From the January 2013 Issue.
Taking the time to sit down and speak with today’s technology leaders is always a great learning experience for me. I enjoy hearing about career paths, backgrounds, obstacles, and ultimately, the vision. Jon Baron, managing director of the Professional Segment for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters, is one of those thought leaders in the tax and accounting profession that has a great story, complete with a grand vision.
I was able to secure some one-on-one time with Jon during the 2012 Thomson Reuters SYNERGY Users’ Conference in early November. Based on our conversation, I was reminded of Jon’s visionary status and was impressed with how he has led Thomson Reuters consistently forward in the area of technology innovation. I began the conversation by asking Jon for a quick run down of his professional background. And here it is…
Jon started his career in the accounting niche after graduating from Siena College in Albany, New York. Shortly after graduating, he joined a major tax and accounting software vendor, starting in service bureau tax processing operations, and then to outside sales for brief period. With a knack for tax, Jon was soon heading up tax 1040 development, and eventually he took over development of the vendor’s entire tax compliance product line and was a member of the business development acquisition team. In addition, Jon also ran the training organization and headed up western regional support.
Despite Jon’s expansive experience across multiple departments and functions, he maintained an eye on tax. In the early 1990’s, he saw the writing on the wall—understanding that outsourced service bureau tax was on its way out. So when the opportunity to join a fast moving, forward-thinking organization opened up, he jumped on board. That organization was of course Thomson Reuters (branded Creative Solutions at the time). His vision at that time was to develop a powerful new tax product for the profession.
Jon saw that microcomputers were the future, so he focused on building a tax product that would support firms in processing tax returns in house with speed and accuracy. By the end of 1995, Jon was running the entire development group Thomson Reuters’ Creative Solutions business unit. . In 1996, under Jon’s development leadership, Creative Solutions released their tax product to run in Windows. Then in 1997, Creative Solutions became part of Thomson Reuters and shortly after, Jon was named president and CEO of the business.
Fast forward to today, and Jon is still at the helm. With over 30 years of experience in the profession, Jon truly embodies technology and innovation leadership. My goal in speaking with Jon was to understand how his grander vision paved his professional path and how it has changed the profession.
Darren Root: Jon, you are obviously a visionary and have proved to be a force in how technology has evolved in the accounting profession. Can you explain to me when your vision became clear?
Jon Baron: In the late 1990’s, I began to see the true power of the web and started to focus on how firms could harness being online to better serve clients. What I envisioned were private client portals. To achieve that end, I also saw a need for an advanced document management system to help firms achieve paperless workflow and deliver documents to their clients over the web. An easy to use web site building tool and hosting solution was also needed to provide a vehicle for clients to access their information quickly and engage the accounting firm online.
Darren: Thomson Reuters has always been focused on the accounting firm market. What’s the rationale behind this strategy?
Jon: We’ve always been in the business of serving accounting firms. Our goal is to help practitioners be the best they can be in the eyes of their clients and prospects. If we help firms accomplish this, we’ve done our job.
Darren: Where do you see mobile as it affects accounting firms and the transition forward?