(Cloudy) Reflections on a conference

I had a busy couple of days last week – on Wednesday I chaired one of the morning sessions at the 3rd Cloud Computing World Forum at Olympia and on Thursday I led one of the breakout sessions at the Accountancy Age Best Practice conference. Both were enjoyable and interesting experiences.

The Cloud Computing World Forum was attended by over 3,000 visitors over the two day period – next year they are going to hold the event at Earls Court to cope with the growing numbers of visitors. All of the various conference sessions were standing room only and the exhibition area and stands were very busy. The tone of the conference was essentially of a technical nature and most of the exhibitors were the suppliers of the technology that enables the Cloud to function – PAAS and IAAS to us the current acronyms.

But that in itself is not the point. What was relevant was the following:

1. This was the third Cloud Computing conference and

2. It was very well and enthusiastically attended and

3. The organisers are having to find a bigger venue for next years conference.

What this emphasises as far as I am concerned, is that this is not a passing fad – what it is, is a multi billion (yes billion) dollar industry and like it or not it is here to stay. One of the most telling comments of the day was from Microsoft – quote “…currently 70% of Microsoft software engineers are working on Cloud applications – by the end of the year it will be 90%”

There is not a lot that needs to be added to that!

Thursday’s conference was of a different nature entirely. Attended mainly by accountants in practice, it covered a wide range of issues including using social media for business. The forum that I led was on the use of mobile technology and how it can enhance operating efficiency. It was a lively and enthusiastic session and whilst there was still reluctance from some of the attendees to Cloud operations there were plenty more who were ready to embrace it and many who were already using it to a greater or lesser extent.

It was interesting to see how many iPads were in evidence which in itself is an indication that, slowly, the profession is catching on to the advantages of mobile and by association cloud technology. There is still a long way to go however and the profession as a whole will be forced to catch up with the Cloud sooner or later…it is inevitable.

No longer will they be able to adopt a policy of masterly inactivity  or indeed the usual IT department approach to new technology:

Plan A …….. Ignore it

Plan B …….. Resist it!

Wolters Kluwer and Twinfield – Cloud comes of age

So Wolters Kluwer has acquired Twinfield, the Netherlands based online accounting provider. Wolters Kluwer who have CCH, the current owners of what was Viztopia, in their stable have made the first foray into the Cloud acquisition arena – others will surely follow.

Twinfield, whilst a major player in the Netherlands, was always a bit of an enigma as far as the UK market was concerned. A fully featured product, it never really acclimatised itself to the UK market despite constant plans to do so. It did, however, show what a fully featured cloud product can aspire to even though it might not have been as user friendly as some of its competitors. I suspect that this will now change and that Wolters will ensure that it fits in with its UK offerings.

As for the UK cloud market as a whole, this acquisition will, of course, raise awareness and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we didn’t hear of some further acquisitions in the coming months. Iris’s foray  with its investment into Freeagent was a start but I suspect that the market will hot up as on premise providers finally get the message that the Cloud is the way forward.

Whether it will be a good development as a whole remains to be seen. After all the flexibility of being able to use many Cloud solutions has always been one of its many advantages and tying a Cloud product to one particular on premise solution may not be to everyone’s advantage.

What it does do is enforce the message that the Cloud is here to stay.

Accountants…get joined up!

I have just been working on a particular client project that has involved, amongst other things, the preparation of a number of sets of accounts. I have been using the report writer functionality in my online accounting system and this has enabled me to seamlessly prepare the accounts using the same bookkeeping data without having to transfer data between applications and additionally, any late adjustments only have to be entered once – in one set of figures.

I have written about this before but being able to use effectively the same portal of information – client data, accountants adjustments and statutory account preparation – has to be the way processes need to be undertaken in this digital world. After all as a client, if their are two ways for your accountant to approach a task – one more efficient and speedier than the other – wouldn’t you – shouldn’t you – insist that that is the way it is done.

With so many Cloud systems out there – each offering something slightly different, accountants are really spoilt for choice, there really is no excuse for professional advisors not to use the most efficient method of processing their clients data – and could they not be considered less than professional if they don’t opt for the best.

Ultimately clients will decide on what they want and how they want their work dealt with – accountants need to get joined up now.

Apple gets onto the Cloud

The announcement by Apple of its soon to be launched iCloud service is significant on many levels. Cutting through the hype that usually surrounds any new launch by Apple (they have written the manual on effective marketing and PR!) there is a serious statement of intent as to the way they are directing their resources and development for the future.

What this means for The Cloud generally, of course, is that with one statement from Apple, The Cloud has dramatically come of age and, if it wasn’t before, is now mainstream and should be considered as the principal operating paradigm for the future. No longer can it be looked on as a bit geeky or esoteric. It is now equal to the major operating systems currently in use.

Quote from the Times of June 7th 2011, itself quoting Giles Cottle, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media:

“….It was always going to take someone like Apple to really educate mass market consumers about the value of Cloud-based services. We are, it appears, on the cusp of that moment” and,

Quote from Jim Hemmer,CEO of mobile internet specialists Antenna – “….iCloud marks the tipping point for the Cloud”

These are significant statements and only reinforce what I have been writing about -2011 is the year of the Cloud. Professional firms ignore this at their peril as a generation of entrepreneurs who use the Cloud as standard will expect their professional advisors to communicate with them in the same way. After all, no one would consider not using computers in their everyday work – the same will now apply to the Cloud.

Together with Microsoft’s launch of Office 365, Google’s growth in its applications and  the Chrome operating system, The Cloud is here to stay…ignore it at your peril!