January 25, 2020

Technology

Your Company Smartphone Scares the Crap Out of Your Boss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report: IRS Is Better at Junking Computers From Previous Decades

It appears that the IRS prompted this report from the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration after a previous report stated that improvements were needed in the replacing the Service’s dinosaur technology.

Employees have to be pleased that can now obtain better equipment to do their jobs, although three years to determine how to point out an Apple II or an IBM running DOS does seem like a long time.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has significantly improved its ability to identify and replace aging computers, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The IRS purchases new computers to replace aging equipment through its Sustaining Infrastructure Program. A November 2007 TIGTA report recommended several improvements to the IRS’s processes for replacing computer hardware that has reached or surpassed its useful life. TIGTA conducted the review at the IRS’s request.

TIGTA’s new report found that the IRS has implemented a process for identifying, reviewing, prioritizing, and making decisions on funding the replacement of aged computer hardware and is developing the capability to associate information technology problems with the aged hardware that caused the problem. The improved capability could result in as much as $12.3 million in cost savings and $16.4 million in revenue collection increases, according to the report.

“Taxpayers and IRS employees rely heavily on the information technology infrastructure to ensure satisfaction of tax liabilities, quick resolution of issues, and the security of confidential taxpayer information,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “The IRS is to be commended for these improvements,” he added.

Are Carbon Accounting Services the Next Hot Career Path?

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.

Although the future of the controversial Cap-and-Trade bill is in limbo, particularly with a new Congress that might not be as anxious to pass the legislation as the previous group of legislators, many companies have already begun measuring and reporting carbon emissions. California andaiting for federal legislation and are initiating their own statewide cap and trade system. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort among 10 states in the Northeast, is helping to develop and implement a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Other areas of the country are in various stages of regional carbon trading programs.


According to a recent report in the Fast Company Expert Blog, “An overwhelming majority of Fortune 500 companies now voluntarily measure, manage, and publicly disclose their carbon emissions.” This provides an exciting opportunity for accountants to provide an important service in the growing area of carbon accounting.

A recent article published by the GreenBiz Group, a media company that reports on sustainability, points to a shortage of greenhouse gas (GHG) professionals who can measure, report, and verify emissions. Results of a recent survey of greenhouse gas professionals show that “Most respondents believe GHG auditing has insufficient oversight.”

Gillian Marks, principal at The Climate Advisor, speaking last fall at the American Women’s Society of Certified Public Accountants/American Society of Women Accountants Joint National Conference (JNC) in Nashville, TN, spoke of President Obama’s Executive Order signed in October, 2009, requiring Federal agencies to set a greenhouse gas emission target for the year 2020 with specific energy, water, and waste reduction targets that must be included in the overall plan. The Executive Order requires agencies to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a commitment to leading by example.

Lynne McIntosh, president of Excellerate Energy LLC, joined Marks on the podium at the JNC and emphasized the opportunity for accountants to add carbon accounting services to their practice. She suggested that revenue generated by providing carbon accounting services could reach $7 to $9 billion by 2012.

“Just because carbon cap and trade legislation didn’t make it through the Senate, it doesn’t mean this stuff is dead,” said Paul Baier, vice president of sustainability consulting at Groom Energy, an energy consulting and design firm, in an article that appeared in TheStreet.com.

To assist companies with the mission of measuring carbon usage, a new crop of software programs called enterprise carbon accounting (ECA) is showing “explosive growth” according to market research performed by Groom Energy. Groom maintains a vendor list of software companies providing GHG, Carbon, and ECA software programs – so far there are 75 companies on the list. Groom predicts that the purchases of ECA software will increase 600% over the next year.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued guidance requiring public companies to warn investors of risks that climate change could pose to their business.

Accountants have a two-fold purpose with regard to carbon accounting. Not only are the accounting firms setting goals for themselves, but accountants are primed to serve as advisors to clients who are ready to get busy with carbon accounting. Taking sensible steps toward conserving energy is the starting point – an obvious one because it can save a company money. Moving into the field of carbon accounting, where carbon emissions are actually charted and measured is the direction in which we all are headed. Getting ahead start today could position accountants for a lucrative career move.

The Future of Forensic Accounting is Now

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accounting News Roundup: Obama Sticking to His Guns on Tax Cuts; Backdating Scandals Made Little Noise; Area Tax Con to Be Contestant on TV | 11.12.10

Obama says he’s not caving on tax cuts [CNN]
President Barack Obama declared Friday that his “number one priority” is preserving tax cuts for the middle class, and sharply denied that comments by his senior adviser David Axelrod suggest that his administration is about to cave in to Republicans who also want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

“That is the wrong interpretation because I haven’t had a conversation with Democratic and Republican leaders,” Obama said of a Huffington Post article suggesting that in advance of negotiations with lawmakers next week, the White House has calculated that giving in on tax cuts for the rich is the only way to get the middle too.

Companies Would See Big Tax Shifts [WSJ]
Tax-reform plans proposed by President Obama’s deficit-cutting commission would radically change corporate tax policy and, business groups say, could improve U.S. competitiveness in global trade. But they also could create winners and losers among U.S. companies.

Business groups and economists have long sought fundamental changes to the tax code, which hasn’t been overhauled since 1986.

Pwning the social debate [AccMan]
Proceed with caution. Sayeth Dennis Howlett, “If the title of this post bamboozled you, the rest will make your head explode.”

House Dem leaders’ reactions to fiscal panel report differ sharply [The Hill]
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came out swinging, calling the proposals “simply unacceptable,” while the two men battling to be her deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and whip James Clyburn (S.C.), released muted responses. Neither Hoyer nor Clyburn criticized the commission, avoiding a politically explosive set of ideas as they wrestle for support from their Democratic colleagues for the post of minority whip.

Backdating Scandal Ends With a Whimper [DealBook]
“These prosecutions went out with a whimper rather than a bang,” said Christopher J. Clark, a criminal defense lawyer at Dewey LeBoeuf who has done work on backdating cases. “With few convictions and no substantial sentences, juries and the courts simply did not agree with the government’s position that stock option backdating represented a serious financial crime.”


Richard Hatch still surviving life’s rocky road [Providence Journal]
Survivor champ, convicted tax dodger and “l’m living on borrowed 15-minutes-of-fame time” Richard Hatch is now going to be on the Celebrity Apprentice.

A QuickBooks Alternative for the Accounting-Phobic Owner [You’re the Boss/NYT]
Spooked by QuickBooks? WorkingPoint may be the solution for the debit-credit disinclined.

Newsweek, Daily Beast Set Merger [WSJ]
Under the proposed agreement, expected to be disclosed Friday, the two news organizations will be combined in a 50-50 joint venture called the Newsweek Daily Beast Co. The deal comes three weeks after the two sides abandoned talks of a merger over a disagreement about control.

How Accountants Can Best Utilize LinkedIn

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Doing It Wrong” Twitter Case Study: The Over-Excited Newbie

Continuing with our series on how not to behave in social media that looks at what certain accounts do wrong without actually naming names, we thought we’d take a quick look at a Twitter user that should be all too familiar to most of you. Heck, you may even be this Twitter user, go ahead and stop me if you feel like you’re looking in a mirror.

The over-excited newbie thinks hashtags are great. So great, in fact, that he or she feels compelled to put them in every tweet. This is normal since we’ve seen this sort of behavior in accounting firms as well and they allegedly have media teams to run social media for them. We’re here to tell you for the last time to settle down and reserve hashtags for pre-determined conversations (like a chat that is easily tracked using a hashtag) or selective topics of conversation but not the entire conversation for the love of sweet baby Google.


The over-excited newbie also makes the mistake of jumping in head first without watching how others handle themselves in the arena. With hundreds – if not thousands – of well-established, accounting-related Twitter feeds already in the wild, it doesn’t make sense not to look to them to learn a thing or two about how the natives operate.

Lists like Michelle Golden’s “Accounting Awesomeness” can give you a direct line to some of accounting’s best, try following them for hints on how to behave before attempting to go out into the scary world of Twitter all by yourself. No one is implying that you should get all cookie-cutter on us but there is something to be said for sticking to the script, especially if you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.

The over-excited newbie tends to have trouble differentiating between streaming consciousness and appropriately answering the question “What’s happening?”, often dropping the most mundane details about what the yardboy wore while raking leaves and mistakenly letting threats towards co-workers seep out.

Signs you may be an over-excited newbie? Comments like “I am going to slit my senior’s throat if he doesn’t start doing some of this work” or “My boss is a fucking moron for giving me a raise after all these months of me showing up late every day” are dead giveaways.

Remember: everyone can see what you are doing on Twitter, even if your stream is “private.” That means vindictive colleagues, obnoxious clients and seniors who don’t appreciate being called raging douchenozzles in front of the entire Internet during an engagement.

So if you are the over-excited newbie, don’t worry, there’s hope for you yet. Try refraining from doing much more tweeting until you understand how Twitter works. For starters, stick to being a casual observer. No one is saying you can’t be opinionated or use the tools, however, you might choose. We have to remember our industry and keep in mind that as protectors of the public we have an obligation to conduct ourselves in a certain way.

Think of Twitter self-censoring like a privacy screen, it’ll keep all your nastiness to yourself. Exactly where it belongs.

Accounting Tech: Seven Considerations for Laptop Shoppers

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

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

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


Battery life

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

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

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

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

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

Display

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

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

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

Durability

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

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

Hard drive/RAM

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

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

Keyboard/touchpad

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

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

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

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

Portability

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

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

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

Processor

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

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

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

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

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


Apple adulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sour Apple

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

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

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

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

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

The Time Wasted Fiddling with Your Smartphone Is Adding Up

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media Makes for Effective Marketing on the Cheap

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.

In a tough economy, marketing is often the first to go. But that can mean missed opportunities. So, more accounting firms are using social media to boost their marketing efforts without busting their budgets.

Social media – social networking sites, blogs, and video/photo-sharing sites – is increasingly used for marketing purposes for three reasons:


1. Social media sites are where people go to search for information on the Web – In March, Facebook became the most-visited site by U.S. users, beating out Google, according to analytics firm Hitwise. And Facebook hits increased 185 percent over the previous year; Google hits increased only 9 percent.

2. Think viral marketing – This can result in new LinkedIn connections, Facebook fans, or Twitter followers, building visibility and facilitating referrals and requests for service.

3. The cost is low – Developing a social media presence takes time away from other activities, but hard costs are minimal. For example, you generally can join a social network or post a video for free.

The key to social media marketing success is to develop strategies that fit your firm’s needs and strengths. But you can start small:

1. Get active on LinkedIn – Although Facebook use for business is increasing, LinkedIn – with more than 60 million registered users – is still the go-to social media site for professionals. It’s where accountants should start building their social media presence. Be sure partners fill out complete profiles, including summaries that detail their experience and expertise. Also provide training on how they can build up and utilize their networks.

2. Host a blog – This is a great way for practice leaders to demonstrate their expertise. For your first blog, choose a partner who has the passion and commitment needed to write a compelling blog, regularly update it, and respond to comments. Once other partners see the blog’s success, their interest in blogging themselves likely will increase.

A tasteless post by a partner or a complaint by a disgruntled employee can travel all over the Web (even if your firm doesn’t actively maintain a social media presence). So all firms must establish SM policies that address:

• Who is permitted to represent your firm in various social media.

• How to represent the firm in a way that is consistent with your brand.

• Why social media can’t be used to share confidential information.

• How to use privacy settings on various social media sites.

Whether your policy should be looser or more rigid depends on your firm’s culture.

Social media will play an increasingly important role in accounting firm marketing in the years to come. Start looking into how your firm can make the most of this client-building tool.

About the author:
Francesca Zelasko is director of accountant partner programs and partner marketing. Zelasko has more than 10 years of progressive marketing experience within the technology industry including SaaS, software, hardware and middleware products and services. She currently oversees the overall Accountant Channel for SurePayroll which includes Referral and Reseller partners and customized products.

A Little Housekeeping

Afternoon capital market servants. Your regularly scheduled inflammatory nonsense is being interrupted for the rest of the day due to some technical maintenance that I won’t even begin to try and get into. The site should be available during this time and we should be back to a full slate tomorrow but you know how these things go.

We’ll still be here sweating everything out so let us know if anything goes down and we’ll get to it just as soon as we get the all-clear.

In the meantime, Klynveldians can leave some feedback and Deloittians can dust off their résumés. And for the love of everything good and holy, would kill someone at E&Y to make something interesting happen?

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.

CFOs Want Tech Investments to Pay Off…Stat!

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

CFOs and CIOs have very different priorities when it comes to IT spending, and that dichotomy is not likely to change any time soon, even as IT budgets are starting to once again increase.

After being slashed to almost nil during the height of the crisis for many corporations across sector and size, IT budgets are beginning to rise.

But CFOs are keeping a keen eye on where that money is going and still expect a relatively swift return on investment (ROI) in order to consider anything beyond maintenance and upgrades.


They want to clearly see that ROI—whether it be through qualitative measures, like better compliance or improved risk management, or through quantitative measures like reductions in days sales outstanding (DSO) or decreased cost-per-check.

As Craig Himmelberger at SAP said in a recent interview I did for Global Finance magazine: “People don’t want to rip and replace systems that are still functioning well, so a lot of the investments we see now are incremental.”

This IT budget allocation is likely to continue for the near future, at any rate, regardless of what CIOs may want. However, there does have to be a balance. At some point when liquidity risk fears begin to subside, CFOs will once again be more open to their CIOs’ suggestions for IT spending.

And what CIOs want to see is more spend on innovation, as Ellen Pearlman noted in her blog on CIOZone.com last month.

She quoted CXO Art Sedighi as saying: “In the current time and environment, the biggest challenge is [to] convince upper management to open up their wallets again after almost 3 years. The IT staff has been pulling things together with nothing short of band-aids since 2008, and things are about [to] fall apart. All management sees is the fact that spending was down, and they survived.”

Pearlman points out that while most execs believe that IT innovation is important, companies have consistently slashed spend on innovation over the past decade. In an AT Kearney study, executives cited IT innovation spend of 30 percent in 1999, compared with just 14 percent by 2009.

In the study, 45 percent of IT budget went to improving operations and 41 percent went to business enablement/process improvement. Most respondents felt that 24 percent of the IT budget should be directed towards innovation.

The current budget split certainly meshes with the continued corporate focus on driving down costs across the working capital chain. Indeed, it may be quite some time before CIOs get their dream IT allocation.

Marin County Scrapping SAP System That Deloitte ‘Neophytes’ Slapped Together

Earlier in the summer, we told you about Marin County California, who was pretty displeased with Deloitte throwing a bunch of ‘neophytes’ at their ERP implementation project or in the County’s words ‘a trial-and-error training ground.’

As a result of Deloitte’s amateur hour, the SAP system – that Deloitte claims was just fine and dandy where they left it – is now being thrown to the scrap heap by the county because fixing it will cost more than replacing the whole system. And God knows Arnie won’t be helping them out with the bill, so they have to save on costs where they can.

The system is the subject of a lawsuit Marin County filed against system integrator Deloitte Consulting earlier this year. Deloitte used the project as “a trial-and-error training ground” for inexperienced employees, and the result was a “costly computer system far worse than the legacy systems it was intended to replace,” according to the county’s complaint.

Deloitte has filed motions against Marin County’s “completely unfounded allegations,” as well as a complaint seeking unpaid fees, a spokesman said via e-mail. The system “was working properly and could perform all the tasks consistently with the standards set forth in the written contract,” according to a Deloitte court filing.

Marin County tells a different story. The SAP implementation dates to 2006, but today only 50 percent of the functionality is in place and working properly, according to a county report.

The county hasn’t decided on who they’re going with for the new system but if you’ve got a one-person shop with no experience and present your RFP using overhead transparencies, you’ll still have an edge on Deloitte.

County will rip and replace ailing SAP system [Reuters]

Three Important Filing Tips for Luddites

There is an immense body of law governing whether last-minute tax filings are timely. So often a cheap little postmark is all that stands between a taxpayer and tax catastrophe. With the IRS herding preparers and taxpayers towards e-filing, timely-mailed, timely-filed cases may seem like an arcane body of law, like piracy cases, but paper filing still has some proud hard-core holdouts, and sometimes only a paper filing will do. At the Tax Court, for example, where the website says “Initial filings, such as the petition, may be filed only in paper form.”

The tax law says that a tax return is considered timely-filed if it is mailed on the due date, but the shift to e-filing can make things awkward for paper filers. For example, few post offices still offer late April 15 hours for last-minute paper filers. Stepping into the last-minute filer void are authorized private carriers of tax documents, like FedEx and UPS. A proper shipping document by an authorized private carrier can document timely filing. That gives taxpayers new ways to meet disaster, as the Tax Court illustrated this week.


A California couple wanting to take the IRS to Tax Court had a July 20, 2009 deadline for filing their petition. They filed by FedEx, perhaps at a FedEx/Kinkos location. They generated a shipping label on their home computer with a July 20 date. But FedEx spoiled everything, as the Tax Court explains:

The petition, which was sent by FedEx Express (FedEx), was received and filed by the Court on Thursday, July 23, 2009. The envelope containing the petition bore two shipping labels. The first shipping label, which had been placed inside a clear plastic pouch adhered to the envelope, had been electronically generated by the sender using FedEx Ship Manager (customer generated label). The second shipping label, which had been affixed to the outside of the clear plastic pouch, had been electronically generated by FedEx (FedEx-generated label).

Of course the FedEx-generated label had a July 21 date. And that, says the Tax Court, is the date that counts, and our couple was out of luck.

So what does that mean to you?

• File electronically if you can. You get a nice electronic confirmation that you can beat up the IRS with, and you don’t have to worry about your valuable tax forms going awry.

• If you must paper-file, Registered Mail or Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, are still the best deal in town. They’ll generally be cheaper than a private carrier, and that hand-stamped certified mail postmark has the same effect on IRS agents as sunlight on Dracula.

• If you find yourself at FedEx/Kinkos late on April 15, make sure the clerk knows that you need them to stamp it before midnight. If you use private delivery, be sure to use the proper street address, as the private carriers can’t deliver to post office boxes.

Otherwise, you might find yourself trying to reach Jiffy Express.

Author of “Alan the Accountant” Wants Parents to Talk to Their Kids About Offshore Tax Havens

Last week we told you about the most important contribution to children’s literature since Mother Goose, “Alan the Accountant” (download it here).

Alan the Accountant may not be the most traditional book in the “turn the page” sense but it will no doubt get the kids thinking about double-entry at an early age and you can never get the kids started on the career path too early, amiright?

After downloading this gem and reading it a dozen times or so, we felt prepared to discuss it seriously.

We had the distinct pleasure of tossing a few questions at the book’s author, Jinky Fox, to see what sort of plans he has for Alan, how he managed to skip out on his accounting career and why it’s never too early to talk to your kids about offshore tax havens.


So you planned to become an accountant but got “sidetracked into fine art.” A couple of questions related to this: 1) By “planned” does that mean you enrolled in a class, walked in and saw the people, turned right around and walked out? 2) Does getting “sidetracked into fine art” have anything to do with a) your pursuit of a sexy art student b) drugs c) walking into the wrong classroom d) all of the above.

I started an accountancy class and walked out after a year. Not because of the nightlife which was everything I subsequently found at art school and more. Accountants definitely know how to party. Rather I hadn’t been introduced to creative accounting. Now I see those figures differently. They can tell a tale as exciting as a six volume 19th century novel or a four hour black and white Swedish epic. There is an art in the numbers.

We’re still of the opinion that there was a sexy art student. Moving on…You say “The series of books planned for Alan the Accountant will help me examine the exciting world of Accountancy that I turned my back on.” This begs a few more questions: 1) “Exciting?” 2) What have you learned about the profession that surprised you and how will you get the kids interested? 3) What makes you think the accounting profession will embrace you after you abandoned it? Accountants can be a touchy bunch, you know.

Fiction lets writers and readers live different lives. We might not be able to live the life of a 17th century nobleman, but we can read Les Trois Mousquetaires. We might not be pirates but we can read Treasure Island. I am not an accountant, but Alan allows me to explore my life had it taken a different route.

Artists rarely sit on the boards of large companies, but accountants have the keys to these exciting corridors of power. Art and accountancy might seem to be unrelated but there is an unexplored link between them. This has been expressed most famously by Andy Warhol when he said, ‘Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.’

Will accountants embrace Alan? I hope so, and I don’t think that a teenage indiscretion will blight their enjoyment. And anyway, it’s not too late for me to retrain.

Well, we’re on your team and despite what some might say, that’s a decent endorsement. Anyway, getting more serious…In this book, you examine the possibilities for Alan’s happiness, which include his finding of an offshore tax haven. Is this really the example that we should be setting for children? I mean do we really want to be having the “UBS conversation” with our kids at such a young age?

Offshore tax havens are an important part of life. Is it wrong for children to learn that some kids have to say goodbye to their friends and go and live on a British dependency in the middle of nowhere? No, I say! They might be the ones ripped from their beds and flown to a sweltering island, only allowed to go home 90 days a year. Life’s not all ipods and ice cream, we have to be honest!

Have it your way but don’t come crying to us when Fox News gets ahold of this. Next – Here in the U.S., accountants are nearly as revered as they are in the UK. You guys have an awards ceremony over there for crying out loud. Do you think that your book can help bridge the prestige in the UK over the U.S.?

I hope that my little book will bring accountants to the collective bosom of the people. I see a time when Alan the Accountant is the top rated kids’ show on TV. Children of all ages will dream of becoming accountants. Our universities will be so full of accountancy students they will stop teaching all other subjects. Our shops will sell out of calculators, accountants around the globe will be lauded and admired, statues will be built of senior partners and it will all be thanks to Alan.

Honestly, the idea of a Tim Flynn statue is a tad frightening but we like your enthusiasm. Speaking of…More books featuring Alan are forthcoming – what do you have planned? Adventure? Excitement? Adjusting entries?

Accountancy is a field that has not been mined for children’s books before so there is plenty of scope for stories set in the world of high finance. Accountancy is awash with slang and acronyms that are made for children’s books. Titles planned for future editions of Alan’s book include ‘My first investment account’, ‘Adventures in negative growth’ and ‘Darling, come quickly, Freddie just said his first word – EBITDA’

Just So You’re Aware: There Is Now a Children’s Book Featuring An Accountant…For Your iPhone

No doubt that there’s many a fine accountant that wished there was a children’s book that they could read to their 0-4 year-old to demonstrate that it was an honorable and worthwhile calling.

Similarly there are many parents these days that wished for such a book that could be read without the annoyance of your skin touching paper and also the ability to check in at the local coffeehouse on Foursquare.

The wait is over.

Alan the Accountant is the first in a series of new books starring people in careers that are not usually associated with children’s books. Why should only builders and postmen find fame in children’s books?! Accountants are vital to the world economy, yet children are not encouraged to say I want to be an Accountant in the same way they learn about other careers. This book resets the balance.

[…]

As a student the author Jinky Fox planned to become an accountant, but was sidetracked into fine art. ‘The series of books planned for Alan the Accountant will help me examine the exciting world of Accountancy that I turned my back on,’ commented Jinky.

You see people? Jinky is giving back to the profession he left behind. Admirable to be sure. He’s so committed to the profession that there are plans to have Alan star in future books.

Now for you religious types, you may be disturbed by Alan sans pants but rest assured, this is a book for the whole family and the sanctity of your household is not at risk and it could do wonders for your personal financial management.

[via Accounting Tomorrow]

Accounting News Roundup: Geithner Supports Obama Tax Policy; Reznick Group Announces Principal Promotions; What’s It Cost to Be the Boss? | 08.03.10

Geithner defends Obama policy on tax cut extension [AP]
“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday it would be ‘deeply irresponsible’ for the Obama administration to support a wholesale extension of Bush era tax cuts, including breaks for the wealthy.

Geithner said in a nationally broadcast interview that President Barack Obama strongly believes those reductions should be retained for the ’95 percent’ of taxpayers with individual incomes under $200,000 a year and families below $250,000.”

Bank of America, KPMG Settlement With Countrywide Investors Wins Approval [Bloomberg]
“Bank of America Corp. and KPMG LLP’s $624 million settlement with investors in Countrywide Financial Corp. led by New York pension funds won initial court approval.

U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer in Los Angeles ruled today on the accord. A fairness hearing will be held on final approval for the settlement, first announced in May.”

Snooki Tanning-Bed Protest Splits Sin From Taxes [Bloomberg]
“[P]eople don’t like government moralizing. If there’s one thing people dislike even more than taxes, it’s being told what to do.”

So does that mean that Alabama is imploring reverse psychology?


Reznick Group Promotes Four New Principals [Business Wire]
Reznick Group promoted Dan Fox and Renee Matthews in Bethesda, MD, Eric Jones in Sacramento and Daniel Worrall in Atlanta are the big winners.

Accounting & Consulting Group acquires Roswell’s Miller & Associates [New Mexico Business Weekly]
“With 95 employees overall, Accounting & Consulting Group is now the third-largest accounting firm in the state. Headquartered in Albuquerque, it has offices in Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Hobbs and Roswell, and has a member firm office in Lubbock, Texas. The firm specializes in audit and financial reporting, tax compliance, business consulting and trust and estate planning.”

Becoming the Boss Can Cost Plenty [WSJ]
“When starting a business on a tight budget, a single spending gaffe can spell disaster. For this reason, experts in entrepreneurship recommend taking precautions, such as doing research to identify potential hidden fees, focusing only on necessities and setting aside emergency funds.”

SAP Business ByDesign 2.5: time to invest? [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett gives the lowdown on the “general availability of SAP Business ByDesign 2.5,” which means that it is available for any to purchase. Dennis reports that starter packs for as few as ten users are available for CRM, ERP and PSP.

Why Would E&Y Download 100 Million Facebook Profiles off BitTorrent?

Good question! In case you didn’t hear, someone – his name is Ron Bowes – created a “crawler” (resident tech expert Nick told us it’s “a bot that has directives and algorithms based on known patterns in a webpage it ‘visits’ a webpage and pull information from selected places in that structure.”) that pulled data on 100 million Facebook profiles.

Since it only pulled the data that was publicly available, you could claim that this is NBD as Nick told us, “[A]ll the crawler did was collect it and put it into a single place, presumably in a format that is searchable and very ordered.”


And Engadget agrees, “There’s nothing illegal about any of this, of course — we put our information out there into the public forum that Facebook is, after all — but there’s still something creepy about the idea of someone torrenting our profile.”

What may be even more creepy is that lots of corporations – including E&Y – are downloading the data.

Nick told us that any corporation could have done this anyway but since someone else did, these companies figured, “why the hell not?” and downloaded the data. But E&Y? Maybe it’s just some back office guy stalking ex-girlfriends, as Gizmodo suggests, or Zitor collecting names for future abductions but it certainly makes you wonder.

So much so, we emailed E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins to ask him about it (and if nothing else, we may have introduced him to a new website!) but we haven’t heard back and we don’t have our hopes up.

Major Corporations Are Downloading Those 100 Million Facebook Profiles off BitTorrent [Gizmodo]

Accounting News Roundup: BP’s Tax Break Could Bring Congressional Belly Aching; Steinbrenner’s Will Postpones Decision Estate Taxes; KPMG Foundation Awards Minority Scholars | 07.28.10

BP Seeks Tax Cut on Cleanup Costs [WSJ]
“In releasing second-quarter results Tuesday, the London-based oil giant said it was taking a pretax charge of $32 billion to cover damages, business claims an the next several years.

That total will be offset against its U.S. tax bill, resulting in a $10 billion reduction in taxes, the company said. The tax reduction will cut the company’s anticipated net spill-related losses to $22 billion, the company said.

BP paid $10.4 billion in taxes world-wide last year, according to its 2009 annual report.

Tax experts said that BP’s filing reflected standard accounting practices, even if the sums involved were unusually large.”

The Boss’ will power [NYP]
“The Boss’ will stipulates that an undisclosed portion of his estimated $1.1 billion sports, shipping and racehorse-breeding fortune will go into a trust for his widow, Joan, 74.

And it assigns Steinbrenner’s lawyer, Robert Banker, to decide whether that trust pays federal estate tax for this year, or not until after Joan Steinbrenner dies.

Although there currently is no federal estate tax for 2010, that could change if Congress acts to close the loophole and enacts such a tax retroactively, putting Steinbrenner’s estate on the hook for $500 million or more.

But under the law, Banker would have nine months from Steinbrenner’s July 13 death to decide if the estate should pay estimated estate tax for a 2010 filing — or at the rate in effect whenever Joan dies. Banker can take another six months before deciding to make that move permanent.”

LinkedIn Value Tops $2 Billion After Tiger Global Investment [Bloomberg]
“Tiger Global Management LLC, a hedge fund founded by Chase Coleman, paid $20 million for a stake in LinkedIn Corp., valuing the professional-networking website at more than $2 billion, said two people familiar with the matter.

The purchase, at $21.50 a share for about a 1 percent stake, was from existing shareholders and doesn’t represent new investment, said one of the people, who declined to be identified because the sale has not been disclosed. LinkedIn, based in Mountain View, California, is closely held.”


Sexy SAP? Surely not!! [AccMan]
SAP is known for helping HUGE companies manage all of its resources including CRM, accounting, HR, etc. etc. with enterprise solutions. There’s no chance that a huge company like this with a slew of mega corp clients could have something sleek and flexible for your small business, right? Dennis Howlett would beg to differ:

“SAP has a reputation of being big, heavy, slow and expensive. Fine for the Nestlé’s and Colgate-Palmolive’s of this world but hardly a fit for an SME business. That’s simply not true. ByDesign can be used by companies as small as 10 users. 20 users would be nice but 10 is OK. If you’re moving from say Line 50 then implementation and data transfer can be handled for less than £10K. You’re going to do a good amount of work yourself in learning how this thing works but SAP has provided plenty of guided learning material to help.”

Including a video that DH has up over at AccMan today. So simple, the editor of an accounting blog can understand it. No more excuses, people.

KPMG Foundation Awards $470,000 in Scholarships to 47 Minority Accounting Doctoral Scholars [PR Newswire]
“The KPMG Foundation [on Tuesday] announced it has awarded a total of $470,000 in scholarships to 47 minority accounting doctoral students for the 2010–2011 academic year. Of the 47 scholarships, the Foundation named 12 new recipients and renewed 35 existing awards. Each scholarship is valued at $10,000 and renewable annually for up to five years.”

IRS Demands $45 Million From Billionaire McCombs [Forbes]
Clear Channel founder and former Minnesota Vikings owner, “Red” McCombs finds himself in a similar pickle with the IRS as Phil Anschutz.

Accounting News Roundup: Geithner Is Ready to Let Tax Cuts Die; Hayward on His Way Out?; PwC Wants Glitnir Lawsuit Tossed | 07.26.10

No new recession, let tax cuts die: Geithner [Reuters]
“The economy is not likely to slip back into recession but letting tax cuts for tans expire is necessary to show commitment to cutting budget deficits, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Sunday.

In appearances on several Sunday talk shows, Geithner said only 2 to 3 percent of Americans — those making $250,000 or more a year — will be affected when tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush end on schedule this year.”

BP Said to Prepare Dudley as CEO as Board Looks for Recovery [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc plans to name Robert Dudley to succeed Tony Hayward as chief executive officer as the board looks to recover the company’s position in the U.S., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Dudley, the director of BP’s oil spill response unit, is ready to be announced as the company’s first American chief and to take the helm Oct. 1, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because a final decision hasn’t yet been made. The decision was reached in discussions with board members about how best to take BP forward and rebuild its U.S. position, the person said.”

Madoff Investors Brace for Lawsuits [WSJ]
“Irving Picard said he could wind up suing about half the estimated 2,000 individual investors he has called “net winners” from their dealings with Mr. Madoff. Such investors withdrew more from Mr. Madoff’s firm than the amount of principal they invested.

‘The people who made money, who got more, have made money at the expense of the people who didn’t,’ said Mr. Picard, who has the power under federal bankruptcy provisions to pursue money withdrawn from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC before it collapsed in December 2008 and redistribute the funds fairly among victims.

Mr. Picard must file any so-called clawback lawsuits by December, the two-year anniversary of Mr. Madoff’s arrest and the filing of regulatory proceedings against him. ‘We’re not going to wait until the last minute,’ Mr. Picard said.”


Change the world or go home [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett implores you that if you want your firm or business to really stand out then it’s going to take more than a catchy slogan or a boilerplate email to get people’s attention. You best recognize an opportunity when you see one.

“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve said but it is worth repeating. When disruption like SaaS comes along, it represents an opportunity. From a professional standpoint it should mean that firms can further commoditize what they do by using accounting dashboards that show them the status of their clients’ activity. It is a short step to seeing how this might be integrated into fees, billing, customer satisfaction measurement and the like.”

If You’re Going To San Francisco…AAA Will Be There [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Edith Orenstein has the lowdown on this year’s American Accounting Association’s (AAA) annual meeting. This year’s event is in AG’s backyard (she loves giving directions, btw) from July 31 to August 4th and will feature Francine McKenna and Professor Albrecht on one of the panels.

Join Me For a Nice Little CPA Exam Chat on August 3rd! [JDA]
Speaking of Adrienne, she’ll be over at CPA Exam Club to take your questions on everyone’s favorite test on August 3rd. Yes, that’s one week from tomorrow.

PwC Demands Dismissal of Glitnir Lawsuit [Iceland Review]
PwC’s lawyers argue that Glitnir and the firm agreed to do any legal wrangling in Iceland if the poo hit the fan. Late last week they requested that the lawsuit in New York be tossed.

Saltzman Hamma firm details merger with RubinBrown [Denver Business Journal]
“Saltzman Hamma Nelson Massaro LLP, a century-old Denver accounting firm, is merging with St. Louis-based RubinBrown LLP to form what’s expected to be among the 50 largest accounting firms in the United States, principals were set to announce on July 23.

The new entity, which will operate as RubinBrown, will employ 375 people in offices in Denver, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. The merger will be effective Aug. 1.”

District Court Denies Charitable Deduction for Donation of Home to Fire Department [TaxProf Blog]
Just donate a car next time. It’s a far worse investment than a house.

IRS Proposes PTIN Fees [JofA]
$50 for your very own preparer tax identification number! Of course there’s also a ‘reasonable fee’ on top of that from “a third-party vendor that will administer the application and renewal process,” that gets thrown in for good measure.

My Life as a White-Collar Criminal [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar went on Canadian TV last week to talk about how much fun it is to be a crook. Except the whole possibility of prison part.

Accounting News Roundup: Grassley Not Sold on Financial Reform Bill; LeBron Was Probably Considering Tax Implications; Target: Your Spreadsheets | 07.09.10

Grassley Airs Concerns As Vote Nears on Financial Bill [WSJ]
“Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley is ‘very concerned’ about a provision in the financial overhaul bill designed to pay for the leaid Thursday, potentially complicating White House efforts to build a filibuster-proof majority to back the measure.

If Mr. Grassley decides to vote against the bill, Democrats would be left with little margin for error when they bring the bill to the Senate floor, which could happen as soon as next week. Mr. Grassley was one of four Republicans to support an earlier version of the bill when it narrowly passed the Senate in May.”

Number of CEOs Stepping Down is on the Rise [FBN]
It’s hard out there for a CEO. Ask Russ Smyth.

State Jock Taxes: Is LeBron Better Off in Miami? [Tax Foundation]
Of course Florida has no income tax, so every game that LBJ plays in Florida he’ll have a tax liability of $0. What about the other 41 games outside of FLA? That’s another story, “True, if James plays in Miami, none of his neighbors will be paying state income tax, but thanks to the jock tax, LeBron will.

While most people who travel in their jobs pay state income tax only to their home state, which is zero in Florida, athletes get special attention. In the NBA, each player’s per-game salary is computed, and whenever a team is on the road, the players must pay whichever tax rate is higher, the home state’s or the away state’s.”


Facebook Often Not a Job Seeker’s Friend [FINS]
If you’re pounding the pavement for a new job out there, it’s pretty much a given that people are looking at your online activity. But just how much and where? Based on the conversation between FINS’ Kyle Stock asked Michael Fertik of ReputationDefender Inc, you’d better drop those loser friends from high school that have appeared on Cops:

Kyle Stock: Can you speak briefly on to what extent companies are checking up on candidates online?

Michael Fertik: They’re absolutely doing it. It’s somewhere around 70% to 80% of hiring managers. . . And not only are they looking online, they are also looking in really remarkable places like virtual worlds and gaming rooms.

KS: To what extent do people realize this is going on?

MF: Somewhere around 70% of employers are considering online information when evaluating a candidate and only 7% of candidates believe they are doing so. There’s a huge gulf of understanding. . . Everybody has been opted in. There’s kind of a willful ignorance about it. That’s changing, but it’s still there.

And the kinds of information being considered are growing very diverse. It’s not just the photo that you published of yourself with a beer or a bong, it’s also content like who your friends are and what they post on your page and what kinds of groups that you link to. There’s kind of an associative picture that they develop of you and then they make decisions about you based on those associations.

Russian Spies Head Home in Swap Echoing Cold War [Bloomberg]
Defendant #4 and the rest of the gang are going home, making your next conference predictably more boring. Or will it???

Internal Auditors Target Spreadsheets [CFO]
“Last month the Institute of Internal Auditors plugged a gap in its guidance for members by issuing recommendations for the auditing of ‘user-developed applications,’ which generally are spreadsheets and databases developed by end users rather than by IT personnel.

User-developed applications, or UDAs, are subject to a high level of data-integrity risk because there may not be adequate controls over validating their output or making changes to them, the IIA points out. There is also confidentiality risk, because a UDA and its data typically are easy to transmit outside the company via e-mail.”

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.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Set to Release More Names as Standoff Ends; SEC Drops Cassano Inquiry; Levin, McCain Want Stock Option Gap Closed | 06.17.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After a short standoff in Swiss parliament, Swiss lawmakers approved the agreement with the U.S. to turn over the remaining names of UBS clients, per the agreement between the two countries. The lower house dropped the referendum proposal that would have delayed the release of the names and likely caused UBS to miss the August deadline which would have resulted in new charges against the Swiss behemoth.

The Journal reports that a Swiss government is prepared to release an additional 1,200 names following the initial 500 released last year.

Lawmakers Weigh Changes tostor Protections [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Congress is kicking around the possibility of an office within the SEC to respond to whistleblower complaints. Brilliant!


McGladrey Mourns the Loss of Former Partner Ray Krause
Mr Krause passed away on Monday after 40 years of service to both McGladrey and the accounting profession. He served on many professional standard setting groups including AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council. H was memorialized by his friend and colleague Jay Hanson, McGladrey’s National Director of Accounting:

Ray died unexpectedly yesterday. He was on vacation in Orlando with his nine-year-old grandson doing what he loved—visiting Disney World.

Before his retirement six years ago, Ray spent more than 40 years with McGladrey. He practiced in a number of locations, including a long stop in the national office as national director of accounting. He retired as partner in 2004 but continued to work for the national office part-time in Rockford, Ill.

During his long career, he served in a number of professional standard setting groups, including the AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

Ray is best remembered for being the consummate professional and his easy-going style. He was very well respected in the accounting profession. Comments coming in from those that knew him include: “Ray was one of the true gentlemen of the accounting profession,” and “Ray was about as fine a human being as there is.”

He was a great mentor to many colleagues in the national office. His style of giving his complete attention to whomever he was talking to, providing understandable explanations for complex topics, probing deeply for all the facts, and his uncanny ability to help draw a conclusion with full understanding will be greatly missed. Ray could convey the message to someone that they were getting to the wrong conclusion with such delicacy that you didn’t even feel it, and felt good about the answer. He knew many of the “back stories” about how and why some of the most complex accounting standards came about, which is often important to understand what they mean.

Ray will be greatly missed by his daughter, son, four grandchildren and other family and friends. McGladrey and the accounting profession have also suffered a great loss.

Inquiry Ends on Cassano, Once of AIG [WSJ]
The SEC has dropped its investigation of Joseph Cassano, the former head of AIG’s Financial Products Unit, which means he won’t face civil charges in the unit’s role in financial crisis. The SEC is also declining to pursue charges against another AIGFP executive, Andrew Forster, who was also under scrutiny.

Senator sees big reporting gap in stock options [AP]
Senator Carl “Shitty Deal” Levin and new Snooki BFF John McCain “have proposed legislation that would require that the tax deduction for stock options not exceed the expense for options reported in financial statements.”

The two are a little rankled about the $52 billion gap between the amount of stock option expenses recognized for financial reporting purposes and the expense reported for tax purposes. Guess who’s getting the short end on that one?

Bank auditors were fully involved in developing report [FT]
John Hitchens, head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and a PwC Partner would like to dispel any notion that auditors will resist reform after taking it on the chin for the financial crisis:

As chairman of the ICAEW working group that produced the proposals, I would like to correct this impression.

Bank auditors from the six largest audit firms were fully involved in developing the report and supportive of all its recommendations, including the proposal that banks develop summary risk statements which auditors would then give comfort over.

Feel better?

U.K. Scraps FSA in Biggest Bank Overhaul Since 1997 [Bloomberg]
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will do away with the Financial Services Authority, replacing it with three new regulatory bodies and giving most of its oversight powers to the Bank of England.

Intuit Works to Restore Online Access [WSJ]
Any individuals or small businesses that use TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks have been in a world of hurt as online access has been down, down, down. “Some Intuit websites were beginning to come back online late Wednesday afternoon,” according to an Intuit spokesperson. The situation is fluid.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist from NYSE [CNN]
Meant to mention this yesterday since it was the DoD but you know how it goes. Anyway, see you another life FNM and FRE.

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.

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.

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]

Accounting News Roundup: KPMG Considering Credit Rating Business (Not Seriously Though); You Can Stop Worrying About SaaS Security; Brief Tax Stories Are Possible | 05.17.10

KPMG and PwC eye rating move [FT]
KPMG has casually kicked around the idea of getting into the rating agency business according to the FT who quotes John Griffith Jones, the firm’s UK Chair, as saying the firm was “‘passively considering it” and that “it is something that we talk about as a plausible thing to do. It is effectively something we would be proficient at doing.”

The FT also seems to think that the PwC is toying with the idea although it’s even more tepid than KPMG, “Richard Sexton, UK head of assurance at PwC, said it continually looked for areas to grow its business from its ‘core skills that include assurance, opinions and underpinning public trust.'”


And yes, the skeptics are duly noted, as Jones said, “We are aware that people think we have conflicts of interest already. It probably makes it impractical. But if the world wanted another strong ratings player, there you are. Maybe the debate could be started off.”

In other words, we’re just thinking out loud.

Can we please get over the security issue? [AccMan]
As we’ve been touching on SaaS recently, some of you may be wondering about the issue of security. This issue rightly irks Dennis Howlett, as he points out, “We’ve had online banking for years. We have numerous other online services such as GMail. Does anyone think twice about using those?”

Further, would a company that was providing SaaS – whether for accounting, CRM, or ERP, payroll whatevs – that was having security issues really have a business? “SaaS accounting HAS to be secure. Why? Almost all services currently on offer are on a pay as you go basis. If the provider screws up then they’re dead in the water. Why would a provider be stupid enough NOT to build enterprise grade (and better) security into their platform?”

Just make sure to do you due diligence before pulling the trigger on anything. And don’t just rely on a SAS 70.

Who Knew? There’s an IFRS News Widget for Mac Users [CPA Trendlines]
For anyone that needs up to the second IFRS news on their Mac. Download here.

Hemingway and Tax [TaxProf Blog]
If you can make a tax story out of six words then you’ve got other talents (besides taxes) that need to be explored. Tax Prof put out the call for some brief tax tales. A few submissions:

“Deduct it. Fight Later. Then Settle.”
“Let’s do a delayed three-way.”
“I work. I file. I pay.”

Swiss banker turned whistleblower ended up with a prison sentence [WaPo]
Whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld handed UBS to the DOJ and all he got was a nice 40 month prison sentence out of it.

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.

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

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.

Technology SNAFU of the Day: DeloitteNet 2.0 Has a Case of the Mondays

We were notified last week about some exciting news for the capital market servants at Deloitte. DeloitteNet 2.0, the D’s new and improved internal intranet debuted today and the message was, because of this upgrade, your busy season, hell, your LIVES we’re going to be infinitely better:

Scheduled to launch Monday, January 25, DeloitteNet 2.0 is the result of an organization-wide effort to upgrade and redesign our intranet. It will include a new content structure and navigation, a new search engine, your very own “My DeloitteNet” site, and much more…
DeloitteNet will still be your go-to resource for the latest news and information. It will still provide access to essential tools and resources to get your job done, as well as offer access to the applications you need to manage your life here at Deloitte.

Not only that but Deloitte’s very own social networking phenomenon, D Street, would be fully integrated into the new intranet including a “My status” feature in case you want to tell everyone about the weather or how much you hate Mondays.


All this excitement was scheduled to kick off today with much fanfare. Many of you raced into work this morning, not being able to sleep last night in anticipation of this occasion were devastated to be greeted by this:
Thumbnail image for DeloitteNet2.0.jpg
Maybe too many people were distracted by the diversity debate or caught up thinking of new ideas for Project JARED.
Regardless of the cause, we’re sure everything is hunky-dory by now (?) and you’re all enjoying the plunders of DeloitteNet 2.0.
Earlier:
Big 4 Technology: Open Thread

Deloitte Is Saving Money by Offering Zach Morris Phones

zmorris.jpgWe kid, we kid. Obviously you’re aware that you can shell out $13 a month and get an iPhone. Whether that’s worth it or not, we’ll let you decide but if you don’t want the iPhone, you’re taking your chances with another option, as one source describes, “crappy Windows Mobile devices that are getting shoved down our throats.”
Not only that but if you’re looking to get reimbursed for your PDA, don’t expect to get to choose whatever you want. Or to spend that much:

Deloitte also now limits the re-imbursement of PDAs to $199.99 + taxes. They used to cover the entire cost of devices that they chose to support (which mostly sucked to begin with). You’d figure that since they only pay $199.99 that we’d be able to pick the device now… but no; still limited to their “approved list” of crappy devices.

We’re not really up-to-date on the whole who-gets-what-phone-at-what-level question these days so if you’ve got some insight for your firm, discuss in the comments.

Ironic Photo of the Day: Paperless Audit Edition

A friend of GC passed along the following photo:
paperless.jpg
Telling us: “This is our paperless audit training. An associate had to print out 46 copies. He stayed late on Friday and used three printers.”
Oh the humanity.

KPMG Has Its Reasons for Banning Google Talk

Klynveldians have been warned about certain software that should not, under any circumstances, be downloaded by any of you:
Picture 3.png
In the firm’s defense — and since they didn’t mention it — many of these programs are used by you to waste precious billable hours complaining to each other about a myriad of things including why the Phil Mickelson hats only come in black and white and where Tim Flynn and John Veihmeyer buy their suits (we hear Marshall’s but that could be total bupkis).
Furthermore, we’re not going to sit here and say that none of these programs present a legitimate risk. That would be foolhardy and insensitive.
What we do wonder about is what “disciplinary action” involves. Feel free to wildly speculate on this in the comments.

(UPDATE) Big 4 Technology: Open Thread

Thumbnail image for Apple-II.jpgEditor’s Note: Francine McKenna is a regular contributor to Going Concern
We recently received a tip about KPMG implementing a new risk management system for vetting potential clients and engagements. The new system was put in place around the time of the second round of layoffs and according to our tip, things did not go smoothly.
Simply put, it didn’t work. Since the whole risk management thing is a big deal for any accounting firm, people were working day and night to try and get it fixed. Did we mention the layoffs? Right. They occurred right when this whole SNAFU was occurring.
Our source described the risk management process as a “total nightmare” for basically two weeks. Good news, is that things seem to be back to normal but it sounds like it was pre-tay, pre-tay hairy for a while there.
Most accounting firms, especially the Big 4, are heavily dependent on the efficient functioning of their technology. But, aside from reading this fine publication, you probably spend a good chunk of your time dealing with tech related headaches.
Firms trying to go paperless, firms still using Lotus Notes, and we’ve heard that KPMG is currently upgrading its basic operating system to run on…Windows Vista.
On the positive side, Deloitte is issuing iPhones and that’s basically all we got…
We asked our contributor, Francine McKenna for her thoughts on the Big 4’s investment in technology:

The Big 4 operate under the “shoemaker’s children” doctrine when it comes to their own technology infrastructure. Every once and a while you’ll see a big splashy investment but partners loathe spending their potential payout on common goods, and investments for the future: “If I don’t understand it or perceive a need for it, I don’t want to spend any of my money on it.” Very few of the rank and file partners understand or appreciate the firm’s technology infrastructure needs.

Discuss your firm’s technology (or lack thereof). The good, the bad, the stuff that makes you want to drop kick your laptop out the window.

KPMG Arrives at the Paperless Audit Party

office-space-402a-061907.jpgWe’ve received several reports about Klynveldians attending “eAudit” training this summer which marks the firm’s attempt to get break into the “paperless” audit world. Reports have been mixed with some saying that it’s best technology KPMG has invested in but others claiming that it will only run on Vista which may be problematic when Windows 7 rolls out.
Forgetting the technology mumbo-jumbo, it’s been long rumored that KPMG was the last major firm to make the move to a paperless audit. This could have been due to a number of things:
More, after the jump


• Partners that have been around since WWII that can’t even use email put the kibosh on the whole idea
• M-O-N-E-Y
• Accountants, in general, resist the idea of trying a new restaurant so don’t even think about messing with their audit methods
What’s more surprising is that some Radio Station clients have said that they prefer the old school audit. Not exactly sure what is so appealing about young auditors schleping around boxes of binders that weigh a few metric asstons but whatevs.
Our point, dude, is that KPMG has finally caved on this whole “paperless” idea. Since audits aren’t truly paperless we’re not sure what all the fuss is about but KPMGers got an extra week in Florida in the dead of summer out of it. Discuss the firm breaking into the new century in the comments or let us know how terrible your lives will be because of it.