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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Evaluate the reliability of the source. Evaluate for audience.
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
ICPA Trusted Business Solutions (CPA2Biz) – all of these are Saas offerings
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.
“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!”
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]
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.