What's Next?

From the March 2012 Digital Issue.

As I write this column for the March issue, I am returning from a trip to NY where I spent time with accountants, firms, and vendors discussing how to move the accounting profession into the cloud faster. My guess is that as you read this, it is the farthest thing from your mind. You are in the middle of tax season and are probably more concerned about client returns or just getting a day off. But before you know it, May will be here and you’ll have time to start planning what’s next.

The thing that struck me most about this session with 75+ folks was that everyone was passionate that moving to the cloud was paramount and something that was going to happen whether the profession wanted to or not. As I listened to session after session, the big aha occurred when I realized that the transition to the cloud had already happened.

At the core, all the vendors in the session were building on the cloud and when we looked around at the folks that weren’t in the room, we realized that they too were building their new applications for the profession in the cloud. If the technologists have switched development platforms from desktop to the cloud, then it is only a matter of time before customers will have to follow.

I could go into all the reasons why vendors and developers have switched their development platforms over to the cloud, but I am more interested in understanding the resistance to customer adoption. Granted some of the applications are new and less well-known but that hasn’t stopped folks from adopting the likes of Facebook or Zynga. So here is the list of reasons I heard as possible explanations: lack of trust combined with confusion, laziness and not enough time.

Trust: People continue to worry about the security of the data in the cloud. While I can’t speak for all cloud developers, I believe that when the cloud is done right, it is more secure than any alternative. Data is backed up and locked down with passwords and user names that are unique to each user. You cannot say the same for filing cabinets, checkbooks and desktop applications.

Confusion: Often this is voiced as a lack of confidence that the new technology is going to “stick around.” Based on all the developers I know and talk to, it is here to stay until something better comes around in a decade or two. Mostly though, I think the confusion stems from the sheer number of new products on the market. Even for someone in the technology business like me, it is hard to keep track. My advice is to focus on one part of your practice and see how you can adapt that to the cloud. The sooner you understand it, the more likely you are to be successful with it for your entire practice.

Laziness: Let’s face it; we are all lazy. Learning new stuff is hard. But it is not impossible. One of the great things about the cloud is that many of the products leverage the technology to provide better service. Service thru chat, email or phone is common. Best of all the central hosting allows the support organization to be more informed about your issues resulting in quicker and better support.

Time: We never have enough of it and we always think new things take more time. I agree that adapting new technologies takes time but in my experience the initial investment always pay off very quickly. Whether it is a new phone or a new application, I am soon spending significantly less time. Our customers in fact tell us that they spend 50 – 75 percent less time managing their account payables. This statistic is not uncommon among cloud applications. So if you can find the time to make the switch, you’ll soon have more time to grow your business or even be a little lazier.

 

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