If its broke – fix it!

There has recently been a flurry of comment on the AccountingWeb Cloud – Accounting discussion group. Much of it is the same, somewhat depressing, comments from the gainsayers coming up with the same old negative responses to the whole concept of using the Cloud for everyday business processes.

There was an excellent blog written last year (I am afraid I can’t recall the author) which likened the apparent hostility and fear of disruptive technology to the negative and scaremongering criticisms of the steam trains that were introduced in the 19th Century – and it fascinates me that the whole subject of the Cloud should generate such passionate arguments.

On one level, I suppose it is positive that there is a debate, but I fail to understand the hostility to the concept – it is very much a case of if you are an adopter you are passionately in favour and if you are not – you are either indifferent or passionately against.

I gave an interview the other day to some business school students who were researching into the Cloud Computing market and were asking my views on the current state of play in the UK. I found myself pontificating on the issues that have been raised extensively in this blog and elsewhere and explaining how Sage has such a stranglehold on the UK accounting market. I went on to postulate that online accounting vendors were doing much better in Scandinavia and the Netherlands because Sage was not a barrier to entry there in the same way that it is in the UK and then was asked the money shot question – how did I see the future growth or otherwise of the Cloud Computing market.

Change shouldn’t necessarily happen for changes sake – if it aint broke don’t fix it holds true in this marketplace as much as any other. Change should and must have benefits – speed up processes, run more efficiently, save costs etc. etc. Exactly what Cloud Computing offers.

But of course what many people are turning a blind eye to is that Sage is broke – it doesn’t run more efficiently and it is considerably more expensive. When one of my staff is trying to justify to a Partner that the cost overrun of a job is due to problems installing the client’s version of Sage onto our network before he could work on it, you have to ask yourself – why put up with it.

What the marketplace needs at the moment is for a major player to announce that it is not going to use Sage for its clients but adopt an online system instead and that clients will have to adapt accordingly. It is a brave organisation that adopts that approach but they will become leaders of a group that will – inevitably – grow over time and will reap the benefits accordingly.

What’s the difference between Sage and an ostrich?

@Duanejackson’s excellent blog today highlights the amazing comments by the CEO of Sage about SAAS. He quotes:

“As Sage put out their results yesterday, their CEO said:

“Well, many of the people who’ve launched SaaS products in the last four/five years and that industry analysts get very excited about, even though most of them have got less than 5,000 customers, is that what those solutions are is actually desktop solutions online…..”

We shouldn’t really be surprised at this head in the sand attitude. A few years ago I had fairly detailed talks with Sage about them buying Easycounting as a way to enter the, then, nascent SAAS market. The talks were somewhat complicated by Sage executives leaving the company as soon as we had met with them but eventually we got to meet the Sage technical director.

He quickly killed the idea as he was unable to see why there should be any demand for online accounting. This forward looking attitude is no doubt healthy for the director of a FT 100 company – but, hey, Sage is an FT 100 company so what do I know.

I will leave the Sage bashing to Duane and @DAHowlett – after all they are much better at it than I. However it is interesting to speculate why Sage have such a blinkered view of the Cloud.

There is one reason, of course. One of the major characteristics of the SAAS model is that prices are based on per entity costs with no ongoing licence, upgrade and support fees – all of which Sage charge at exorbitant rates.

The current SAAS model just doesn’t work for them and until they can find a way of monetizing it and competing in the Cloud market place, they will stay away from it.

Of course, the problem with sticking your head in the sand is that you have an exposed backside….I think there will be a long queue to be the first to kick it!

My New IPad – I love it!

I have at last received my new Ipad and I make no apologies for being very excited. As soon as I heard about the launch of Apple’s latest technological marvel, I just had to have it and have been waiting impatiently until the opportunity finally arose and I could lay my hands on one.

After some clever manouvering I was able to order one from the States and waited with ever increasing anticipation until it was delivered today. I even tracked its progress via the DHL web site and am only too grateful that I managed to avoid the Icelandic Volcanic disruption (as I re-read this, I realize how sad this sounds. I really ought to get out more!)

So what are my first impressions of this technological super star? Well to begin with it was certainly worth the wait. Anyone who has an Iphone will appreciate the superb design and tactile experience it provides (as well as being able to make a phone call – which is almost secondary). Imagine, if you will, that canvas multiplied 6 times and you begin to get the Ipad.

But, of course, it is much more than a larger Iphone. The design of the ipad specific applications are a pleasure to behold and more are becoming available on a daily basis. The crispness of the screen for viewing photographs and other graphics is superb.

The new ibook application takes e-book reading to a new level with its replica book interface and page turning graphics. Interestingly, the Kindle application is also available on the ipad – so I can choose which device to use when reading my Kindle e-books.

An indulgence maybe, but it does mean that if I am traveling I no longer need to take my Kindle and my computer – I could manage with the ipad on its own.

Will the Ipad replace the lap top – probably not in the short term. Although I am typing this blog using the ipad keyboard accessory – every time I reach out to touch the screen, instead of using a mouse, I feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report – I am not certain how easy it would be to work on a spread sheet. I will have to give that a try.

Will the Ipad replace my net book – almost certainly as I will be able to carry out virtually all of my Cloud Computing requirements in a much enhanced user experience mode. The email and writing abilities are easy to use and practical.

Is the Ipad the amazing new paradigm shift that will change the face of modern day mobile computing – the jury is still out on that, but it is definitely a start. I wonder if Apple will produce a desktop touch screen version… that would be interesting!

Crossing the Chasm – does it require A Bridge Too Far

I am grateful to @garyturner for drawing my attention to an article in Wikipedia on Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers a marketing book by Geoffrey A. Moore that focuses on the specifics of marketing high tech products during the early start up period.

In Crossing the Chasm, Moore begins with the diffusion of innovations theory from Everett Rogers, and argues there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations, and he attempts to explore those differences and suggest techniques to successfully cross the “chasm,” including choosing a target market, understanding the whole product concept, positioning the product, building a marketing strategy, choosing the most appropriate distribution channel and pricing.

It can best be illustrated by the following “bell curve”:

The relevance to the Cloud Computing debate is striking and the definitions of the innovators and early adopters etc are spot on. Looking back at my experiences when Easycounting was first introduced and the ongoing issues rolling out E-conomic in my own organisation only goes to emphasise the point.

In the wider world the debate goes on as regards Cloud Computing and whether or not the “Chasm” has been crossed. I would say that within the Accountancy profession as a whole it has not – we are still in the innovator stage.

However, for the users, I think it may have been – and this is where we reach an interesting dichotomy and return to a point I have raised many times before – I believe that the progress in Cloud Computing is going to be led by the client and the accountants that don’t follow will -in time – loose out.

I have an interesting situation in my own practice where we are currently quoting for a new client who already uses E-conomic- his accountant hasn’t caught up with him.

So have we crossed the Chasm – for some of us maybe – for others it might just require a Bridge Too Far.

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