The Future of Technology Impact on Accounting and Small Business Owners

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Technologists agree that there will be significant, positive changes impacting accounting because of technological advancements. Some of these predictions were extracted from the June 2012 Journal of Accountancy. These are discussed herein and predicted to center on cloud computing and mobile access. ConnectBooks is available now to access Sage Peachtree accounting data using Apple and Android mobile devices via the cloud.

Sage Peachtree

Changes in technology have had a profound impact on the way businesses operate. Technology upgrades have made (and will continue to make) a significant impact on small business owners and the accounting community.

     Past and Emerging Technological Changes:
Before we look at the future, let’s look at how recent technological changes have impacted business owners and accountants.

Most readers only know of mainframe computers from history books, but I was there in the midst of the software industry. In fact, when asked what business her husband was in, my wife responded, “Software.” A typical comment from her inquisitor was, “Oh, he sells lingerie!”

Computer time was expensive and hard to get. Software in the business arena was likewise expensive and relatively immature. That all changed with the advent of the Personal Computer (PC) and the explosion of software solutions.

         Historical Game Changer
The PC and its smaller siblings (laptops and notebooks) became relatively inexpensive and available to those of moderate income and their children. There was a great explosion of games, which were played by children who became the software innovators of the future.

         Packaged Software
There was a great influx of young people with grandiose ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit. They saw the software industry as an opportunity to find a niche and strike it rich. Many failed, but others succeeded and created excellent applications. As cost-effective accounting software became available, it was soon absorbed by a willing market. The accounting industry had a number of successful products for the small business arena such as Peachtree, QuickBooks, and Simply Accounting. These solutions provided the means for small business owners and accounting firms to automate the accounting function. Many small business owners could use a spouse (or do it themselves) to manage the accounting function using purchased accounting software.

         Internet and E-mail
The Internet was a major game changer. In five years’ time, says Andy Grove who is the chairman of Intel, all companies will be Internet companies, or they won’t be companies at all. This is probably an accurate statement for all but the small, local mom and pop shop.

One of the ways businesses share information is to present their product information on a Web page and provide the means to review and purchase products. It is also an inexpensive way to distribute software and supporting documentation. Many provide for video conferencing and chat via the Internet.

E-mail has become a prime means of communications for marketing, maintaining relationships, and support. It has been a menacing alternative to regular mail by the Post Office.

Another change was offered by the opportunity to outsource functions that the owner is challenged skillwise. An owner may sub contract the accounting function to an individual or CPA firm. Those businesses that decide not to have an IT function in house may choose to use hosted software (a hosting company supports the software and data), which is accessed over the Cloud. Some even provide an accountant to do the books.

         Social Media
Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites such as Facebook (over 845 million users), Twitter (over 140 million users), YouTube (4 billion views per day), Linkedin (over 150 million users), among others. There is an increasing emphasis on the use of these venues for marketing.

     Future Technological Changes:

Without question, technology changes will be the utilization of the power and reach of the Internet in everything that we do. Today, it has a name—Cloud computing. Tomorrow, it will simply be how we do business, applications, data, and systems. Our clients, customers, and vendors will all be connected in multiple ways, using the backbone of the Internet as our pipeline.

         Cloud Computing
Even now, Cloud computing is poised to be the next transformational technology. Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet). The name comes from the use of a Cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams.

The Cloud and mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks, etc.) will continue to help further integrate technology into all aspects of an accountant’s daily duties. This is referred to as pervasive computing.

The Cloud is a great match for small business owners and accountants. Those doing the books will increasingly be using it to create an anywhere, anytime environment for themselves, their staff, and their clients. Done right, it brings speed, convenience, ease of access, collaborative qualities, low costs, and scalability. Firms that are already 100% Cloud invested have a competitive advantage over their more traditional competitors. As a consequence, this will drive companies to the Cloud over the next decade. It will be the primary tool used by successful companies on a day-to-day basis.

It is expected that Cloud computing will replace in-office servers and paper-based filing systems and provide the necessary tools and security to allow companies to move to a more paperless practice. It will also be a repository for accounting and taxation software used in the office, at the client site, or on the road by client staff and accountants alike.

If companies and accounting firms don’t use the Cloud, they are going to be left behind. It is time now to plan on how they are going to keep pace with the future. They will also eliminate their IT work on internal servers and change these jobs to monitoring how Cloud apps are integrating client privacy and security while also doing billable customization and reporting services. Internal IT costs may be reduced as a result.

         Mobile Technology
Mobile technologies are going to help accountants and small business owners streamline their work flow and work smarter. For example, the ability to take pictures from a smartphone, to scan documents (a job site by an estimator, supporting material, expense receipts, etc.) and upload them to the accounting software in the Cloud removes duplication in the work flow process and helps work to be processed faster. Other products that will change the way we work with our clients include business intelligence dashboard reporting, tax deduction tracking, and apps that assist with approval processes in the accounting work flow and payments from customers.

An important question that needs to be addressed is: “Should employees be allowed to use their own smartphones for business?” This seems like a win/win concept for both employees and employers. Employees get to use devices they like and are most comfortable with, and employers are able to outsource some of their IT functions without the cost of a smartphone for each employee. Employees may incur an incremental data cost, but this cost could be absorbed by the employer. There may be security and legal issues involved in taking this approach to employee-owned devices. First, there are some legal issues that need research by each company. Second, a remote-wipe feature should be provided to protect sensitive company information in the event of employee termination.

E-mail will continue to grow as a primary means of communication and data exchange over the next decade, but we will see it shift to be accessed more on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. There will also be increased use of speech recognition software to create e-mail content.

         Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS sometimes referred to as "on-demand software", is a software delivery model in which software and associated data are centrally hosted on the Cloud. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser.

SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including accounting. One of the biggest selling points for these companies is the potential to reduce IT support costs by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the SaaS provider.

The Gartner Group estimates that SaaS revenue will be more than double its 2010 numbers by 2015 and will reach a projected $21.3 billion. This speaks to the likelihood of increased use of hosted software.

The future of technology change looks bright. Change will—and must be—the norm as we have experienced tremendous technology change in recent years. Embrace it, but beware of being on the leading edge. Make sure each change is proven by use.

     Meet The Future with ConnectBooks:

For those CPAs and small business owners who currently use Sage 50-US Edition (formerly Sage Peachtree), there is already a mobile app that provides access to accounting data using Apple and Android mobile devices. The initial launch of ConnectBooks was for the Sage Peachtree accounting software in March of 2012 at the Sage North America Partners Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. It already has over 170 subscribers.

For those who use or support Sage 50-Canadian Edition (formerly Simply Accounting), we have good news in that ConnectBooks will provide mobile access in November of 2012.

ConnectBooks is a mobile application that provides remote access to small business accounting systems using Apple iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets. CPAs, Executives, managers, and field technicians now have anytime, anywhere access to their accounting information using the devices in their pocket or on their belt.

There is a limited opportunity to get an absolutely free mobile app for Sage Peachtree. Go to our website to subscribe, learn more, view videos, etc. (clic k here).

The ConnectBooks mobile app can be downloaded for free at the [Apple iTunes Store or the Google Play store.

About the Company:

ConnectBooks for Sage Peachtree is a product of IntelleApps, LCC. IntelleApps is a fast growing company with an exclusive focus on developing state-of-art mobile apps for the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms.

IntelleApps is located in Chantilly, VA, USA and is a Sage Development Partner. Sage Corporation is the Creator and Owner of the Sage Peachtree accounting software.

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Walt Mahan
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