What did we do before technology and the Internet? Does anyone reading this article remember that far back — way back to the late ’80s — when we interfaced with our professional peers in person, and received assistance to accounting questions and research solely by phone?
The Baby Boomers might show their age when they talk about “help desks,” and although these still exist with every software provider, online accounting communities have made the dial-in version virtually extinct to some extent.
Accountants cannot deny the immediate benefits associated with online accounting communities, and no matter what format the online exchange might resemble, the convenience of interacting with peers and getting questions answered by experts in almost real time is just too tempting to resist.
If you were to analyze the “why” behind accounting communities, from a vendor perspective, they exist to provide users and visitors an additional experience that extends the brand. In fact, many providers now offer sites that go beyond simple bulletin board user forums to present news, opinion and interactive features.
Here’s a summary of some of the more popular accounting communities, divided by “open” versus “restricted” categories. Open communities invite anyone in, while restricted sites allow only users to visit. This is by no means a complete list so if readers have any communities to add to this list, please send an e-mail to my attention at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll post your comments on our CPATechViews.com blog.
Open Community Forums
ARNE — Thomson Reuters (cs.thomsonreuters.com/community)
Redeveloped in June 2009, the ARNE (Accountant’s Resource Network) community is a full-featured, robust site for accounting professionals who use the Thomson Reuters CS Suite of accounting and practice management software. However, the site is not restricted solely to software users. In addition to online forums, blogs and discussion tools, Thomson Reuters’ Solutions magazine emanates from this site. While Solutions includes features (such as a recent one on Jody Padar, one of The CPA Technology Advisor’s 40 Under 40 honorees for 2010), product promotions and other company news is repurposed on ARNE to serve as an information resource to users.
Thomson Reuters had this to say about ARNE: “We’re pleased to report that the new ARNE is a hit; over the past year we’ve seen a substantial increase in new users joining the ranks of the forum. Groups have formed quickly, allowing like-minded users to have discussions based on shared interests, and the marketing Mondays blog, which offers users access to a wealth of marketing tips and advice, is another popular feature.”
AccountantsWorld includes news, in-depth articles, research, tools and several other resources, all geared to the accounting profession rather than just users of AW’s products and services. There are also 12 discussion forums presented by category. Traditional areas include Tax and Accounting, as well as niche topics, such as Profit From the Internet, Fixed Assets, Security and even Canadian Taxation. A daily news bulletin helps drive traffic to the site.
CCH Community — CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business (community.cchgroup.com)
The CCH Community launched just about a year ago in October 2009 and is comprised of a discussion forum on technical issues such as tax, accounting and audit. The most prominent postings (as of this writing) are updates called “Tax Chat From the Hill,” in which professionals discuss the latest news in tax legislation from Washington, D.C. Also featured are other discussions, including one on healthcare reform.
Intuit Community & Intuit ProLine Blog — Intuit (community.intuit.com)