Jon: We began to see a new technical cycle – the mobile web - emerge starting in late 2005, and accelerating in 2006. My feeling was that the new cycle was going to have an impact on literally everything – including how accounting firms operate - and that the cycle was going to take hold very rapidly. We began to envision mobile products in 2006, and actual development in 2007. Mobile allows firms to collaborate much more effectively and efficiently with staff, colleagues and most importantly, clients. It’s all about getting information in real time…instantaneously. With mobile apps, practitioners can serve their clients 24/7 from anywhere and from any device. There are no more tethers. This is the way society communicates today. We need to make sure firms have that same ability.
Darren: You released NetClient CS Mobile at your annual SYNERGY Users’ Conference. Tell me more about this new product.
Jon: NetClient CS mobile is an extension of NetClient CS portals. It offers accounting firm clients on-the-go access to services and content from the firm. What’s more, we have enabled firm branding in the app so that the client experiences the firm’s name and logo while using the app. NetClient CS Mobile offers clients access to tax returns, financial statements, and other documents, as well as online accounting and payroll services, payroll data, and more. NetClient CS Mobile makes it easier for firms to connect with their clients and do business anytime, anywhere. Helping firms offer a rich client experience every time is a core goal for Thomson Reuters.
Darren: Often times practitioners are slow to move their firms forward. Where do you see Thomson Reuters’ role in helping firms adopt change and move forward?
Jon: We are always looking downstream to determine what is coming and what firms will need to succeed moving forward. We view our role as a partner to our customers, helping lead them in the direction the marketplace moving. It’s tough to maintain a balance between leading firms into the future while also helping them where they are currently, but we are dedicated to doing just that.
Darren: Many of the products you are building seem to be collaborative in nature. Can you tell me what your thoughts are here?
Jon: I can’t think of a product we are building that doesn’t have client/firm collaboration at its core and mobile technology at the forefront. Take for example our Accounting CS offering. Our objective is to support a single database to support client/firm collaboration. In reference to building products for accounting firms, we also want to design our products so that the accounting firm remains squarely in control of the relationship. This is critical and a main focus.
Darren: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges firms are struggling with in the adoption of new technology.
Jon: Really I see it as inertia and fear of the unknown. They have done things a certain way for so long, and it has worked for them, so many professionals just don’t see a need to change. I see so many mainstream companies that are becoming less relevant today in the marketplace—such as Research in Motion (Blackberry), Kodak or Best Buy. These are businesses that had very strong business models, but failed to adjust quickly enough to market changes primarily driven by technology advances and resultant changing customer needs. The accounting profession is no different. The profession, as a whole, needs to better adapt to change and see change as opportunity. Sometimes I’m asked how I can compare Research in Motion’s battle with Apple, with an accounting firm. My response is that Apple in essence, changed the business model for Smartphones and that Research in Motion failed to respond to the business model change. The web, and now the mobile web, has dramatically changed the business model for accounting firms and they should adjust. We see one of our main roles as helping firms move to the new business model by serving as their technology partner and by offering unique consulting and thought leadership offerings. We work with our clients to help them understand the necessity of change and the goals associated with adopting the right technologies and digital workflow tools to succeed.
Darren: Why do you think so many firms can’t or refuse to change?
Jon: Many firms are so immersed in their day-to-day activity that they are not able to step back and look at their businesses. They are incredibly busy. They are also fearful. Technology does not always come naturally to the profession, and fear of the unknown can stagnate some individuals.