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The Cloud: Enlightenment or Fog?

18th Nov 2009
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The Cloud seems to be the key debate of the moment.  It seems to me to be quite simple.  Accountants can look inwards at their practices and focus on internal software efficiency.   This can mean that there is low involvement in their customers' businesses and the customer is left for long periods to run their buisnesses as they see fit.  Alternatively, accountants can look outwards and become involved with their clients and their business processes.

There is a place for both approaches, because older established businesses will take longer to change, but newer businesses will be more aware of the new technology now.  The traditional software base for accountancy practices will die out over a long period of time and the Cloud will take over.

Just see how online banking and the use of cash machines has blossomed in recent years from a slow start.  There are still traditionalists who will rely on paper statements or telephone banking, but electronic banking will win out in the end.  Even now many outlets are refusing to accept cheques in favour of debit or credit cards.  Accounting software will go the same way and those who do not engage with their clients to help them through this evolution will end up losing business.

We have taken on many new clients who found us via our software provider and who were turned down by high street accountants because they didn't want to provide the support or consider changing their methods.  Surely, the prime goal must be to give clients what they want rather than turn them away by being dogmatic?

Ray

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
25th Nov 2009 12:13

A rising chorus

Thanks for raising some interesting points, Ray.

We've been banging on about the Cloud and its various incarnations for many, many years on AccountingWEB - but a straw poll at the recent ICAEW Sole Practitioners Day confirmed that ignorance and suspicion is still rife within the profession. A third of the people I asked about "the Cloud" at the ICAEW had no idea what I was talking about. Some of the other people were better informed, but raised some practical issues about accounting Cloud providers ("Who are these people?" asked one.)

A post from a fellow blogger, internet accountant Richard Messik, points to one of the key issues - the impenetrable jargon and IT groupthink that pervades rapidly developing technology markets. The advantages are self-evident to the Cloud evangelists, but they're too busy preaching to the converted or arguing about  theological differences that don't matter much to anyone else.

I would probably have to count myself as one of that group, but I am conscious of the need to explain the concepts in simple, relevant language to our members. To that end, there are two current developments that may interest AccountingWEB.co.uk members:

1. We're participating in the 2009 Business Cloud Summit in London on 2 December. Designed as an industry get together, it will also include an AccountingWEB panel where we'll turn the tables - instead of asking vendors what they think, a group of practitioners will sit on the podium and tell the suppliers what they're looking for from Cloud systems and what could be done to make them more attractive to the profession. If anyone is keen to join this "focus group" panel, there may still be a place left - contact my colleague Andy North (andy.north [AT] siftmedia.co.uk). Tickets for the event cost £395, but there is also a prize draw for free tickets. Contact Verity Tarrant (verity.tarrant [AT] siftmedia.co.uk) to enter this draw.

2. In the past week, we've set up a Cloud accounting discussion group on AccountingWEB.co.uk. Already the topic of terminology has cropped up and with the participation of interested members, I thought we might try to build up a glossary and develop some non-techy ways of explaining Cloud practices on the site.

I look forward to hearing more views on this issue.
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John Stokdyk, Technology editor

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