Report: How the Cloud Changes the Game for Client Accounting Services
December 06, 2012 (SmartPros) The cloud is reinvigorating client accounting services for small and midsize businesses, and CPA firms that want to take advantage of this trend need to help their clients embrace digital technologies, according to Geoffrey Moore, tech consultant and bestselling author of "Crossing the Chasm."
Moore recently interviewed dozens of thought leaders and technology advocates in the accounting profession and found that work involving accounting and back office operations -- known more formally as "client accounting services" -- has rapidly become a cloud-fueled field of growth for CPA firms. His findings are collected in a research report, "Accounting Services: Harness the Power of the Cloud," released at the recent Digital CPA: CPA2Biz 2012 Cloud User Conference, an event hosted by the technology subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs, CPA2Biz.
"Our fundamental premise is that, in the past, major barriers to productivity made (client) accounting services a low-margin activity that was unattractive to pursue," Moore wrote. "In today's online digital era, we believe these barriers can be removed, and the practice can be reengineered into a high growth, high profitability line of business."
Moore said three major shifts are driving innovation in the accounting profession:
Moore outlined a progression for evolving a client accounting services practice: 1) Move to the cloud, 2) Adopt systems of engagement, 3) Adapt business intelligence to manage data powerfully and present information simply for clients. The latter stage allows CPA firms to move away from "write-up," transactional work and gives clients what they most need -- high value, forward-looking business analysis from a trusted advisor.
"The key to capitalizing on this new set of opportunities is to free up professional time to devote to such analytics, to use that time to determine the key performance indicators for your client's business, and to work with the business intelligence software to develop simple dashboards that make performance factors readily visible," Moore wrote.
How fast should firms be moving through those stages? Moore said it's a judgment call.
Moore said there's no right answer for the category firms choose, as long as they realistically evaluate their goals and needs on technology. To ease this process, CPA2Biz has created two mobile applications that can help CPA firms and their clients assess where they fall on Moore's spectrum of technology adoption, as well as decide which strategies best suit them going forward. Available for both iPhone and iPad, the CPA Practice Assessment Tool is designed for accounting firms, while the Crossing the Chasm Assessment Tool is designed for general business use. Both are available for download from the Apple App Store.
"Geoffrey Moore's research report on client accounting services is a call to action for firms," said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA2Biz. "Our assessment tools are a great first step that CPAs and their clients can take in mapping out their move to the cloud."