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TECHNOLOGY 2012 PREVIEW

Software Trends for 2012

 

By Jeff Drew
November 16, 2011
Technology Preview 2012

With 2012 just around the corner, the JofA gathered the three technology keynote speakers from the AICPA’s 2011 Practitioners Symposium/TECH+ Conference to talk about tech trends heading into the new year. The nearly 90-minute conversation covered a wide range of technical issues critical to all CPAs.

Participating in the call were:

  • David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, aka Inspector Gadget, a principal with Arxis Technology.
  • Randy Johnston, executive vice president of both Network Management Group Inc. and K2 Enterprises.
  • Rick Richardson, CPA/CITP, founder and CEO of Richardson Media & Technologies.


Moderating the call were:

  • J. Carlton Collins, technology and accounting systems consultant and author of the JofA’s monthly Technology Q&A column.
  • Jeff Drew, senior editor covering technology for the JofA.


The JofA is presenting the online version of the conversation in 10 installments released over a nearly two-month span. Each part focuses on one major topic and features audio clips from the conversation. Part seven explores how the cloud is influencing software development and why apps are where it’s at in the market.

The complete schedule is available at the bottom of this article and at journalofaccountancy.com/tech.


Audio

Audio: Click here to listen as Dave Cieslak and Rick Richardson discuss software trends for 2012.

Drew: Let’s talk about some of the key software opportunities going into 2012. What is available or coming out that the CPA must have or that might be overlooked or underutilized? Dave, do you want to start on this one?

David Cieslak

Cieslak: Sure, I’m happy to. I think as we’ve kind of been talking around the topic here throughout our conversation now, the cloud is probably going to heavily influence any of the new software offerings across the board from all the different vendors, and I think we’re going to find some new vendors popping up on the scene with some innovative new stuff, and quite honestly, some of the more longstanding vendors, if they’re not going to be coming out with cloud-based offerings, may very well find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. So I think clearly just as a—in terms of the cloud as kind of a significant influence or significant factor, clearly, that’s going to come into play.

I think we’re still looking for that anywhere, anytime access to data and applications. But I think what we’re going to see, too, is that—Randy mentioned earlier private cloud and kind of a combination of some of our kind of longstanding legacy products will kind of host some of that stuff up and make it available via the Web to our users, and at the same time kind of start to work in true SaaS-based products into the mix as they become available.

I think in the near term we’re going to see again just a real mixture, a real kind of hybrid model, as Randy suggested. And whether you call that best of breed—in other words, “I like this program for CRM, this one for tax, this one for write-up, this one for research,” I think that’s—we’ll clearly see that in the near term. But I think in the long term I think we’ll see more and more of the vendors looking to kind of pull that into their suite of products and looking for the synergy that results when you’ve got more and more of that all kind of happening around a single vendor that’s really kind of controlling the presentation and the integration and the interface of the data and those programs.

The other thing I think we’re going to see, and this will continue to push our imagination and the envelope here … at least for the near term, are the apps for some of these portable devices. So you think about the app stores that have popped up around all the different tablet devices. Literally most of these applications, most of, many of these vendors didn’t exist two years ago, and today they’re moving thousands, if not tens of thousands, of copies of a neat application that they’ve written. And as we see more and more of that that’s being targeted or developed specifically for the financial community, that will continue to help us move on down this road together.

Drew: Thanks, David. Rick, do you have anything to add on this?

Rick Richardson

Richardson: Well, I’d add a couple of things. I guess I really like what you said about the cloud, David. I think you’re right as rain on that one. The one thing that I think a lot of CPAs don’t think about as much is workflow itself and this tailoring of the workflow to the practice or to a certain CPA practice model. We’re going to see more and more software offerings targeting that specifically. Some have done it in a more traditional way and migrated it to the cloud, in the case of things like Thomson Reuters or CCH, and other companies, like this new Xero, (offer) incredible opportunities to be able to be able to take what we do and get it digitized into a format that provides for easy access anywhere and far more control and basic quality on the data we’re working with.

Having said that, I’m going to end mine with the same thing David said. I think the apps are where things are today. One of my absolute all-time favorite apps is an app called Siri, S-I-R-I, which was originally developed out of a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) government research project as an intelligent assistant. [Apple bought Siri in April 2010 and incorporated the technology into the iPhone 4S, released in October.] And while it tends to be used for things like finding the best restaurant close by or ordering a cab in New York or things like that, I don’t think it’s going to be too long before we start seeing companies targeting a system-type product that can, in fact, provide us with other types of things that we never thought we’d be able to have at our fingertips, that are professionally based. And the ability to have kind of that info guru at your shoulder kind of a thing would be kind of exciting, and I’m hoping we might see some of that in the next year or two.

AudioAudio: Click here to listen as Randy Johnston discusses the trend of accounting and business software moving to the cloud.

Randy Johnston

Johnston: So thin may be in as computers, but apps are where it’s at. And so I believe that a lot of the apps that we’re seeing on our tablets and our mobile phones are a pretty good example of that. Let’s pick on three or four or five different software products.

Now Concur (Breeze) expense reporting might be a good example of this—(a) cloud-based mobilized app that runs on an iPad and an Android system and an iPhone and so forth. I think that we’ve got products like Rick cited. The Xero accounting product might be a good one. I think we’ve got to worry a little bit or think a little bit here for the coming year about the traditional Windows operating system likely to arise in the new Windows 8, or maybe it’ll be called Windows 365 to go with the now-released Office 365. And as I look at how Office 365 extends the way we use Microsoft Office, or in some cases replaces the way we use Office, that’s a pretty interesting one.

And as Rick alluded to a little bit earlier, but this is a slightly different topic, with Google Connect, where you can automatically synchronize Microsoft Office (files) back and forth into the cloud (similarly to the way you can with) the collaborative Google Docs. …. As we look at the different solutions that are coming down the board, there’s a number of software products that could help our practices.

Likewise, as Rick cited with workflow, there are not only the traditional ones, but there’s the SaaS [software as a service] ones, like XCM. There (are) the new ones that are evolving, like Workstream, and there are also other products that will be specifically written for certain functions inside the business or the practice, and you need to continue to watch for those as well.

So I think one maybe closing software thought is that simple products, like a Netfira, which automatically does supply chain (management) all the way from QuickBooks or Peachtree all the way up to SAP, could be interesting, because the model is monetized on a very simple basis when an actual transaction occurs, but it gives us exposure to real-time inventory all the way up and down our supply chain. And we’ve not had some of these things before, and our rule of thumb is, when the economy is bad, that’s when development occurs; and you’ll see a lot of new innovations, not only from the big players, but from new small startups. So I think we’ve got to keep our eyes wide open in the coming year for new software opportunities


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