Just last week, I blogged about how some IT pundits and vendors are falling into the trap of turning the cloud into yet another confusing and over-hyped industry buzzword, and the need to bring cloud conversations down to earth for small and medium business (SMB) customers.
A couple of days after I wrote this post, I had a briefing with Intacct, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and it’s subsidiary, CPA2Biz. The three organizations have just announced a significant partnership designed to do just that (http://us.intacct.com/corporate/news_events/2009/040709.php) through some of the most down to earth people I know—accountants.The gist of the alliance is that AICPA and CPA2Biz have designated Intacct as their preferred provider of financials applications. Together, they will educate AICPA’s 350,000 members about the benefits of moving their financials solutions to the cloud. The deal will give all AICPA members—both CPA firms and their clients—discounts on Intacct solutions, and encourage accounting firms to use Intacct as a platform to provide services for their clients. In addition, AICPA will layer its best practices and vertical templates on top of Intacct’s solution to give accountants additional tools, guidance and content to create a unique CPA version of Intacct. The partnership is a big coup for Intacct, which currently has about 100 accountant partners. By joining ranks with AICPA and CPA2Biz, Intacct gains the potential to dramatically scale its accountant channel–and reach thousands of SMB customers through them.
Not only does this alliance pose a strong threat to Intuit QuickBooks’ dominance in the small business accounting market, it has the potential to pull SMBs into cloud computing in vast numbers. Intacct, AICPA and CPA2Biz did a lot of homework beforehand, including research that showed online accounting solutions boost productivity by as much as 50%. By dramatically reducing the need for travel, and the necessity of exchanging paper and email files, CPAs have more time to spend providing guidance to clients to help them improve financial performance and decision-making.
Accountants are rarely bleeding edge technology adopters. But AICPA’s backing will give them more confidence in recommending cloud computing to their clients. The fact that Intacct uses IBM for its primary data center, a SunGard facility as a hot standby, and has exceeded all uptime guarantees for the past year should help mitigate concerns about security, reliability and performance. As important, the message that AICPA, and eventually its accountant members, are communicating to SMBs—that cloud computing can help them “improve financial performance, take better advantage of financial advice, and make better, faster business decisions”—is framed in business terms, not cloud speak!