As you know if you have read this column for any of its 20 years, I am not an accountant. I am a writer, which was enough to get me through the core accounting courses for my MBA. And I am a geek, which enabled me to ride the wave of technology in the eighties and after into the accounting industry.
I say that so that you know I have the utmost respect for the role of technology consulting in many accounting firms. We were the ones who brought computers into the enterprise, and into small businesses. We set them up, configured the hardware and software, analyzed the best solutions, and ultimately brought accountants to the Cloud. And so that you will know that I am serious when I wonder if it is time for the industry to give up technology consulting as a service.
This is hardly news to many firms, which long since gave up computer and technology consulting in favor of ERP, or CRM, or even payroll services.
Most accounting software has long since moved to the Cloud, giving up the every-other-year upgrade cycle and the quarterly updates that used to be the mainstay of the industry.
As for computers themselves, we really don’t troubleshoot them anymore. If the Geek Squad can’t get to them within 24 hours, we just replace the computer and initialize its hard drive from a virtual server in the Cloud.
So the question remains. Is it time to dump tech consulting? No, it is not. But it is time to change how we manage that area of the practice.
Hardware is still at the core of what accountants do each day, even if that hardware leans more toward tablets and touchscreens than PCs and printers. Software is still the heart of the industry, even if it is not installed locally and we have to (joyously) give up archiving old copies of tax software.
The old days of technology consulting have gone the way of the green eyeshade and the abacus, and the technology practices of accounting firms need to scramble to keep pace. After all, had accounting technology departments done their jobs, our clients would have been securely in the Cloud years before it became popular with Amazon customers.
The technology practices of the major accounting firms need to change. They need to pick up the mantle of beta testers for their clients. They need to push the bleeding edge of technology, and help their clients – especially those too small to have their own IT departments – extract greater productivity from technology.
For the past few years, we have let our clients lead us in new technologies, and that has to change. They look to us as trusted partners, and keepers of knowledge. We need to rise to that challenge, and become better at what we do in technology.
And not coincidentally, this magazine is a place to start. It is one of the few with blogs dedicated to technology news. It is the magazine that has led the renaissance of Macintosh products within accounting. It is the place to find the best information about Microsoft products, from SharePoint and Windows to Office and Communications Server.
We are not alone. AICPA maintains a robust technology section. Other magazine devote time and effort to technology subjects, from annual reviews of software to the mechanics of document management. And throughout the industry, integration and customization specialists are tailoring accounting solutions to the specific needs of clients.
No, it is not time to ditch technology consulting. But it is time to evolve that practice to the needs of clients in the 21st Century.
A compendium of ideas, products, rants and raves from the viewpoint of the author. You can share your ideas by sending them to Dave.McClure@CPAPracticeAdvisor.com.
Website of the Month:
Windows 8 Preview (windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/release-preview).
The Windows 8 Preview is out, ramping up for release of the new operating system in November. I don’t know of anyone who has a spare computer sitting around to run this on, and no one in their right mind would put a preview version on a machine used for work. But the site itself is worth viewing, if just for the learning experience.