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A new beginning

When I qualified more years ago than I care to remember and joined the family firm of Bellman Messik as the third generation of Messik accountants, I rather thought that this was a job for life. As we all know, Life is what happens when you are making other plans and little did I realise that Bellman Messik would be followed by Jayson Newman, Numerica and then Vantis.

What did remain constant throughout, however, was my interest in IT, gadgets and eventually Cloud Computing -the latter rather taking on a life of its own. As I became more involved with the concept, which started with Easycounting, it quickly became obvious (to me at least) that this technology was the way of the future and the reasons for adopting the Cloud were so obvious that they would hardly need justifying.

I am still convinced of the former – although I was obviously wrong about the latter. Few in the accounting profession have been convinced although the number is continuing to grow. I believe that business users get the idea and as I have often espoused – it will be the business users that provide the momentum as they demand a better way of dealing with their affairs.

New technology is often called Disruptive technology – disruptive in the sense that it challenges the current paradigm. It attracts criticism out of ignorance and fear of change. It is the early adopters and innovators that push the idea forward.

Well, after those more years than I care to remember, I have now decided that it is time for my next great challenge. I have resigned from Practice (I reckoned that if I couldn’t get it right after all this time, I never would) and have decided to become more of a loud mouth than before on the subject of Cloud Computing.

I have set up my own consultancy –RFM Associates which will assist businesses and the profession to elevate their business processes to the Cloud. Education – Advice – Implementation are the key aspects and I will pushing these in the months and years ahead.

I am excited about this new challenge and I look forward to contacting many of you in my new role in the near future.

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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.

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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!

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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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The mobile office – here, there – Cafe Rouge

I had a meeting the other day with a new client to discuss setting her up on E-conomic.As it happened the office boardrooms were fully booked, so armed with my trusty Acer netbook, we de-camped to the local Cafe Rouge and had our meeting there.

Meeting in the surroundings of the local hostelry made a nice change – the refreshments were certainly better than I would have got in the office – but what we all seem to take for granted is, that with the benefit of the local wi-fi service I had full access to what I would have shown the client had we remained in the office.

The ability to work anytime anywhere is a feature of 21st century living and one which we very quickly accept as being the norm. The technology behind it never ceases to fascinate me and the ability with which we can interact with the cloud is one of the wonders of modern life.

Maybe I am easily pleased – but I hope we never get too blasé about what is available.

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We tried to talk it over – but the emails got in the way!

I have taken a week off over the Easter break – haven’t gone away but decided to stay at home and catch up with some writing and a multitude of little jobs that have been waiting for a convenient moment to complete (and will probably still be waiting when I go back to the office next week!).

Whilst the break from the normal routine is welcomed, unfortunately there is still the need to constantly check emails and in fact the first two days of my “holiday” were taken up entirely with dealing with urgent matters. ….And that, of course, is the problem with 24/7 contactability. You have to be extremely disciplined to cut yourself off completely …and I am afraid I am not that strong willed.

In many respects, email is a failed technology. We have all experienced the return to the office after a short absence to be faced with hundred of emails which take days to sort out. A large majority of these are trivia and unnecessary. The email from the colleague sitting at the desk next to yours is a sad reflection on our art of communication.

And now we are faced with so many different forms of communication – email, text and now Google Wave, IM and a myriad of others. Used efficiently, email is a marvellous work aid – used inefficiently, its a curse.

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