Skip to main content


The Accounting Technology Lab Podcast – Review of Digilence Cloud – May 2024

Hosts Randy Johnston and Brian Tankersley, CPA, look at the Digilence Experience Cloud, a cloud-based digital intelligence solution for accounting firms.

Hosts Randy Johnston and Brian Tankersley, CPA, look at the Digilence Experience Cloud, a cloud-based digital intelligence solution for accounting firms. The Digilence Cloud accelerates the digitization of inefficient, repetitive processes across audit, tax, client accounting, and other back-office functions.

Use the video player below to watch, or the podcast player below to listen to the podcast.

Or use the below podcast player to listen:

Transcript (Note: There may be typos due to automated transcription errors.)

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  00:00

Welcome to the accounting Technology Lab sponsored by CPA practice advisor, with your hosts, Randy Johnston, and Brian Tankersley.

Randy Johnston  00:10

Hey, welcome to the accounting Technology Lab. I’m your host, Randy Johnson with co host, Brian Tankersley. Now today we’d like to talk about a platform called the digital experience cloud. Now, Digilent has been evolving over quite a few years, we’ve been following them as they’ve been doing their build out. And it is basically a subscription based AI platform to try to modernize and integrate, automate and transform accounting firms. Now, the digital its cloud has evolved into a single platform trying to power our firms. And the business’s goal is to try to get everybody to think digital first. That’s pretty good. So the way digital, the digital X cloud is powering the digital firm, is by doing this integration, automation and transformation. Now, Brian, that’s a little tough to kind of wrap your head around. But to me, there’s only been a few products that have tried to integrate the experience, because, you know, setting this up a little bit further for your comments. Traditionally, firms have bought one suite from Wolters Kluwer are from Thomson Reuters, and then tried to integrate a few other things. But sometimes this integrating other things didn’t go. And we’ve watched it in our accounting firm operations Technology Survey, where firms converted from single sweet to try and to buy a lot more best breeds. And then you had to try to glue all this stuff together. And

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  01:55

then they really forgot how difficult it was, when we had products that weren’t integrated. You know, it’s, it’s the old saying of the grass is greener over the septic tank with with apologies to the late Bert later my Bombeck Yeah,

Randy Johnston  02:09

understood. So could you try to give a little bit of a vision on what it means to integrate and automate and transform, because I do like digital ances words in that area. And I think they’ve got it right. And it’ll be an interesting thing to see if the market can understand what they’re doing.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  02:29

I mean, what they’re really trying to do here is to do the integration that had to be done by hand in SAP and Oracle Financials and all the other platforms that are used by big companies. And so what they’re doing here is they’re effectively setting it up where it doesn’t matter which application which specific application it goes into, the data just goes in the process happens, okay, so it’s really, really trying to build some business logic into here. And in some cases, we have API’s, where we can have programmed connections. In other places, we have to use robotic process automation to, to get things going. But what we’re doing here is we’re really really moving the documents and moving the moving the work in a fashion which is more consistent with, with the way business is getting done in you know mult in the billion dollar plus organizations, you know, that you were the end, this may be a surprise to some of you that this level of integration, everything’s been happening like this, and those in those organizations for 20 plus years if you don’t work with them, but this kind of stuff, again, is creeping its way all the way down into startups. And so when we’re when we’re thinking about these things, you know, having the ability to scale and having the ability to, to handle things on a more systematic basis using processes as opposed to having to go in and having to go in and do things a different way is, is really a a significant benefit

Randy Johnston  04:04

here. Yeah. So just to clarify maybe a couple of things that you said API’s application program interfaces. It turns out, many of the products in the profession do not have the standard published way of interfacing only a few do. Now, I was fortunate just a week before we recorded this session, I spoke with a long term friend of Brian and mine about go file room. And his effort and go file room has been to create a lot of API’s in the platform. And it was very fascinating to listen to that. But if you look at the major products from Wolters Kluwer ers and Thomson Reuters and Iris and hg capital’s case where and so forth. There’s just not that many API’s that have been out there. So large firms have taken a strategy of any new platform that they buy. They want it to be able to do single sign on and have API’s available, and that it is SOC certified. Those are three real common. If you can’t do those things you can’t play. Well, vigilance took on a pretty big task here of trying to connect everything now, loosely, we’re I know, this is oversimplification. I’ve looked at this as one of the many platforms that can be used to do an all in one portal. And Brian and I, you, I know you and I have been talking about this for at least half a dozen years at this point, trying to get firms onto a single hurdle. But to be able to do that, you have to be able to connect anything to anything. And that’s what digital arts has done in their new platform called symphony, it really is a way to connect these various items together.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  05:57

Yeah, and, and again, there’s services out there like zap EA, and cloud work and power automate and others out there. This is really though, you know, those services do a lot of things with a lot of the horizontal applications and even vertical industry applications. But very few of those do anything with the solution from Wolters Kluwer and Iris and Thomson Reuters and Intuit and other folks, other things like that. They really, this really gives you the toolset though to where you don’t have to worry if it has API’s. It’ll integrate with them. If it doesn’t have API’s, they’ll use robotic process automation to work with it as well. And so it really gives you a way of taking these these legacy applications and modernizing them through the use of robotic process automation. And they have the scale, that they can do the RPA programming and set up and everything for multiple folks and amortize the cost over that as opposed to having to go in and you having to go in and do every single thing yourself and learn RPA at the same time. Yeah.

Randy Johnston  07:06

And it turns out the robotic process automation that you’re referring to, that’s where we actually saw Digital’s first showing up because they were automating e filing through an RPA process. And now they’re matured enough that they have the SAS integrations to leverage the API’s where they can. And then they’ve added some workflow automation. And now they’ve extended to more integration and automation. So if you think about a Tax Automation end in which, you know, gathers documents and prepares the documents, reviews delivers and files, they’re doing a pretty good job on most of those steps. Do they have them all at this point? No, but they’re pretty close. And through their new digital ins API, they can actually structured data models to connect to most of the tools that you would refer to in the marketplace. So again, products like viruses practice engine, or cch has access practice management, or, you know, traditional products that we’ve talked about, like share file or share prep, or DocuSign, a generic product, they are trying to interface to all of those different systems. And they’re taking the burden of all of this complexity off your plate, which I think is a pretty good and noble venture. But they put one more thing with it now, that I think is the secret sauce. And that is that they’ve built a Cloud App Suite. And the idea of this cloud app suite suite, is to try to work around the issues with Portal solutions. A lot of the portals that are out there are old and outdated technology. So I’m not out of school on saying this NET Client CS from Thomson Reuters. It’s 25 years old. And it’s it’s built on an old and outdated technology,

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  09:11

and NET Client CS listen to the Foo Fighters when they were a new band. Just think about that.

Randy Johnston  09:18

Yep, that is absolutely the case. And for most of our firms, we have multiple separate systems. So we’re trying to do PBC documentation and document requests and so forth through separate systems. And we’ve talked about what would be competitors in this light than this CEOs of the world or the hub sinks in other sessions. But the problem with most of these other solutions is they’re not integrated or consolidated. And there’s no modern integrated way to get a AI to work. And each platform by the time you pay for it is too costly. We talked to many firms where they buy, you know, two and three and four have products to solve the problem and you buy time you add those all up, it becomes actually quite expensive to do. So there’s just too many systems in most of our firms. And if we can get this whole end in process for tax, and audit, and client accounting services in a single portal platform, that’s something that I know, Brian, you and I have been talking about for the, you know, a fairly good number of years. But the the key learnings here with Digilent, is I think their system is x, absolutely. Working at this point, they’ve got this integrated piece of Symphony with their API is now working. And I think it might give us the chance to leverage their AI systems on internal client data and workflow. So Brian, what do you think about that particular claim?

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  11:02

I think that’s a very interesting thing. Because, you know, again, we’ve had these islands of automation, to quote Geoffrey Moore here for years. And the problem is, there’s not been one app to rule them all. And the nice thing about this is this actually gives you that, and they’re not you know, they’re they’re not vested in you. only using one one particular vendors applications, or whoever’s there, they’re trying to be pretty as we’d refer to it ecumenical or, or, again, and vendor agnostic here, as we’re trying to figure out, you know, what you want to integrate together. So this, I guess, the thing I would say here is this empowers modern workflows and legacy applications. So you can keep the legacy applications to the extent you want to, you know, again, to your point, Randy, doing things like retrieving, retrieving, ie file, acknowledgments out of legacy tools, and then putting that into your systems on an automated basis. You can do things like that with this. And they’re doing that at scale today. And so you don’t have to go in and try to figure out what is RPA? How does it work, and then deal with the refining of the RPA models and setups the way you have to so many times, when you’re when you’re using that for the first time. What’s great about this now is that you can have all this set up, they have a data store, and now you can you can do natural language queries off of off of things through their new symphony platform to see what’s happening across all these things. And, you know, I could honestly see, you know, hooking up a business intelligence system to this and setting yourself up some dashboards that show you okay, what’s, who’s working, who’s not working? What’s blowing up? What’s, what are the fires I need to put out right now that are going on? And it really gives you a way to get better real time information across your stack of applications. Yeah,

Randy Johnston  13:04

no, that’s a very interesting position, Brian, I hadn’t considered help me interpret my dashboard. Tell me who’s working on what. But you know, most of the time when I thought about Digital’s, I’ve thought about them as automating processes. In the end, the robotic process automation probably got me down that path. But this whole idea of eventually being able to automate a tax return, in the end, I can see that starting to happen with some of the AI platforms that are out there. But we still have to get the documents in, we still have to get the review done. And we still gotta get the final work out with the billing.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  13:45

You know, when I was when I was in practice, at a larger firm, we used to have all these partner manager meetings, and it would always gall me to look around the room because I go around and say, Okay, that’s a $400 an hour attendee that’s a $200 $300 hour attendee that’s $150 An hour attendee. And, you know, you’d add it up and you’d be burning 20k In that hour, where you’d have people sitting around that big conference table. What I love about this is this gives you the ability to have, have more real time information, so that you don’t have to spend as much time updating things on stuff because you know, you need to be I need to be there for the stuff where I’m updating my stuff. But I don’t need to be there for the updates on the other departments and the other partners and other things like that in there. And so this lets you make better use of your time by giving you better real time information. So there’s less that has to be discussed that’s blown up in a forum like a very expensive partner manager meeting. Yeah, you

Randy Johnston  14:46

know, and you actually got me also thinking about how many of our workflow systems are very manual, and very outdated technology. And I’m looking for the time that this might even automate our workflows by learning what we’re doing, and make making suggestions on how to optimize the workflows. We know that’s happening in other worlds.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  15:10

Oh, very good. Well, I think it’s I think it’s definitely worth a look for everybody. You know, the nice thing about this is you can you can engage it with your legacy applications today. And then you can turn around and hook them up to your next gen applications as you make those conversions. So a lot of opportunity here,

Randy Johnston  15:29

a lot opportunity. Well, we do appreciate you listening on this accounting Technology Lab on digital assets. We hope we’ll see you again on a future lab. Good day.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  15:41

Thank you for sharing your time with us. We’ll be back next Saturday with a new episode of the technology lab, from CPA practice advisor. Have a great week.

= END =