The Sage glass ceiling and the FUD concept

I am grateful to Dennis Howlett for introducing me to the FUD concept. It has been around for a long time (it originated in the early days of IBM) but it was not something of which I was aware.

For those not in the know, there is a great explanation here.  Briefly FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. It is a marketing technique used when a competitor launches a product that is both better than yours and costs less, i.e. your product is no longer competitive. In general it is used by companies with a large market share, and the overall message is ‘Hey, it could be risky going down that road, stick with us and you are with the crowd. In the computer world, FUD was first practiced on a large scale by IBM in the 1970’s. Many people cite Amdahl as coining the phrase when he left IBM to start his own company thus making himself a FUD target.

It perfectly sums up the attitude of most accountants when trying to convince them that SaaS (Internet based accounting specifically) is a better and more efficient way of interacting with clients and servicing their accounting needs.

The universal response from accountants when trying to convince them that there is a better way, is “We use Sage”. End of discussion and nothing anyone can say can convince them otherwise. Sage has such a stranglehold on the UK accountancy market that it is actually blocking any innovation in  accounting software .

Sure, Sage works (in a fashion) but, for that matter, so does old fashioned pen and paper. The old Kalamazoo system (who remembers that!) worked; if you think about it so does an Abacus. If we don’t attempt anything new , we can never move forward.

But time has moved on and so have processes and the means available to deal with clients more efficiently.

The argument is often put forward (as indeed it was to me just the other day) that the client doesn’t care. I would take issue with this. The perception of many clients is that they appreciate their accountants being in the forefront of technology and offering something different from the mainstream. After all you are judged by what you do today not last year!

I would be interested to know if anyone can come up with a definitive and convincing list of why SaaS is superior. The Sage Glass Ceilng has to be broken!

MP’s expenses – enough already

The arguments and publicity regarding MP’s expenses are in danger of becoming hysterical – with the result that  we might end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The excesses needed to be brought into the open and, more importantly, brought to an end. But  in most cases, the MP’s were  claiming within the rules and, if the rules allow for a £4,000 TV to be claimed, or for both husband and wife to claim for a separate second home, then it is the rules that are at fault and  not necessarily those MP’s who claimed within them.

That is not to say that claiming for Mortgages already repaid isn’t bordering on fraud or selling a 2nd home and not paying CGT shouldn’t receive  the full investigative processes of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Of course it should, and the rotten apples should be thrown out of the barrel. But for the most part MP’s are operating within a very lax set of rules which are  inappropriate for today’s more austere circumstances. The rules need to be changed – and changed quickly.

As far as second homes are concerned, the simple solution would be for the constituency home to be the main home and for the London residence to be the second home for which a fixed amount is received. MP’s who live within – say – the M25 should not be allowed to claim.

Whatever is decided, it needs to be done quickly. There is an election due withiin 12  months and if the current hysteria continues, the more radical parties such as the BNP are going  to benefit from the general level of dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties.

It is not an exageration to state that  Democracy itself is at stake.

SaaS or S-O-S

I tried using a new feature I recently came across on Twitter – TweetBeep. It is rather like Google Alerts, providing a list of recent Tweets on a subject matter of your choice.  I had a go with the term “SaaS” and was surprised at the number of results it returned.

What didn’t surprise me, however, was that the vast majority of them originated from the USA, where the concept of Cloud Computing has been accepted into the mainstream far more than here.  Continuing the usual trend  where IT matters are concerned – so maybe the UK  will follow our US counterparts eventually.

Will Cloud Computing or SaaS ever replace standard corporate networks – probably not. However the advantages of anytime/anywhere access are just too great to be ignored. In a recent Blog, Dennis Howlett commented on the Touring Test being a good definition of a true SaaS product. The Test, as defined by John Paterson, defined a true SaaS product thus:

“Next time you are on holiday, walk into the hotel lobby and log on to your application using whatever machine and browser they have. If you can access all the data and all the functionality in your SaaS application immediately, without having to download any extra software, it’s a true SaaS product.”

Dennis was somewhat critical of this definition – and perhaps it is an over simplification. But surely the point is well made. The essence of Cloud Computing is its ease of access without having to be concerned about network restrictions and firewalls etc.

Many of  my clients appreciate this and virtually every new assignment I take on accepts and appreciates the advantages of our Internet based accounting systems.

Cloud Computing is a growing trend in the UK. Whether it will ever reach mainstream acceptance with UK accountants is anyone’s guess. It certainly will amongst clients and those accountants who are ready to adapt and try new ideas will benefit.

DNA Databases – fuss about nothing?

I am at a loss to understand the latest controversy about the length of time DNA samples are kept on Police databases.

As I understand it, the current position is that if someone is arrested, for any reason, a sample of their DNA is taken and kept on the database, irrespective of whether or not the individual is charged or found guilty.

Surely, the key phrase is ..”if someone is arrested”. As far as I am aware, people are not stopped in the street and forced to give a DNA sample .. they have presumably done something or been somewhere that has resulted in their coming to the attention of the authorities in the first place.

So the answer is simple ..don’t do anything you shouldn’t be doing and you won’t have to give a sample. And even if you happen to “innocently” be caught up in a G20 demo and end up being arrested and then released without charge, provided you don’t go on to offend sometime in the future you will have no problem.

Maybe it is an oversimplification, but I really don’t see what the fuss is about!

In the Cloud or Grounded?

I have commented extensively (and will continue to do so) on the growth of Cloud Computing, specifically relating to SaaS or Internet based accounting as I prefer to call it. But what of those “in between applications” – terminal server based – which can’t seem to make up their minds as to whether they are in the Cloud or  Grounded!

I had an issue recently with a new client for whom I am going to be undertaking an outsourcing assignment which will include reviewing their accounting input and preparing monthly management accounts etc.

The client wanted to use Mamut – fair enough – but the problems started when I tried to arrange access to start work on the assignment. First issue – licence! Mamut insisted that the client paid an additional licence fee to enable accountant access. What’s more this access is limited to review only, as any data entry would cost three times more!

The other problem is that my company’s firewall prevents access to terminal server applications – I can’t believe we are alone in this.

Surely this defeats the whole purpose of Cloud Computing – one of the main advantages of which is ease of access from anywhere without involving any software downloads. If there is going to be considerable extra cost of accountant access then this is only going to restrict take up further.

..and what is the point of it. Is it a sort of cop out – no development for a full web based version but providing remote access… of a sort.

I don’t see it … but would be interested to hear what the perceived advantages are over a full web based version. If SAP can do it surely others can follow.