The Cloud – my take on 2009

It is hard to believe that we are almost at the close of the first decade of the new millenium – it seemed like yesterday that we were panicking about the millenium bug and preparing for the armageddon that would surely follow.

The Web, came into its own and with it the dot com boom  – and bust – and the internet pioneers who became billionaires. The Internet and all of its good and bad points became an essential part of everyday living and to do without it now would be like not having a television or a telephone (an attractive proposition to some, no doubt!).

But what of The Cloud – and how did that progress during 2009 and what its prospects for the coming year.
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Much has been written about the Cloud during 2009 – The Sunday Times gave it a 4 page write up in one of its colour suplements – and Accounting Web devoted a full day conference to the subject. Softworld for the first time had a dedicated Cloud section and provided a number of seminars to the subject. Even the traffic on Twitter on the topics of the Cloud and SaaS grew exponentially.

The introduction of the Net Book (a cut down laptop) prompted the launch of internet based operating systems such as Jolicloud and Google announced the forthcoming launch of its Chrome internet based operating system which some commentators believe will be a direct challenge to Microsoft.

There were a number of high profile announcements that major industries and city councils both in the States and here, have moved to Google Applications from Microsoft Office. The popularity of the Iphone and its WiFi capabilities prompted numerous copycats and Internet based services.

Despite the frustrations and luddite opinions, 2009 was, in many respects, a pivotal year as far as The Cloud and online accounting (I still prefer that term) was concerned. There are now some 40 different online accounting solutions on the market and the industry is rapidly reaching adolescence if not maturity.

There is still a long way to go and as I quoted in a previous blog… 2009 might be considered to be the end of the beginning. I forsee that 2010 will bring further maturity to the market and the accountancy profession is going to be distinctly divided between the adopters and the not interested… and it is going to be the adopters that benefit form the advantages of service delivery and innovative solution provision. More forward thinking clients are going to demand online accounting as part of their requirements and it is going to be the equally forward thinking accountants who are going to benefit from this – I won that assignment, by the way!

Saas providers will continue to innovate and improve their service offerings – I spent an interesting day with the Technical Director of E-conomic looking at their plans for next year which are very exciting – with the added benefit that the improvements and enhancements will just appear in the browser with out the need for update disks and the necessity to have different PC’s running different versions of the software.

I wish everyone with their head in the clouds a successful and innovative 2010!

The Cloud – those who get it and those who wont

I had intended to attend the AccountingWeb Cloud Computing forum, but urgent client matters intervened and unfortunately I couldn’t make it. From all accounts it was a pretty successful day and well attended.

A lot has already been written about the fringe event where accountants sat on a panel (that’s a sobering thought for a start!) and an audience of software professionals attempted to convince them of the strengths of SaaS and Cloud Computing. David Terrar’s excellent blog provides a full report on this. Once again it seems to be another lost opportunity for getting the message across. Originally I was asked to sit on this panel, but this was then overruled because AccountingWeb wanted non-convinced accountants -and I, obviously, didn’t fit into that description.

Reading the reports of the session and also reading the comments on the AccountingWeb cloud group, I have to ask myself whether the vast majority of the accounting profession will ever be converted. Sadly, I think not. Some of the ill informed and frankly naive comments that are raised as arguments against the merits of the cloud are so heavily ingrained into the accountants psyche that it’s going to take a "Children of Israel wandering in the desert event" for it to be changed.

The options available in the accounting Saas market are huge – I believe there are now something like 40 different online accounting packages available and this number seems to be growing rapidly. As with all software products, some are better than others – some directed to small sole traders and others to the larger business entities. Regular readers of my Blogs will know my own preference so I won’t reiterate it here. There are others as well but it is up to the user to carry out their research to decide what is best for them. Most of the packages allow users to have a free trial which would help comparisons.

What would be useful would be for a session where the panel consisted of convinced accountants who could then explain to the un-initiated why they had made their choices and debunk some of the myths that are currently prevalent.

But at the end of the day, if the majority of the profession does not want to be convinced, why should I be concerned -Denis Howlett makes the excellent point that it is the client who will dictate that they want to use online systems and it is professionals like myself who will benefit.

I am currently quoting for a new assignment where the prospective client, a rapidly growing company with some ambitious plans, has specified online accounting as one of its requirements. The quote is currently in the high 5 figure range and will possibly hit 6 figures in the not too distant future. I may not win the assignment – but one thing is certain. I would never have had the opportunity to quote for it if all I had to offer was the bog standard packages that everyone else uses.

And in the long run that is what it is all about – those who get it and those who won’t. I know who my money is on.