Cloud, cloud, cloud. This term seems to be the buzzword of the profession. But what does it mean to be “Your Cloud?” What works for you and your business? I plan to talk about the evolution of cloud and mobile technology, and the strategic benefits cloud methodology can bring to you, your business, and your customers.
While you will see that the theme and special report of this issue is data security and cybersecurity, you should refer to my last column to learn more about security risks and to manage your cybersecurity well. I want to focus on web-based cloud and mobile technologies that can help you build a cloud-first strategy. What am I learning “from the trenches” in my daily work with accounting firms, accounting VARs and software vendors, and how can you benefit from my experience?
What web-based cloud and mobile technologies can you use?
Cloud technology means many different things. Early in the evolution of the cloud, I tended to be more of a tech purist. Centralizing data and running applications in a browser best fit my definition, as I was involved in the design of accounting software tools such as Accounting Power, Acumatica, NetSuite, QuickBooks Online, Sage Intacct, Xero, Zoho, etc. This style of cloud computing has become known as software as a service or SaaS.
However, limitations in internet speed, centralized computing power, and browser functionality made many of these early SaaS products quite clunky. But the elegance of centralized software updates that could happen quickly, leveraging the data to do smarter things, such as classification and coding, and having automatic backup was beneficial. Obviously, this baby was growing into a juvenile and had the promise of being an attractive and helpful adult.
Today, 25 years later, SaaS accounting software is maturing and becoming more and more useful and practical. Is it still perfect? No. But how many people in their twenties are fully mature and capable? Not a lot. Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce with three others, with the mission statement of “The End of Software”, referring to the distribution of software on CD-ROM. Salesforce claims to be the first company to offer SaaS, renting software over the Internet rather than installing programs on machines. SaaS is pure web-based software and should be part of your strategy.
Likewise, mobile technology means many different things. Early in the evolution of mobile, I tended to think more anywhere, anytime, any device (AAA). Whereas I had run remote computing on mainframe computers in the 1970s and remote access over wide area networks (WANs) for banks in the 1980s, this AAA approach became effective when I started using Citrix Multiuser on OS/2 in 1991 before the enterprise move to Windows with my NMGI team.
I wanted to be able to operate a computer or terminal from anywhere. I was less cell phone centric even though I evolved with cell phones starting with a car phone in my trunk in the 1980s and using cell phones to connect to computers as soon as the technology was available . I’ve transitioned to cell phones with the DynaTAC 8000X, Motorola 2900 cell phone, Motorola MicroTAC flip phone, Motorola StarTAC and a parade of other cell phones, giving my K2 Enterprises team something new to discuss every year. at events.
Mobile phones and mobile technology continued to evolve through NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode platform, BlackBerry, Nokia’s Symbian platform and Windows Mobile. Personal digital assistants like the PalmPilot, Apple Newton and others served their purpose until the advent of the smartphone, which combined mobile phone and computing functions into a single unit. A popular smartphone, the iPhone, arrived in 2007. Touchscreens, apps (there’s an app for that), and the evolution of tablets like the iPad, Kindle (now Amazon Fire), Samsung Galaxy and other tablets have allowed these mobile devices to become powerful and handy little computers.
Today, you and your customers expect the convenience of using your smartphone to access all the information you want to find in seconds. Why shouldn’t business be handled in a practical way? Mobile technology is the freedom to run the technology you want securely and conveniently on any device, anywhere, at any time of day, and should be part of your strategy.
What cloud strategies can you use?
The list of cloud technologies enables many cloud strategies. What do you need for your practice, your clients and your life? What is your strategy when positioning your tax, audit, CAS (accounts receivable services), consulting, wealth management, or any variety of vertical niche offerings? Is it cloud first? Is it about relationships? Integrity, independence, customer service, team member experience, profitability and more can feature in your strategic plan. And what are your tactics? Convenience, customer experience, automation, recurring revenue and more can feature in your tactical plan.
While The Technology Lab Podcast can give you a tactical view of product solutions, co-host Brian Tankersley and I have many strategic discussions and thoughtfully advance individual solutions for your technology stack. Have you thought about the future of your practice and what emerging technologies will bring? As mentioned in previous columns, Brian and I are rebuilding our technology stack recommendations across all practice areas.
More on this in the future, as we remain independent recommenders and advisors, mindful of vendor and monetary biases in many stack recommendations. I’m particularly excited about my new designs for business and accounting use of the Metaverse extending Matthew Ball’s thinking to our specialty.
Let’s move on to the top cloud offerings I recommend you consider, choose, and use
- SaaS software when it works for your business and your clients with tools like Accounting Power, AccountingSuite, Acumatica, NetSuite, QuickBooks Online, Sage Intacct, Spire Systems, Xero or Zoho
- Collaborative tools with your customers, with tools like BizEKG from 4ImpactData, e-Courier, Liscio, PATH from Simplex Financials or Suralink
- Accounting automation as much as possible with tools like Dext, Hubdoc or Sage Autoentry
- Productivity Suites with Google Workspace, Microsoft 365 (especially E5 for CPA firms), or Zoho One
- A modern and continuously updated website with a .CPA domain name as well as video and social media feeds
- Easy payment methods with the services of Corpay One, CPACharge or QuickFee
- Subcontract for additional labor with the services of AdvanceTrack, BooXkeeping, TOA Global, Taxfyle or Xpitax
- Hosting or private cloud legacy application deployments such as practice management, tax, audit, TValue, and QuickBooks desktop with vendors such as Ace Cloud Hosting, CETROM, Right Networks, or Network Management Group, Inc.
- Practice tools for your business moving to the cloud with choices such as Avii, Canopy, Clarity Practice Management, Corvee, Doc-It Suite Cloud, DoMore, Karbon, SmartVault, Tallyfor, Thomson Reuters ONVIO, TPS Cloud Axis, Verdocs, weintegrate or Wolters Kluwer CCH Axcess
- Emerging technologies with your customers with choices such as Gilded, Ledgible by Verady, LukkaTax and Vic.AI
So what should I do now?
As you can see, web-based cloud and mobile technology opportunities abound. These tools can give you a competitive edge, especially if you’re a small business. You can use many of the same technologies that your competitors buy and operate. You need to think about your strategy and tactics, choose your tech stack carefully, and where you spend your time. You can take advantage of greater automation, outsourcing, and connecting cloud-based tools.
I have recommended ways to create your own strategic and tactical plans in various previous topics. It’s time to review and update those plans. Your action plan and your day-to-day activities must also evolve or quickly become obsolete. Finally, addressing cloud opportunities is not a project; it is rather a process. If you need ongoing guidance, check out this space.