(From the December 2011 Issue)
Yup, it’s “predictions” time again so join us as we dust off the crystal ball and share our vision of 2012, as well as how we fared on last year’s guesses. 2011 is pretty well in the history books, and year-end indications point to firms beginning to actively spend on their IT again. We see this mostly in response to firms needing to replace equipment that has been pushed well beyond recommended limits, but this can be seen in a positive light as it allows firms to step back and evaluate their overall situation and make quantum leaps to transition to the leading but “stable edge” technologies that have been shown to improve firm productivity. With that in mind, we begin with the results from last year, followed by our predictions for 2011.
Prediction 1 — Secure Data Transfer (WIN): For 2011, we expect a significant increase in the number of firms using portals and third-party email for secure data transfer of tax returns, financial statements, and even organizers for early adopters. This was an easy WIN as the Association for Accounting Administration’s (AAA) Paperless Benchmark Survey pointed to 73% of firms having a portal or FTP site and many more also having encrypted email solutions.
Prediction 2 — 64-Bit Windows 7 Standard (WIN): The majority of tax workstations purchased by firms in 2011 will be Windows 7 64-bit with at least 6GB of RAM to take advantage of the multiple monitor environment, since we have heard from four of the major accounting application vendors that virtually all of their applications work in this environment. While the purchasing did not begin until late in the year, the majority of our clients’ inventories pointed to buying new workstations with Windows 7 640bit with 8GB of RAM as the standard.
Prediction 3 — iPads are Cool Enough (WIN): This year we expect to see firms buy iPads for owners when they are traveling because they are “really cool” and, honestly, those users don’t really do much work beyond email when they are on the road! Another easy win as all the other tablets struggle, especially since the iPad2 came out.
Prediction 4 — Standalone SaaS Thrives (DRAW): Standalone cloud applications like data backup, disaster recovery and even hosted email (Exchange) will thrive in firms in 2011, giving cloud computing credibility and setting the groundwork for future adoption. Almost half the firms in the AAA Paperless survey were using web-based backup this year, but the adoption of outsourced email has been slow, so we take the DRAW as “thrive” would be an overstatement.
Prediction 5 — Digital Delivery Finally Outpaces Manual Delivery (LOSE): Firms will finally get it that it is easier to send a document electronically once they get over the security concerns and experience the cost/efficiency gains of digital delivery, so we believe there will be more electronic delivery than snail mail in 2011. While our more advanced firms were delivering the majority of their client work electronically, the smaller, more conservative tax firms were still mailing out the majority of their returns, so those sheer numbers makes this prediction a LOSE.
Prediction 6 — AutoFlow Technology Works in 2011 (WIN): We predict a sketchy start to the busy season for this technology, but enough firms will tout the benefits of the automatic insertion of scanned and verified data that firms will transition to it over the summer extension season, and everyone will be front end scanning. Easy WIN as AutoFlow products working with all the major vendors and third parties like Copanion have been successful this year.