Member Since: 27th Nov 2002
I have 30+ years experience in the world of IT related finance. 10 of those years were spent as a partner in a Britsh firm of Chartered Accountants with a tax and IT remit. The remainder of my time was spent in a variety of industries including construction, steel fabrication, build to order manufacture and light engineering in progressively senior finance related roles. During that time, I was seconded to a team of Delloitte & Touche consultants working on costing systems for discrete manufacture. As partner, I had a small portfolio of high wealth clients, those with international interests or those with especially complex affairs. The experience supplemented what I had learned from working in industry and introduced me to the entertainment and hospitality, multi-store retail, professional services and healthcare industries. I specialised in providing business development, advisory, M&A and offshore tax services. I retired in 1993. In the same year, I went to university and wrote occasional reviews and opinions about accounting software. I completed my degree in 1996 and left the UK in 1997 to live in France. In September, 2004 along with partner Jude, cat and dog moved to Spain. We’re now esconced in Alcaudete, in the north of Andalucia. Today, I advise software developers about how they need to develop for customer needs and the requirement to understand the narrative in customer satisfaction. I help developers shape strategy and product, write the occasional piece for AccountingWEB and other blogs. I advise professional practitioners on their marketing strategies in a connected world. My main work comes through writing this blog, which concentrates on innovation for professional accountants with a strong leaning towards the technologies that drive client value. I am a strong believer in culture driven change management tied to business process. At ZDnet I comment on the enterprise issues that software companies don’t usually discuss. I am part of the editorial team for SAP CSR wiki, am an SAP Mentor and contribute blog posts to the SAP SDN and BPX communities. I was voted a Top Contributor in 2009 on the SAP Community Network. Since 2007 I have been an advisor to ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales) on their community building strategy and am a lead contributor to ICAEW’s IT Counts technology community. During 2008, I led the marketing and promotional efforts of the ESME team – a microblogging for enterprise project presented to some 12,000 IT practitioners in Las Vegas, Berlin and Bangalore – which is now part of the Apache Foundation Incubator Group. I assist individuals in positioning these types of service within an enterprise business process context. In 2006 I was named as researcher in The Power to Predict, a book about business optimisation in the 21st century. The book was authored by Vivek Ranadive, CEO of TIBCO. I have a long history of working with TIBCO and it was an honor to be part of that team. I hold no shareholdings in any of the companies that I discuss, neither do I hold any postions of management. I do however provide occasional consulting services to some of the companies. I’m a walking, talking example of a remote worker living in (not on) the Internet, working occasional crazy hours, having a wonderful time and occasionally being paid for having fun. My degree is in psychology and sociology, having achieved a first awarded by Leeds University. I also studied philosophy as a minor subject and still believe in the Scientific Method, Popper, and Kuhn. I believe the degree taught me how to clearly organise thoughts, write to word length, conduct thorough, yet balanced analysis and appreciate there are many shades of grey in any discussion. I still need to make greater use of ’spellcheck’ though I’m a lot better since I invested in a new pair of corrective spectacles. :) I can be contacted at: email: dahowlett [AT]gmail[dot]com blog: http://www.accmanpro.com
20th Jul 2012
This is not new
I saw this problem back in oooh....1994-5 with earlier iterations. It's a bug methinks.
5th Aug 2011
Good to see...
@tom - good to see you doing the one thing that has been missing from this thread and which leaves some of us wondering if Sift understands customer relationships in the media mediated (sic) world.
If there is anything to learn, I'd suggest it is this community has a lot of super smart folk who know a lot about stuff that matters. As is well known in this type of media - there are always going to be people who know more than you. The trick is harnessing that. You've seen what's been offered freely, how much more could you have achieved if you'd engaged with *those* people?
I wish you luck in your continuing endeavours with Drupal 7. Not my tech platform of choice, but a great science project nonetheless.
4th Aug 2011
@Becky - by any standards this must have been a substantial project so yes, there are going to be issues and yes, when you've been heads down in it for any period, criticism is tough to take. You have my sympathy on those points.
But folk here who work on large projects know they create special challenges that have to be addressed and that includes all the snippy stuff that ADD affected people today assume is taken for granted.
I must say I find some of the answers a little worrying because most of the problems I was seeing (as compared to feature gripes) are what I term 'basic.' Some of them still are in that category.
To say there is no like for like comparison is naive. Do you think for one minute that anyone would give Facebook any less of a hard time if it pushed an upgrade that had so many issues?
Finally, as I look down the list of those who have commented it's obvious to me these are people who are passionate about AW - for good or bad. Experience teaches me that these are the people who are most valuable and important in any community. When they speak, we have to listen or risk their wrath. Worst of all...they might simply walk away.
4th Aug 2011
@Becky - you say:
As to David's comments about getting ‘shot by a customer’, what we have to remember here is that while you are our 'customers' you do not pay for a product, if you were paying us for this then of course we would expect that you would be annoyed by bugs. As is it, we consulted members far in advance of any changes, worked closely with the test user group as much as we could, but any 'go live' always comes with risks. Every member is using a different browser, has different operating systems, and indeed individual preferences on their workstations, it is impossible to replicate all of these user experiences, so we did the best we could do in the circumstances. By and large members have been exceptionally helpful in reporting bugs so we can get them fixed.
This response doesn't make logical sense. Applying your thinking suggests that non payers can just lump it? That won't win many friends.
Members are paying by providing Sift with attention - that's as much a currency as any other. Sift in return monetizes OUR data in the traditional sense. It's a trade like any other.
On testing...well - I am in sympathy with David on this one. As the main site was being populated I saw a clutch of problems straightaway. Surely that should have been sandboxed and then a redirect applied once the big issues had settled down?
Not sure if this has been noted but the secondary nav with the snazzy icons that sometimes appears (apparently randomly) only has links to .../register.
29th Jun 2011
Much of the IRS literature is available online - Google will find it and there is a W-8BEN available for download. The form is self evident and only requires you identify the right boxes to tick and are relying on DTT with US.
The reason most don't ask for it is because they don't know or don't have enough need for compliance. I suspect the company that does need it has a SarBox compliance process in place. Those same companies usually also want customer agreements etc especially if it refers to contracts for some sort of service rather than goods.
The easiest way to get this done is to have the form pre-completed (but not signed) and available online, then use a service like Echo Sign for you to sign and certify sending to suppliers which they should in turn sign and acknowledge. That way you have a demonstration that you have done your bit which also 'certifies' them from an IRS perspective. Done this way, everyone is 'clean.'
Your client should also make sure that either the US company returns witholding tax (that should be possible but unlikely they'll conform to such a request as it may already be part of a US return) or provides a certificate of deduction which you have to use as part of the tax comp and not as part of the pre-tax accounting.
29th Jun 2011
Easy to solve
Use W-8BEN, keep a master copy. Job done.
5th May 2011
I might have guessed
And just as I return to the keyboard, I discover that LastPass (recommended in my last comment) 'might' have been hacked. There's not a lot of clarity but I've taken the precautions recommended and all seems well.
There's a lot of tech guff behind this which is actually worth reading if for no other reason than to improve your knowledge on this topic. In my case I wanted to establish whether the cluster my 'stuff' is on was likely affected. The fact I didn't receive an email would suggest 'no' but even so, I have changed my Master Password and the passwords I have stored for critical services such as email, PayPal and the like.
As a 'best practice' it is always worth changing passwords periodically anyway.
5th May 2011
Media people love the idea of 'we have X-millions subscribers/readers because advertisers know the response rates from advertising anywhere are so low that you really need many millions of hits to register a worthwhile response number, let alone rate.
If you take the view that 'we're all media now' then you'd think that playing the numbers game becomes important. If you're using Facebook to appeal to their 500 mill registered users the answer is probably a qualified yes. If you're a local firm then what you're really trying to do is capture the mindshare of those in and around your locality. So...if you're based in a small town of say 50K people of which say 15K are self employed and are getting 150 clicks per week then your imputed hit rate is 52% of that population in the year (assuming all visitors are unique - which is almost never the case.) That falls or rises depending upon the population you're trying to reach. But even that is misleading because how often do businesses switch accountants? If you estimate it is once every 7 years then how would you factor that into the equation?.
Then there are the referrals that come via the web. If Google Search is positioning you well in relation to others (i.e. in the top 4-5 search term results) for the search term 'accountants, Smallville' you can safely say that your website is likely getting its fair share of localised traffic which in turn gives you some idea about how you stand in relation to the competition which you should also be checking out to see how they differentiate.
Google placement is often under-rated and misunderstood. Much of your position 'value' depends on freshness of content because that is part of what powers Google Search'as algorithm.
And it's not just about visits but what they do on your site that matters. If you can understand what they're viewing then you can tailor content to suit. Check out Sitemeter to get a feel for that along with Google Analytics.
But you can always improve on what you do. I am a huge fan of using websites as communications vehicles i.e. media but I don't want the place cluttered with adverts so I look for content, content, content for my target media consumer - because that's what people who visit AccMan are really after. Closing in on 6 years and AccMan is showing compound annual growth of around 25-30% year over year. On a really, really good day, more than 2.5K people will tip up. But I know that since I am trying to reach some 2 million accountants, that is pretty small potatoes. I can always do more. And so can you.
Bonus points - check out this on email response rates - a different marketing angle but one worth thinking about.
4th May 2011
You've been hacked
'fraid to say it but someone has opened an email which sent a bot to your email system and hacked the contact list. It's not uncommon so don't feel bad about it. Here's what you HAVE to do:
1. Change your email password. Make it something hard to hack such as: Flt54M!0£d.
2. Do NOT use that password anywhere else.
3. Contact all your contacts to let them know what has happened. Be careful in your choice of email title as that could be regarded as spam. Something like: 'Unexpected problem' should be fine but any reference to 'hack' or 'spam' or '[***]' will likely end up in theior spam filter. Like it or not, that email must contain an apology but do not grovel These things do happen, even to the best of us.
4. Check your spam filter settings to ensure easy capture of crud.
5. Check with colleagues and as a precautionary measure, ensure that all colleagues also change passwords. They could be infected as well and especially if you run from a central contacts list.
6. Be vigilant using email. Scammers and list lifters are getting very clever these days. If you see something that even sniffs vaguely unusual then send it to trash. If it turns out to be important, the person sending it will get back to you.
As an alternative, I would suggest using a service like Yammer and/or Skype for as many 'conversations' as possible, ensuring that you archive often. If you chose to use this style of service then you get the benefit of socially enabled tools that so far have not proven to be of interest to the many scam artists out there.
Since hard to remember passwords can be a pain, set up a LastPass account and vault all passwords there, ensring that at least three trusted partners/staff know the master vault password in case of loss or other accident.
That should keep you safe.
30th Sep 2010
No simple answer except...
...the clear answer is to go to another service. Shoveling CD's around the country is hardly a good idea these days. Another case for considering SaaS?