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Accounting & Finance

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ICAEW event: Cloud is just sizzle?

Last month, on 17 April, I was invited to attend the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)'s annual Cloud accounting event - Winning business in the cloud: reap the benefits of SaaS.  A great title with with the promise of making the case for deploying Cloud. The hashtag for the event was #icaewcloud - it's now at the stage that if your event hasn't got a hashtag, you're missing out in a big way.  Actually this event was generally good, except for one presenter who was well off message, and with whom I have to take issue - more on that later.  First I have to disclose that ICAEW is one of my biggest customers (we provide the technology supporting their on-line community), and that I have a huge amount of time and respect for Richard Anning, the head of the IT Faculty.  He and Paul Booth do a good job putting on events like this one, and fostering IT Counts which is a great resource for peer to peer technology advice in the accounting space.  I should also disclose we resell Twinfield's online accounting - they presented last year and the year before, but not this time.  

Richard did a fine job chairing and ...
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Twinfield show their vision of the future of accounting

Two weeks ago I was part of a modest International stream as part of  Twinfield's very impressive National Accountancy Day in The Netherlands.  They have been running this Annual event for 6 years and it has grown from 30 attendees back in 2005 to 500 last year, and well over 600 attendees this time, along with an exhibition area where around 40 companies showed their Twinfield connected applications and services.  There was a buzz of excitement, and a feelgood vibe you might expect from a Salesforce event, but not necessarily with a collection of mostly accountants as the audience.

The event was significant, both because of the size and the fact that this was the first event following Wolters Kluwer's takeover of Twinfield earlier this year.  It gave me a chance to gauge the progress they've made and  judge how well Twinfield will thrive under their new parent's regime.  The initial indications are very positive.

The International stream was attended by UK customers like Goodman Jones, CWM, and Wingrave Yeats.  Twinfield's Irish partner presented their Ezora reporting system.  P2D explained their document scanning solution that is now live linking purchase invoice scans ...
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Demystifying the Cloud

How do you spread the word about the benefits of Cloud Computing beyond technology enthusiasts, web "savvy" geeks and industry insiders  to the general business woman and man "in the street"?  The likes of Microsoft and Salesforce are certainly trying to do that with some of their advertising campaigns, but I believe they are missing the target by a mile.  A group of us have got together to try and amplify our voices with an initiative called Cloud Advocates.  Let me explain with a bit of an advert, tell you about our first event and our tie up with Freshbusinessthinking.com.

We are at the stage where Cloud Computing,  from web  based applications to on demand infrastructure, is just moving from being the next big trend to a mainstream technology choice.  There are a plethora of events and announcements around the topic, and just to complicate things every technology provider is redefining whatever offering they've got as a Cloud solution.  In the middle of all this noise  we need some clarity on the topic.  That is why Richard Messik and I decided to pool some of our marketing energy and form Cloud Advocates, an association of ...
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Twinfield change partners for a new dance

I was delighted to hear, early yesterday, that cloud accounting software provider Twinfield was acquired by Wolters Kluwer.  I have to disclose that my company, D2C, have been Twinfield's UK partner since 2005 and so we have a vested interest in the success of the platform and some great customers and partnerships that have come as a result of our Twinfield connection.  Over on the Twinfield blog, my good friend and one of the two Twinfield founders, André Kwakernaat, tells some of the back story and explains how proud he is.  Let me give you my take on the acquisition from the perspective of someone  who has been close to the story right from when Andre's idea started at the end of the 90s.  

Andre and the team really have done a superb job building the business since starting on 5 October 2000.  Today the platform supports 80,000 companies, with 40,000 subscribers and used by over 700 accounting practices.  Although the product operates every day in 23 countries, the bulk of the users are in their home market of the Netherlands, which has been both their strength in terms of growth, profitability and stability, but also a potential weakness. ...
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Sage in the Cloud, but is it too little too late?

Last week Sage, the UK's biggest accountancy software supplier, finally released their first real online accounting solution.  It looks like a proper SaaS or Cloud offering, unlike the hosted Online 50 product sold through a few resellers from 6 years ago, or their previous failed attempt of SageLive in 2009.  I would argue that because of Sage's market acceptance, their Cloud offering marks a significant milestone in getting online, Software as a Service solutions accepted by mainstream businesses and practices in the UK.  I think it's great for the local and International competitors and start-ups who have been steadily gaining market share here since 2005 (or earlier), but for Sage themselves is it too little, too late?

The product is called Sage One.  That name gives you an indication of their target market, because they generally name their products for the number of employees in the typical company they support - Sage 50, Sage 200, Sage ERP 1000 and so on.  One is aimed at sole traders and small firms who don't have an in house bookkeeper or accountant.  It comes in three flavours - cashbook, accounts, and an accountants edition to help an ...

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Hello World!

Keeping up a blog is hard.  I've been at it since October 2005, posting regularly up until May last year, but then I went AWOL from Business Two Zero for a while until today.  My 5 year anniversary on the web came and went with a whimper, and I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to get off my arse and blog - that's got to change!  I've kept up tweeting and chipping in to the conversation at various places, but I need to get back to regular posting and making a real  contribution.  In the intervening time there have been plenty of cloud, collaboration and enterprise 2.0 developments, and I've got more involved in the standards topic.  I've also had some new technology to play with…..  I've switched to a BlackBerry Torch - finally we've got a BB with a proper browser.  I've gone Amazon Kindle, and now I can carry round dozens and dozens of books and get more reading done in the gaps and on the road.  At Christmas, my wife enrolled me in the iPad generation... Expect reviews on those 3 things in the next few weeks.  I've got a selection of books to comment on too - from Vinnie Mirchandani's "The New Polymath" to "Graceful" by Seth ...

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Is the Cloud term an asset, or just marketing hype?

A few things came together for me this week around the Cloud term.  I spent time with one of my best customers discussing online accounting, what we should do to improve the product we represent in the UK, and how we should position to beat the incumbent in the small business market, Sage.  But the first thing that Philip Woodgate told us was how useful the Cloud term is for the clients and business people he deals with.  These are business from small, to medium to International where he struggled explaining SaaS 3 or 4 years ago when he started promoting the concept.  He thinks the Cloud term makes it much easier to "get" for the average business.  

The next thing was this post on ReadWriteCloud with Wordpress.com founder Mat Mullenweg suggesting the Cloud is marketing speak.   Mat was explaining how a recent outage in their service occurred.  Alex William's wrote in the article:
"The cloud gets blamed for almost any online outage these days. It used to be that we'd just say the service went down and there was a failure at the host or the data center.   Sure enough, the Wordpress.com outage is not a cloud disaster. Instead, .. ...
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The SaaS applications wiki - open for business

Over on AccountingWEB's forums (you need an AWEB account to log in, but it's free) there have been some heavy exchanges discussing the barriers to adoption of Cloud solutions by accountants in practice in the UK.  I found it interesting, but sadly the dialogue has been too vendor driven, with plenty of verbiage from the opponents of SaaS and the Cloud, along with positive stuff from evangelists like me.  I couldn't resist chipping in to make the business case for SaaS and the cloud, but Gary Turner of Xero thought we weren't being too helpful for the accountant audience because it was all getting too "inside baseball".    That was a new one on me, but the trusty Wikipedia describes the expression as follows:
"The expression "inside baseball" is sometimes used as a metaphor for details or minutia of a subject so detailed that they generally are not well known by outsiders."
Part of the need for going through the arguments (again) is that although AccountingWEB has some good reviews of the available products, and has covered the online accounting topic to some degree, there isn't one place that pulls together the SaaS and cloud story or lays out the ...
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Can Cloud vendors move beyond the terminology debate?

I recently mentioned Richard Messik's great post castigating Cloud vendors on their jargon overload in the panel discussions at Softworld back in October.  Over on AccountingWEB there has been some vigorous debate around the Cloud issues in discussion threads on whether accountants should be talking to their clients about Cloud Computing, the business case for SaaS, or the terminology itself.  If you meander through the discussions I draw three conclusions:

  1.  There is plenty of confusion about the terminology, jargon and marketing hype spinning around the topic.
  2. The debate goes all over the place, highlighting a definite need for education and resources to explain  the business benefits with more use cases and good examples.
  3. There is a group of anti SaaS/Cloud types on AccountingWEB (like many places elsewhere) who seem more keen to argue about semantics and jargon, rather than moving the debate on to business value.

Dennis suggested this is a self inflicted wound and highlighted how some vendors are avoiding the Cloud term.  Back on those AccountingWEB discussions, Gary Turner of Xero commented:

"I'm really struggling to find .. ...

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Does AccountingWEB get SaaS?

AccountingWEBLet me start this post by saying I'm a big fan of AccountingWEB (in the UK, I don't particularly follow the US edition).  For the accountants in business and in practice or anyone interested in the sector it's one of the key resources to read - they cover everything from tax to technology, but it's the deployment of technology and innovation within the profession that is my particular interest.  The fact that it has blog like capabilities where you can easily comment on articles is great.  The Any Answers section has been a great resource over the years, where accountants or anyone can ask questions (anonymously if they want) and get direct advice from the community.  Like any online community they are subject to the 90-9-1 rule, where 90% of the audience just lurk and consume, with 1% doing most of the talking.  The recent major revamp of the platform has smartened things up very nicely, dramatically improved the search mechanism (which for a period before was almost useless), and added discussion groups which have the potential to be a good forum for debating some of the key issues.  They have 63,000 or more subscribers (it's free to  register,...