With the advent of new devices and work patterns, it's important not to carry on in the same old ways, says Digita founder Jerry Rihll.
As the founder of Digita and current head of accounting firms for the EMEA wing of its parent, Thomson Reuters, Jerry Rihll sees computing experiencing its fifth wave. After mainframes, microcompmuters/PCs, workstations, laptops and smartphones the latest paradigm is all about mobility and having data up in the cloud, he told the company’s recent user conference in Cirencester.
The numbers are compelling: according to Morgan Stanley Research, by 2014 more users will access the internet via a mobile device than with a traditional desktop PC. The Apple iPhone has 5.5m users in the UK and 17m across Europe. With more than 2m iPads sold in its first two months and an estimated 16-18m units shipped in 2010, the iPad was the most successful product launch in recent history. Deloitte is estimating that more than 50m tablet devices will be sold in Europe this year, with consumers attracted by user-friendly, non-intrusive devices that can display info in new ways.
“I think it’s really important to not think you can just carry on with the same stuff,” Rihll said. True to his word, during the event he presented examples of a Digita client contact app on the iPhone and a version of the Digita suite apparently running on an iPad. It is worth noting that no actual program commands were invoked during the iPad demonstration, but it still looked good.
“That’s the sort of thing you’d sit along client and show,” said Rihll. While few accountants are clamouring for this kind of technology today, Rihll said he was showing it so that Digita customers will “know we we’ll have it tomorrow”.
Even if the big developers were slow to respond, the iPhone and iPad have encouraged a new wave of apps. “You won’t see tax preparation apps, but little tools like the BBS Business Analyser and our Digita mobile apps. The iPhone is very much a reading device; but if you keep it simple, it can get you in to access your data.”
According to Thomson Reuters, demographic changes are matching the changes in computer technology. Many of the accountants at Digita’s conference were Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965. As accountants in this generation retire, their places are being taken by so-called Generation X and Y accountants, and “milennials” who have grown up with the internet.
According to Rihll, these milennials don’t have the same concerns about privacy and data ownership and are comfortable about banking online and entrusting personal information to the internet. “They’re loosening things up,” he said.
The tie-up with Thomson Reuters has accelerated Digita’s mobile developments. In an article on our sister site AccountingWEB.com, practice management product manager Matt Jagst expanded on the dynamic taking place within the profession in north America.
In practice, the first steps many firms take into mobile computing are to support mobile connections between employees and the company network, so people can work effectively away from the office, he wrote. Those that have done so reap a number of benefits:
- Access to real-time information – whenever you want, from wherever you are – makes client service faster and more effective.
- Performing tasks such as time entry and project status updates away from base is more efficient and can help ensure projects deadlines aren't missed.
- Instant-on devices (as opposed to laptops) make for better use of your time and can help professionals strike a balance between their private life and work.
- Positioning your firm as tech-savvy practice that utilizes cool technology. This can help attract new clients and attract or retain employment talent.