Graham Salmon posted a great set of comments on the (Almost) Live from Softworld podcast. I've learned a valuable lesson. Graham raises important questions that I should preface by saying that one of my communications' mentors, Chris Lewis, says:
"In reporting events, there's a trade off between speed and accuracy."
How right he is. Graham says:
"Having attended Softworld in the past I was amazed to learn of the (almost) complete absence of software authors."
There were plenty of authors there. Prior to the event, I'd discussed the likelihood of interesting announcements with John Stockdyk, editor of the tech section on AccountingWEB. We were agreed it was likely to be thin of new announcements and we already knew Sage etc would not be there. As a result and quite unconsciously on my part, I skewed the conversation by the questions I asked. I did not know about the 'software as a service' (SaaS) issue but as it is an area of personal interest, I pursued a line around that and reseller activity.
Graham then asks:
"Why were there no national firms accountants there as resellers?"
I'm assuming he's talking BIg 4 + Tier 2. I can't answer that directly. What I can say is the Big 4 have changed their business model. Rather than competing for consulting followed by implementation, they've developed centres of expertise for products from SAP, Oracle, CODA, OpenAccounts and so on. They've dropped out of consulting in favour of the trade analyst community like Gartner, IDC and AMR Research. Tier 2 advisors get a look in but they're considered less skilled. There is a genuine consulting gap in the SMB and OMB range, except for those firms which offer those services. Graham then says:
"There's still a great swathe of UK business struggling to implement the most basic accounting software (admittedly because they tend to use receptionists as bookkeepers)"
How true. It's a problem I was wrestling with in 1991. There is an answer here and I know what it is but I can't share it right now in the public domain.
Graham then asks about the viability of the SaaS model. In theory, it is good for the SMB. Not the OMB. For this group, a SaaS solution could be developed but again, I can't talk in public about this.
Graham ends on a pessimistic note about selling direct. I understand his concern but I think the world will move on this one. There are things going on I believe will change the way clients present their books and records. It will fit into the electronic filing model. It will be simple. It will be available 24x7 to OMBs and their advisors. It will be tied to communication methods that mean when your client makes a mistake, you will know and respond - almost in real time. Can't say much more.
In working through Graham's post, I learned.
- Speed and accuracy do not nesessarily follow - especially when you've already got an agenda.
- The unexpected can have unexpected consequences.
- People don't change unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
- The changes in direction during the conversation reveal new facts.