Unless you know me personally, you wouldn’t know that I’ve spent my entire professional career involved in creating accounting software for computer systems. In some cases, I have written the software; in some cases I have designed the software. And in many other cases, I have advised developers on strategies. I have taught CPE and reviewed accounting software for over 30 years. There has definitely been progress to the good over the last 20 to 30 years. The changes in the last decade have been both subtle and phenomenal. If you have not considered the accounting software you are using in your firm or what you’ve been recommending for your clients in the last few years, you may be making a strategic error. I can’t teach you everything in one short article, but here are some notable trends.
- Software as a Service, SaaS, is coming of age. Running accounting software (and many other applications) through a web browser is working quite well. For example, Intacct, SAP Business ByDesign, AccountantsWorld Power Practice and Accounting Relief, XCM, Thomson Reuters GoFileRoom and GoSystem RS Tax, Avalara AvaTax, Sage Billing Boss, FreshBooks, and QuickBooks Online are all examples of SaaS accounting products with growing acceptance.
- Connected Services from accounting software is solving many problems. More than one major publisher is enabling their software by leveraging Internet technologies. Offerings like Sage Payment Solutions enable most of the Sage accounting software product line to process checks, credit cards and handle ACH entries while maintaining PCI compliance. Sage has multiple web-enabled and connected services offerings, such as Sage Fundraising Online, which inexpensively creates fundraising websites for your not-for-profit clients. Likewise, Intuit has been on a connected services strategy for several years. Many point solutions are being integrated as computers talk to other computers to solve specific business problems.
- Accountant Networks & Community programs are improving and trying to help you. Sage, Intuit, SAP, SmartVault and Bill.com all have accountant programs that can help you provide better client service, enable new client offerings, and save your firm money by providing software at reduced cost or no cost — software you would normally have to buy anyway. Don’t miss the opportunity to help your clients and your firm, and don’t believe me … check these programs out for yourself (see page XX in this issue for additional information on Accountant Network & Community programs).
- Client Write-Up products are back with a vengeance. Many businesses took their accounting in house with QuickBooks, Peachtree, Thomson Reuters CBS and AccountantsWorld Accounting Relief. However, for various reasons, many organizations are pushing accounting services back to tax and accounting firms and, as a result, bookkeeping is back in vogue and can provide very profitable, recurring revenue streams. Specific write-up products from Thomson, Intuit and CCH enable firms to make greater profits and deepen client relationships while saving clients money. You’d be surprised at the number of firms that have entered the payroll business again using today’s software to create a reliable, recurring revenue stream. (See page XX of this issue for a review on several client write-up products.)
- Not-for-Profit Accounting products are making significant moves. About 5 percent of all businesses in the U.S. market are NFP operations, and leaders like Sage, Blackbaud, CYMA, Intuit, Serenic, Open Systems TRAVERSE, and AccuFund have made important improvements in their software. Fund raising and grant management features have improved in the product lines, too. Sage MIP has introduced very affordable entry-level software that scales up larger than with prior versions. This Sage division is proactively asking for design suggestions from customers and non-customers alike to build better products in all of their existing categories. (See page XX of this issue for a review of several not-for-profit accounting products.)