Reflections on a conference – Beijing

As the HLB conference in Beijing draws to a close it is time to reflect on the events of the last few days. Apart from Beijing itself – more of which later – the conference itself has been a great success.
 
What has been apparent is the level of genuine interest in Cloud technology in general and online accounting in particular. The E-conomic stand has been busy over the three days and some very useful contacts made. Tejn Nielsen is going to have a busy time when he gets back following up on the enquiries that he has received.
 
What has been particularly gratifying as fars as I am concerned, is the level of interest from the UK – a marked change from conferences earlier in the year.
 
As I have commented previously, I predicted that 2011 would be the year of the cloud and Beijing has confirmed my view.

Reflections on Beijing – part 1

The first thing that struck me on arriving in Beijing was the sheer modernity of everything. Not what one thinks of when it comes to China. The airport is hi-tec and enormous as is the infrastructure that surrounds it.

This is enhanced on the drive into Beijing itself. The number of new skyscrapers is breathtaking as is their design. It really looks like something out of a science fiction film.

Our hotel is situated in the centre of the city on top of a luxury shopping centre selling everything from Bulgari to Rolex and everything in between. Fascinating how China has introduced the luxury of Western Globalisation without the inconvenience of introducing the democracy that would usually go with it.

Now I realise I am not seeing China is a whole but only a relatively small and incredibly wealthy part of it – but it is an eye opener just the same.

This afternoon includes a visit to the forbidden city which will be a whole new experience.

Reflections on a Conference

I have just returned from exhibiting with E-conomic at the 2020 annual conference in Birmingham where we spent the day on the E-conomic stand. I can’t believe that its a year since I commented on the last conference – time certainly flies when you are enjoying yourself!

Comparing the two conferences there were some marked differences as far as the Cloud in general and Cloud Accounting in particular are concerned. Firstly it must be said that all credit goes to 2020 for promoting the Cloud the way that they do and directing the delegates to the exhibition stands. The 2020 organisers certainly understand the benefits of the Cloud and how it can add value for their accountancy practices.

What struck me this year was how better informed were the accountancy practices – they didn’t necessarily sign up on the spot but all the visitors to the stand were, in the main, well informed about Cloud Accounting and were seeking information as to the distinguishing features of the various applications. And of course one of the noticeable aspects this year was how much choice there is for anyone seeking to move into the Cloud. As well as E-conomic there were 4 other cloud applications exhibiting at the conference and that doesn’t include the many other providers who weren’t there.

A number of enquiries were received from practices where they were already using a Cloud accounting product but wanted to expand their offerings  - this all good news for the Cloud industry and accountants. The message is beginning to get through. As well as this, the new Accountants Club concept was well received.

In addition to speaking to the delegates, it was very interesting speaking to the other exhibitors. As well as comparing notes it was very helpful speaking to some other of the product providers who might be able to add some very useful features using E-conomic’s API integration – watch this space!

I forecast that 2011 would be the year of the Cloud and as we approach the last quarter of the year I am convinced that I was correct.

I am now off to Beijing to speak on the benefit of the Cloud at the HLB conference – I shall report on this when I get back.

 

Accountants Club’s – a good thing!

All publicity is good publicity the old adage goes – however I was a little surprised by the response of some commentators – namely Adrian Pearson and Denis Howlett – to the recent announcement by E-conomic of the launch of their accountants’ club.

I must at this point declare my interest in that in my role as a consultant to E-conomic I was involved in the discussions that resulted in the launch of the Club. However in spite of this  the views that I express now are my own.

One of the points raised by Adrian in his blog is as follows….

“Accountants are being used as a free proxy for a traditional reseller channel by the accounting software vendors.  They provide access to their client base and make volume on-boarding of new customers a possibility; saving the vendors a fortune in marketing effort.”

But isn’t this missing the point…by rather a wide mark. Yes there is a benefit to any vendor in getting accountants on board in the hope that they will roll out the application to their client base. After all, it is a numbers game and I don’t think anyone can disagree with that. But in adopting Cloud Computing – it doesn’t matter whether its E-conomic, Twinfield, Kashflow or Xero or the many other offerings now available – accountants should appreciate the immense benefits that their practice can achieve by working with their clients in the Cloud.

To suggest as Adrian does, that accountants are acting as unpaid vendor channels is disingenuous in the extreme. And this is the problem that the industry is experiencing at the moment.Professional practices are failing to appreciate the advantages of the Cloud and are getting stuck in the dark ages as a result. It is their clients that will eventually lead the way in this as today’s generation of entrepreneurs will expect their professional advisors to interact with them using today’s technology. Those that don’t will fall by the wayside.

As for the vendors. what is wrong with giving their professional clients a small incentive to get on board with the Cloud. After all if they get clients using online accounting – which will be to their advantage as well – they can easily recover any of the costs involved in joining the Accountants Club in the first place. To talk about training as being a lost cost to the accountant is simply not correct.

I should at this point add that Adrian has recently joined David Terrar and myself as part of the Cloud Advocates and I have high regard for his input and opinions. I just don’t agree with him in this instance.

I think the following extract from some of E-conomic’s recent marketing material sums up the position quite nicely:

At E-conomic, we are not altruistic. Obviously we’d love you to be using our system, however whether you opt for us or one of our competitors, our avowed aim is seeing the accounting world put itself online, lock stock and barrel.

…and if they can provide a little encouragement along the way, what’s wrong with that?