Technology

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.