Dennis Howlett at AccMan. If you’re familiar with Dennis, then you won’t be surprised that he’s less than enthused with this particular effort, “Its appearance has all the allure I’d expect of something aimed at the Hannah Montana fans.”

Perhaps Dennis has a point but personally we think it has more a Grateful Dead feel to it. Girls in bikinis with hula-hoops? Dinosaurs in party hats? COME ON. Get a sheet and this will be the grooviest accounting you’ve ever done.

PLUS! Since the folks at Brightbook know that not all of you are into psychedelics, they also included the “Rabbit Hole” a “a fun and healthy distraction within Brightbook.” Obviously this can be enjoyed by anyone, not just those looking to expand their minds.

So whether you consistently go down the rabbit hole or not, Brightbook appears to be making the offer, even if it is in the financial reporting sense.

Put on your sunglasses: Brightbook [AccMan]

Earlier:
Capitalizing on the Idea that “Accounting Is Boring”

Three Tips for New Accounting Bloggers

After a recent GC post on social networking tips for accountants, our friend and superstar social media maven Tom Hood (CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, but you should already know that) asked “what about blogs?

Well, Tom, excellent question! What about blogs?

Blogging for accountants is no different than any other industry and there’s no one template that works for everyone.


With MACPA’s own Bill Sheridan breathing down my neck and stealing my readerbase with quality content (just kidding, Bill) on CPA Success, I imagine our buddy Tom doesn’t need tips on how to start and keep up a great accounting blog. But we aren’t all as new media savvy as Tom Hood and making the decision to blog can be an overwhelming choice if not executed correctly.

Personally, I try to practice a single rule of thumb: to thy own self be true.

While the F-bomb dropping, SEC-cussing-out model may not work for anyone but Jr Deputy Accountant (remember, I’m not a CPA, I just play one on TV), the rule in practice is the same regardless of who is doing the blogging.

So here are a few general hints if you’re an accountant looking to plunge head-first into the exciting world of blogging:

Find a mentor – This part is easy! Comb through accounting blogs (Michelle Golden has a handy and incredible extensive list of accounting bloggers you can check out if you’re absolutely stumped) to find a “voice” that aligns closely with your own. Reach out to the blog author, connect with other accounting bloggers on Twitter, and express your desires openly to the community.

Make a commitment – This can often be the hardest part but blogging requires a dedication to fresh content if you are going to be widely read and accepted.

Find your niche – Accounting bloggers come in all sorts of flavors; non-profit, tax, regulation, technology, auditing, etc. It is important in carving out your corner of the blogosphere to find your voice and embrace the area of expertise you are most passionate about. Ask yourself what moves you as an accountant if you are trying to find out what will inspire you as an accounting writer.

The reality is that no one can tell you what works for you and perhaps you will discover a path that has not yet been taken but should you need a little push in the right direction, trying out these tips should get you there with minimal effort.

The key to sustainable, well-received blogging is a passion for what you are writing about; if you enjoy what you do and want to write about it, that passion will translate for your audience and lead to countless opportunities to express your enthusiasm.

Shoeboxed: Saving Accountants One Nightmare Client at a Time

Last week we briefly mentioned Shoeboxed.com and how they can make all your shoebox receipt toting clients disappear. Not only that but it may save some of your more aggressive employees the trouble of explaining why they punched out the deadbeat who showed up with their receipts on April 15th.

We were fortunate enough to spend a some time with Stacy Chudwin, the Company’s Director of Communications, to learn more about the Durham, North Carolina Company.

Stacy told us that the Company got its start by servicing small businesses who wanted to avoid the hassle of tracking expenses by keeping a mind-numbing amount of receipts around, “Businesses can simply compile all their receipts, send them to us and we scan, enter the data and categorize them.”


Now the Company offers an “Accounting Professional Plan” which allows CPAs to do the exact same thing for those clients who aren’t so organized with their bookkeeping, “CPAs can either have their clients send us the receipts directly or they can send the us shoebox that gets dropped off on their desk and we’ll take care of the rest,” Stacy said.

Once all the data entry is finished you can access the information via your business’ account and for CPAs, you can create sub-accounts for each individual client. These reports can then be exported to a number of applications including QuickBooks, Quicken, Excel, and others.

The Company has also developed a free iPhone app that will extract all the information from a photo of the receipt. So for you Holiday Inn jockeys out there, you don’t have to stuff all your receipts in your suitcase and try to decipher everything you spent two weeks later.

“So far all of the feedback from our clients and users of the mobile apps have been great, however everyone wants more features both in their accounts and for the app,” Stacy told us.

Stacy also maintains the Shoeboxed Blog that is updated a few times a month that has areas for “Small Businesses”, “Taxes”, “Budgeting” and “Shoeboxed.com Resources”. She also informed us that they have a very active Twitter account, “We like to use Twitter to make announcements, to highlight recent press, and to retweet some positive feedback from followers, but we will also respond one-on-one if a user has an issue and reaches out to us via Twitter.”

If you’re not hip to the whole Twitter thing the Company has online customer support and a toll free number for all your questions.

The Company has several different plans for both businesses and accountants and both come with 30 day trials. So if you’ve more nightmare clients thatn you can count, what are you waiting for? Thanks to Shoeboxed, now you can add more clients instead of wanting to physically attack them.

Tracking Charitable Donations? Now There’s a CPA-Developed App for That

In more non-iPad, Apple-related news, we learned earlier this week about iDonatedIt, an iPhone app developed by BMG CPAs in Lincoln, Nebraska. The app is designed to track all non-cash charitable contributions whether it be clothes, furniture or family members (okay maybe not the last one). This will allow you to track all of our donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. rather than receiving that crappy receipt they give you that has nothing on it.

Being interested in all things accountant-ish, we got in touch with BMG to find out how this bit of ingenuity came about.

We spoke with Todd Blome, a partner at BMG who came up with the idea and he told us that as soon as he got an iPhone he was thinking of ideas for apps that would be useful for his clients. Since Todd is the tech-savvy partner at BMG, (he heads up their IT consulting services) he started kicking around ideas right away and eventually landed on the idea for iDonatedIt.


Todd told us that the development was fairly simple and that there were only two test versions prior to releasing the app.

“So far we’ve 100% positive feedback on iDonatedIt,” Todd told us, “We’re definitely looking for suggestions for improvements or add-ons.” The one idea that has been floated to Todd was adding a tax savings tool to the app so that a user could determine how much tax savings would be created by the donations. “That will probably be in version two,” he told us.

iDonatedIt retails for $2.99 at the app store and as Todd noted, “a donation of one item pays for the app.” A version for the Droid is currently in the works as well.

Todd and the rest of of his team at BMG are kicking around a few more ideas for apps but he said they want to make sure iDonatedIt is working as good as possible before committing to another project. Check out the demonstration below and jump over the firm’s website or follow them on Twitter to give them your feedback.