It is and it isn't about the desktop

Industry analysts and tech junkies all seem to agree that the problems staving off Linux desktop adoption are focused on the availability of applications coupled with the complexity of implementing and maintaining those apps. The solution, they say, is to make more Linux-native applications available, and to standardize the technology to a point where mainstream users can really use it. In other words, to make it more like Windows in these respects. This is indeed a lofty goal.

In working with a large community of Linux resellers and system integrators, it becomes clear that the lack of certain applications for Linux does indeed keep customers from adopting the desktop platform. However, what also becomes clear is that the applications desired aren't going to be available for Linux. These key applications are Microsoft Office and QuickBooks. By volume, they are the most widely distributed and utilized applications in small business.

There are numerous alternatives to the Office applications, and the offerings in the open source community represent real contenders. But productivity alone isn't enough to get the desktop platform switched. Accounting applications are key when working with businesses. Finding a contender with similar usability and support to QuickBooks won't happen - Intuit has been at it for too long. And QuickBooks isn't going to be native to Linux any time soon. So, what is the answer?

The answer is utility computing. Sever-based computing, application hosting services, software-as-a-service... whatever the name - it's the answer.

Hosted applications can provide the desktop environment, integration, and applications that users want and that businesses require. When the applications and the computing environment are delivered, the local desktop platform becomes irrelevant and technical implementation becomes inconsequential to the end-user. This solves the two key issues identified as barriers to broad desktop Linux adoption in business.

The desktop hosting model, specifically, offers additional benefits to the business in terms of migrating applications from the desktop to server-based models, and then to web-based models. Once the requirement to locally install and manage applications and services is reduced or eliminated, then the overall network administration becomes easier and less costly. Users are able to adopt an "Internet-based" working model without having to adopt Web-based application technologies at the same time.

Once the business has adopted a virtual working model, then the ability to begin layering other applications and services - based on Web technologies - becomes seamless. Integration of Web-based application data with desktop application data is viable when the desktop application and data are also contained within the datacenter. Now, businesses can extend applications and data to all users in the enterprise, providing access to tools specifically oriented towards the individual job functions. Combinations of Web applications and desktop applications can safely and securely integrate, because they are all present in the managed infrastructure.

So - Hosted application delivery models enable the enterprise to use what it needs and wants in terms of applications, but provides the option of choice for the desktop OS platform. Isn't this really the answer - for Linux adoption and a better way of working overall?
Do we have fair competition ? What about honesty in business ?There examples at both ends of the spectrum indicating a no to both. Private security companies and employment agencies at one end. Shaw and Rogers at the other.I have worked as a security guard and know that these companies cannot accomplish what promise their clients. First there too many companies; each trying to one up the
I have become a screener. I don't jump and race to the phone any longer. My voice messaging system has become an automated receptionist to discourage nuisance calls. Telemarketers the prime suspects. Also fed up with wrong number dialers; those who careless when dialing.Ever wonder who works as a telemarketer; that was convinced can make lots of money. These people all burn out from the

Linux and Commercial Software Vendors... what "Linux People" think

Following is an email received by a commercial software company offering products for (among others) the Linux platform. When considering the factors that are
a)encouraging mainstream software vendors to develop on Windows platform and
b)stalling adoption of Linux products in the general user and smb markets... consider the following:

"Why is it that you believe that someone who wants to try your software wants to fill out your detailed form? If I try your software, I don't need you to call me, send me any email, or write me any letters.

Contrary to what you believe, you are not doing anyone a favor by allowing them the unspeakable honor of testing your product. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We do a great service by downloading your software, taking the huge risk of having it destroy our systems, undergo the hassle of installing it, with the strong possibility that it's garbage.

Even after purchasing the software, why does someone need to 'register' it? You can't legally withhold tech support to someone who can, at that time prove that they did in fact purchase it and when, if you offer it as part of the sale. You can't even write that into an agreement because it's against the law. You may say it's so that you can alert us of upgrades, or bug fixes, or security problems. Right. You a bit close to Redmond?

Also consider that you're marketing to Linux people. We all pitch in to provide quality (mostly) free software for each other. Here you come, using your free software that others provided, and selling yours. Do you believe that we cannot write accounting software, just because no one has a decent free package yet?

My name is xxx xxxxxxx. I own xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx. But I'll remain anonymous. For now."
I have reached the limits of my patience. I am surrounded by stupidity and incompetence. Not to forget deceitful behavior.From AOL who is blind to the fact that they employ morons. To Shaw who seek out morons as employees so that won't know that quoting line of bull to customers.Robert Half and Accountemps with ineffectual recruiters.Baywest, Pacific Quorum, and many other property management

The Evolution of SMB Outsourced Accounting Online

The concept of accounting and bookkeeping outsourced operations is not at all new. Businesses such as GE and others have been involved in this type of business for years. In most cases, up until just a few years ago in fact, only larger companies were heavily involved in offshore processing, and mainly handled these processes within offshore business groups and related business entities. Additionally, the platform and applications required to effectively facilitate the necessary collaborative environment were expensive and complex. Offshore outsourcing, in volume, was primarily a “big company” option.

The small-business market, unlike the mid- and enterprise markets, utilize the general services of public accountants in much greater volume and typically for more fundamental business services – such as business bookkeeping. Larger organizations typically employ accounting and bookkeeping departments and/or personnel, and rely on outside accounting professionals for higher-level work. Small businesses, however, outsource much more of the core bookkeeping and checkbook management functions to their public accountant. This creates a volume of fairly mechanical work – data entry, document management and filing, etc. – which can be burdensome and not terribly profitable for many practices. But this level of work is of significant value to the small business owner, and thus the value of outsourcing to the accounting professional is clear.

Then, small business applications went online

The real trigger for the SMB offshore outsourcing model was the introduction of accounting and business applications which were used by small businesses, but introduced in an Internet-based or online sort of technology model. Applications such as NetSuite (was NetLedger, then Oracle Small Business), Intacct, and QuickBooks for the Web were introduced to facilitate a closer and simpler working relationship between businesses and their team members, as well as their accountants. These web-based applications, however, offer differences in functionality and operation that many users were and still are not willing to adopt.

The creation of application hosting services for small business – namely, service which allows Intuit QuickBooks Pro to be affordably offered as an Internet-accessed application – became the magic bullet. The QuickBooks product line all but “owns” the small business market. Once the application was able to be utilized in an ASP technology model, the entirety of the SMB market became a potential food source for outsourced bookkeeping and business data processing companies.

Online accounting initial value statements

Early stages of marketing the “online accounting” model involved professional accountants selling bookkeeping services to small business, but offering a greater level of performance and cost-efficiency than the business could experience alone. The online technology model facilitates a closer and real-time working relationship between the accountant and the client, and results in better and higher quality information for the client. By using the online application model, accounting professionals are able to increase staff levels at reduced operating costs by allowing operators to work from home or other locations. Further, the elimination or reduction of time spent traveling to client sites, manipulating client data sets, and other similar activities helps to reduce the cost of delivering bookkeeping and accounting services to the client.

Low-cost Labor?

The benefits to be derived by the accounting professional were then leveraged by an entirely new set of start-up businesses… the offshore business process outsourcers (BPOs).

An unfortunate outcome of the inception of the smb e-Accounting model was the belief that anybody could do the work. Many organizations emerged into the market, espousing the benefits of relieving the accountant of the “drudgery, mindless mechanical data entry” which was representative of the client’s bookkeeping requirement. Accounting professionals frequently take issue with this concept, as the performance of “mindless” work is not the service being offered to their client. However, there is a grain of truth in the fact that small business bookkeeping can be a laborious and time-consuming task. And the CPA credential is not a requirement in order to offer quality bookkeeping services.

Logically, any business can see the benefits of having every business function or process handled as cost-effectively as possible. Being provided with an opportunity to fulfill your requirements, but at a lower cost of operation, only makes sense. But this potential value proposition became the focus of the offshore outsourcing model, and limited consideration for how the model would actually perform was offered.

With nominal consideration for standards of operations or in policy, many accounting professionals engaged offshore processing entities based on their being “a wonderful group of low-cost people” (actual quote from one offshore-accounting promoter). Unfortunately, much trust was placed in these organizations, and in many cases the engagements failed miserably due exclusively to the lack of fundamental business and control processes. Quality of work was low, timely communications with the offshore group was limited, and mis-communications and misunderstandings occurred with some regularity. Many who embarked upon this offshore outsourcing path early on did not stay on the path for long.

The Impact in India

India was one of the first countries to visibly enter the smb outsourcing market en masse. Large numbers of business people and accounting professionals from the US paid visits to groups in India, discussing the market opportunity and potential around smb outsourcing, and to enlist processors and “head count” to prepare for the deluge of inbound work from US businesses. In many cases, the participants in India were required to pay heavily for the privilege of participation – spending thousands (hundreds of thousands, in some cases) of dollars in training and education, building infrastructure, buying software and services – only to find that the return on investment was not going to come any time soon if at all. The US accounting market was not yet ready to ship its work offshore in wholesale. And, in reality, the outsourcers weren’t ready for the business anyway.

Marketed to death

Road shows, seminars, presentations, free offers, email and fax mail and junk mail of all flavors… all have been employed to attempt to convey the value of offshore outsourcing to the business market and to accounting professionals. This marketing was, in many cases, the use of funds from the investments made by the offshore entities. Those promoting the opportunity in India were garnering funds from participants there (while promising that work would be coming in immediately), and then returning to the US only to spend the money on trying to get the business that was already promised. Needless to say, this did tremendous harm to many of the offshore start-ups, and ran some of them out of business before they ever had an opportunity to perform. Certainly, some of these businesses were simply ill-prepared and were not ready for operation, but there were many which were, and some of these positioned themselves with partners that took advantage without delivering anything of value in return.

There were other models employed, as well. Postings on open job boards, offering “e-Accounting work” for a fee, and with a promise of huge returns, are prevalent. The representation is that, if the offshore processor would pay into the model, then the work would be forthcoming. Many paid into the model; few received any real revenue-earning work.

There is success

There are numerous situations where successful offshore outsourced processing engagements have been won and fulfilled, to the benefit of all involved. In many cases, the work being performed is limited in scope. The most successful outsource arrangements are oriented towards a specific processing requirement, and are accompanied by strict and clearly communicated processes and controls. Knowing that the outsourcer not only understands the requirement, but is able to be easily communicated with in order to address changes or special circumstances is a key to a successful engagement.

Process Re-engineering

Only through a comprehensive review of the requirement and the engineering of the specific solution, with all conditions clearly communicated and understood by all participants, is the outsourced engagement likely to see a high level of success. This puts a significant requirement on the professional practice to create a systematic approach to performing the work and measuring the quality, and to be able to convey those requirements in detal to the outsourcer. Frequently, this means selecting and implementing certain technologies or services which can facilitate remote access and deliver comprehensive functionality to remote workers. Further, communications with clients, required disclosures in the engagement, etc. force the professional to not only adapt operational processes, but to also adapt agreements and business relationships to acknowledge and properly incorporate the performance of any outsource organization.

The second time around

As with any new business model or technology, the “early adopters” are essentially the beta testers for the rest of the market. Models which are believed to be fully developed are found to be lacking in significant detail or insight. And many approaches are simply not realistic when applied to the larger part of the market.

Having worked through a period of trial and error, many outsourcers are now finding their niche, and are delivering (very successfully and profitably) valuable services to their business and professional clients. This working model has not yet matured to the point where offshore (or domestic) outsourcing is an automatic solution for any practice, and there is no cookie-cutter model to follow to success. Accounting professionals understand the unique nature of each of their client businesses, and it is this unique aspect which represents the challenge in creating standards in processes and systems which are an absolute requirement for any successful outsourced engagement.

Many of today’s outsource organizations have learned that they must provide the expertise and tools to the practice, assisting with process and workflow development, and creating assurances that the work will be handled in a timely and efficient manner. While the model is still being fully-explored, the experiences of the past few years have given these companies significant insight into the issues and potential solutions to the problems faced.

Value delivered

The question is not whether or not your client should outsource their work… the answer here is obviously “yes”, and that’s why your client works with you. But whether or not YOU should outsource certain processes or functions remains a question. There are significant benefits to be derived, not the least of which is an improvement in workflows and controls to measure performance. The cost-of-service benefits may, for some, remain elusive. The primary reason many companies initiate outsource arrangements is based on the assumption of handling the existing work using the existing processes, but at reduced labor rates. In truth, the benefits more frequently arrive in the form of enhancements to workflow and control processes, and the development of a greater and more in-depth understanding of the work being performed on the clients’ behalf.

Considerations for Disaster Recovery Planning

Disaster Recovery Planning is currently a leading topic of discussion for business IT administrators and owners. With the recent Gulf Coast disaster, issues relating to business and technology operation and continuity have become a central point of discussion for many organizations. After the disaster occurs is the wrong time to determine whether or not your company is adequately protected. Unfortunately, when you need your plan most is when you find that you either do or do not have things well in hand.

Hurricane Katrina has taught many companies some hard lessons ranging from the inability to locate or communicate with employees to the entire loss of the business and surrounding community infrastructure. Certainly, the current situation is a reflection of the worst-case scenario, but it also points out some fundamentally important considerations that a company must incorporate when creating a technology plan for disaster recovery and business continuity.


One of the first things to remember in any disaster is that your employees are people. They have families, homes, lives outside the office, and responsibilities. They have fears and concerns. In short, they are human beings. This is a reality that is frequently overlooked in a disaster plan.
Much consideration may be taken with respect to handling business issues such as customer or vendor communications, technology and systems continuity, etc. But in the event of a disaster where lives are at stake, can the company expect personnel to overlook those personal impacts that present themselves, all in the name of keeping the company going? Probably not, unless perhaps they are in health care, law enforcement, or the military. Even in those cases, caring for family and loved ones may take precedence over job responsibilities. Businesses need to make certain that there are SYSTEMS in place to assist with continuity and recovery, as personnel may be hard to come by.


Businesses rely on facilities.
Facilities are created from infrastructure.
Infrastructure, more often than not, is not in your control.
Telephone service, connectivity, electrical power, street access to the building, access to the surrounding areas - these are infrastructure elements that you have little control over, if any at all. The loss of infrastructure, however, impacts you significantly. It does not matter how much backup power you have if you have no physical access to the building. And telephone service becomes valueless (frequently) if the power is out.

Redundancy can come in many forms, but creating fully-redundant facilities means being redundant with the infrastructure. Opening offices in multiple locations, distributing personnel and resources to various locations - these all come with potentially tremendous cost impacts to the business. There are, however, affordable technologies and services available today which can help mitigate the impact of the loss of a location or facility, and whenever possible these services should be incorporated into your daily processes to ensure portability and a smooth transitioning of systems should the worst occur.


Developing an IT recovery and continuity plan is similar in nature to purchasing various types of insurance. The level and cost of protection must be evaluated based on the benefit to be derived, and weighted by the risk. For example, low-cost flood insurance is probably not worth the investment where there is no water. Obviously, there is cost associated with different levels and types of protection, and different situations warrant different types and levels of coverage.

In terms of IT continuity and recovery, the most frequently-implemented form of "insurance" is redundancy or the duplication of a resource. Every business, however, has requirements that extend beyond a reasonable ability to fully duplicate. A small flower shop, for example, cannot reasonably afford to implement "alternative business locations" or a remote office in the event of the loss of the primary facility. With this reality in mind, the business must focus on addressing those conditions that are within its reasonable ability to control, as well as those that it can mitigate to some degree.

Infrastructure & Facilities
Business locations - building and access
Telecommunications - telephone and voice communication services; transmission lines
IP Connectivity - internet and IP network services
Electricity - electrical power
Utilities - water and sewer, natural gas

IT Assets
PBX and voice systems - telephone systems, handsets, voicemail systems
Network servers - file and print; applications, database, messaging, web, etc.
Network communications equipment - routers, switches, hubs, cabling systems
Power - UPS, battery backups, generators
Workstation equipment - desktops, laptops, peripherals
Software - operating system, applications, tools and utilities

Key Processes - information technology
System building; placement and installation
System and user account management and administration; patch management
Data management; backups and archives; version controls
Security administration: anti-virus, adware/spyware, intrusion detection and prevention

Key Processes -general business
Sales and billing functions
Receipts and banking functions
Payments and settlement functions
Accounting and reporting functions
Production and operational functions
Support and service functions, including employee, customer and vendor communications

ASPs can assist with business recovery

InsynQ and a community of application service providers (ASPs), managed service providers (MSPs), messaging providers, and software publishers are coming together to offer support and services for businesses effected by Katrina and disasters in the Gulf Coast region.

The truth is that the virtual services offered can help... help businesses re-connect to team members and operations; reach out to customers and vendors. Whether or not data or applications are retrievable, the virtual environment offers the ability for people to collaborate, share information, and communicate - regardless of location - as long as there is connectivity.

Telco and other infrastructure services are slowly recovering in certain areas, and impacted individuals are slowly but surely looking for ways to recover their livelihoods.

We can help. But VISIBILITY is the key. Somehow, we must find those who we can help and connect with them.

InsynQ has created a website where interested parties - those seeking to offer service, as well as those looking for needed service - can participate.
Not easy to know someone's motivation. To size them up. Takes a special gift.What complicates matters: questionable corporate policies leading to confusing results. Employees having to follow such policies with no idea what may result. When will learn common guidelines don't answer questions or solve problems.Need to look at any situation from many perspectives. Not something can be taught
After receiving an email recently it is necessary to reiterate why I started this blog. At first I used to post messages in usenet forums for bookkeepers and accountants. Then usenet became overrun by spammers and con artists and just plain nut cases spouting this and that nonsense.This blog is for posting information and opinions and points of view with others in the accounting profession. If

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

or - That was then, but this is now...

It constantly amazes me, seeing the number of conversations, forums, talkbacks, emails, etc. flurrying about the Internet that are focused on finding the way to "win" against Microsoft and Intuit - both companies, in certain circles, being referred to as "big brother". Well, the 800lb gorillas, anyway.

There are the Linux community members, very appropriately using TCO (total cost of ownership) and security messages to get the attention of the market... you've got the Mac devotees who believe that computers can and should have good fashion sense... and then there are the Windows users who use it, but complain nonetheless.

With Intuit, you have a clear market-share leader in smb accounting. As for the other market segments - it's anybody's guess who wins there. It's arguable.

But what do these two companies have in common? In a word - success.

Let's face it. Without them, there wouldn't be a world of computer users representing a potential customer base for new products. Walk with me - let's talk.

Computers were once quite expensive, unintuitive, and basically unavailable for most businesses. Then PCs emerged, Microsoft hit the market - and Windows opened across the world. First, businesses broadly became computer users. Then consumers became computer users. Then everyone became a computer user. And let's remember - accounting and finance was the first primary application of general computing technology (the BETTER adding machine).

Changes in the accounting industry were also occurring at this point. Professional accounting practices began to move away from business bookkeeping, being a low-margin and labor intensive task. Intuit hit the market with QuickBooks, marketing based on the concept that "if you can write a check, you can do your own books". While this was in direct opposition to the professional accountants' belief that businesses need professional assistance with their accounting, it solved the dilemma of doing the books directly. So, many accounting practices at this point actually became focused on selling and supporting accounting software - looking at the technology as both a means to avoid direct bookkeeping as well as introducing additional revenue-earning services for the practice.

Both Microsoft and Intuit recognized a need in the market, and filled that need quite nicely. They earned their market share largely based on useability and the concept of empowerment. This is what it took to build the size of market we see today. And let's face it. They did it very well.

Today's computer user is more savvy - more aware of the options and choices. But choice often seems like complexity. With Microsoft and Intuit being viewed by many as the defacto standards for small businesses, the choice seemed like it was already made and therefore the complexity of making the right purchasing decision was removed. This is not as true today as it once was.

There are other options available. Will they gain the same levels of adoption that their predecessors did? Doubt it. The concept of "one size fits all" isn't true any more. People want tools that are specific to their requirements. Businesses want their computing platform and applications to do more for them than simply maintain status quo.

But we must always remember how we got here. Kudos to the big guys who built the market for the rest of us. We should revere these companies, and acknowledge the great thing they did - they created potential customers for all of us. Lots of 'em.

Big Business Starts as Small Business

Software to support a growing enterprise.

There are two certainties in life – death and taxes. While both are unavoidable, at least the taxes issue can be managed. But managing taxes, and business finances in general, takes detailed information. Considering how most small businesses get their start in accounting for their business operations, it is not surprising that information gathering becomes one of the most time-consuming and frustrating tasks around tax time. Fixing the problem from the beginning and keeping a system with the detailed data you need on an ongoing basis is the key to avoiding the rush and to building a business information framework that spans the life of the business entity.

In order to understand how to solve the problem, it is important to understand the evolution of business accounting. Not how the concepts or practices have evolved, but how technology has (or has not) been applied to certain problems, and where the gaps are.

Just starting out – the business in infancy

The first things a new business owner generally does is get a business license, get a computer, and run down to the discount store to buy a copy of QuickBooks or maybe Microsoft Excel. Now, this business owner isn’t necessarily prepared to properly handle the accounting for the business, but he understands that he has to do something. Keeping a check register, at the minimum, lets him know how much money is in the bank. And that’s what it’s all about for the small business person – cash flow and cash availability. But the focus on the checkbook frequently causes the business to postpone implementing deeper, more beneficial processes.

With a focus on the checkbook, the business manages cash by counting payments out and receipts in. But the nature of the payment or the receipt is the true question that must be answered and accounted for. It is surprising how many businesses still keep ledger cards – those manual 3x5’s in a box - where customer and vendor information is kept. It is a simple method, and provides the business a way to keep individual account records. But the fact that this detail information is not part of an integrated system creates a greater potential for lost or inaccurate data. Further, the greater the volume the more difficult and error-prone managing the information becomes.

It is at this point that the business seeks to find a more comprehensive means to manage the additional business data. This is another buying decision the business owner must make, introducing a new system which can handle the additional activities around accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory and sales orders, etc. The business was already keeping track of products or services, customers and vendors. But here we are at a step where new systems and processes must be introduced. A belated effort, this after-the-fact implementation of customer, vendor and item tracking, establishes the means to manage more business activities as part of an integrated system.

The difficulty comes in loading the historic information and learning new systems. Depending on volume, the quality of the manually-kept data, etc., it may be determined that historic transaction details are not to be entered. So, the business moves forward with a better system for managing business activities and data, but loses the value of the early transaction detail.

The next steps – handling volume and growth

The business has implemented an accounting system which helps to keep track of customers, vendors, items, and cash. More detailed processes are introduced as the business requirement grows – offering perhaps more specific information on costs of certain products, or summaries of customer purchases or item sales activity. This data provides a much more informed basis for business decision-making, but also impacts the systems as the volume of data to be managed grows. Growth may present itself in many ways – growth in the number of products or services offered, growth in the number of transactions processed regularly, growth in the dollar value of transactions, or growth in the number of employees who need access to the system. All of these areas impact the ability of the system to continue to support the business requirements. Quite frequently, a certain “density of data” is reached and the current system is not able to efficiently manipulate and manage the volume. Here again is another buying decision. Can the existing system be expanded to handle the additional volume? Or must a new system yet again be introduced? The business process requirements may not have changed, but the earlier choice of systems may cause a forced change simply due to business volume or number of users.

The frustrations of changing business systems are compounded the further into the business lifecycle the change comes. Much of the historic intelligence of the business is derived from the earlier days of the business; data which reflects the stages and activities of the business over time. When a business reaches a point where data volumes force a systems change, a worst-case scenario occurs: The volume of historic data is too great for the current system, and loading it into a new system takes a huge amount of time and effort. Unfortunately, this task often proves too daunting for the company, so again valuable historic detail information is lost and summary information is loaded into the new system.

Operationally Specific Systems

As the business matures – and in order for the business to mature in a healthy manner – specific and detailed information must be captured and analyzed. Systems which take a broad view of the business, offering only general information and process support, frequently do not supply the business with the levels of intelligence truly required. For example, a manufacturing business needs to fully understand and manage the manufacturing processes and materials supply to ensure profitability and consistent product quality. A retailer needs to know which products sell in which markets in order to ensure product stock and availability to key customers. And all of this information is time-critical if the business is to make necessary adjustments in time to benefit from them.

This level of detail can only come from a system which incorporates a certain specific orientation towards the operational processes of the business. The fact of selling a product to a customer is an activity which gets recorded, but the additional details of the customer location, pricing levels, purchasing levels, salesman, inventory item, and warehouse location tell the rest of the story. Over time, the business owner can then better understand customer purchasing habits, inventory item turnover, supplier dependencies - a wealth of business intelligence. This data is then used to assist the business owner or management in determining the specific activities or actions necessary to keep the business moving forward and improving performance. In the end, it is the demonstration of well-defined processes, deep insight into the business operational metrics and financial performance, and the ability to effectively and accurately report on this information that creates a basis for proveable business value.

There is One System

When looking at the business accounting and finance systems available in the market – particularly considering those which have earned a level of market share – there are visible gaps – big ones. This is clearly reflected in the numbers, where Intuit QuickBooks leads in the small business market, but has no reciprocal in the midrange or enterprise markets. QuickBooks fits into that early space, where the business is just starting out and, maybe, extending into keeping more detailed customer, vendor and item information. MS Excel is also a winner for very small and new businesses, as the spreadsheet is a simple and easy solution to creating an electronic check register. But there comes a point where a business has requirements that extend beyond the ability of the small business software. Sometimes, the mere thought of change is so abhorrent (usually based on a bad initial implementation experience) that the business attempts to use the software far beyond what it was built to handle.

Other application makers offer systems that have a number of small business features, but that also offer more in-depth or complex capabilities to handle the growing business. These systems, too (such as Peachtree, MAS2000, etc.) have a great potential to be outgrown, and can be costly implementations which handle only a portion of the business lifecycle.

Larger, module-based systems (such as Great Plains, Oracle, etc.) offer a broad range of functionality, integration, and data management capability. They typically address more – and more detailed - business processes, and can scale to very large sizes. But the cost and complexity of these systems is often the barrier, and given that there is no clear seed product (small business version of the big business software), the upgrade path is unclear and problematic. Microsoft is seeking to impact this area, preparing to offer a small business accounting system which would in concept seed to the much larger Microsoft Business Solutions applications. Given the huge gap between the “typical” small business system and the upper-levels in the MBS catalogue – the transition from very small to very large is not likely to be made in the single step Microsoft may envision.

Each stage of business requirement typically drives to a buying decision. This buying decision is met with anxst, as considerations include not only cost, but data conversion vs re-loading, new process or system design and setup, user training, proofing the system (running parallel?) and a host of other issues, not the least of which is the business benefit to be derived.

All the anxst, the frustrations, and the repeated buying decisions can be avoided. There is a system which scales – from the very small business to the very large business – and that has been proven in high availability, high performance, large volume systems for over 20 years. And this system offers flexibility – ease of use for the new or small business user, a broad range of feature-rich and functionally powerful business and finance applications, and a comprehensive development tool to allow even the most complex business requirement be crafted as part of the system. And the best feature is the database – which grows with the business throughout the business lifecycle. Information is power, and this system provides you with the ability to capture all your valuable business information from the inception of the business through growth and on to maturity.

The system is from Appgen. For the small business, it’s the MyBooks Professional system, offering a broad range of functionality within an easy-to-understand interface. Simple flowcharts help describe the accounting process, and assist new and novice users with effectively managing business activities within the system. As the business requirements increase, the MyBooks Pro suite of applications may be customized, or may be replaced with the full-featured modules from the Appgen Custom Suite of applications. The database is the same, however, so there is no loss of any level of data or detail. As the business needs more specific functionality to support its processes, the Appgen 4GL development system is used to make modifications to standard applications, or to create completely new customized applications, designed and suited for the unique and particular requirements of the business. Again, the database is the same, but may be extended to capture any number of additional data elements desired.

Appgen offers the business a single buying decision: a single database; a clear application migration path; and a way to taylor the system to meet specific business needs. And for the cost, there is no comparable alternative.

Paradigm Shift

Today’s CPA firm is facing the same dilemma that the profession has been dealing with for years: how to get tax preparation and audit work and other profitable, high-level engagements without being bogged down by the bookkeeping and mechanical work that comes along with them. It’s a big problem for most firms, and perceived solutions have presented only a new and different set of problems.

There was a time when financial record keeping was performed with purely manual tools. Ledger books, multi-column pads of paper (the early spreadsheets), and a raft of paper documents made up the toolkit for the bookkeeper/accountant. Original documents, such as receipts, invoices and cancelled checks, were recorded, categorized, tabulated, summarized, and eventually distilled into a statement of financial position. The rigors of this manual process were rarely experienced by the small business directly; the accountant was typically engaged to perform this bookkeeping and "write up" work as a function of providing a financial statement and opinion that could be trusted.

While the accounting practitioner understood that the write-up of this original information was a prerequisite to providing summarized financial reports, there was a constant search for a solution to the frustrations and costs involved in performing these functions. Gathering all the necessary documents in a timely manner, employing the necessary staff to perform the laborious job of translating that original information into summarized journals, distilling the journal information into financial reports, and (finally!) producing tax returns and financial statements was proving to be a task too great for even the largest professional accounting organizations.

In the 1980s, computing had matured to a level of functionality and affordability that could be enjoyed by many businesses, and it appeared as though a solution to the problem might finally be available. Client write-up tools, applications that could perform a variety of business and financial calculations, and computerized reporting systems were developed for and introduced into the accounting practice. It seemed that the issues surrounding the processing of original information into summarized financial reports were being solved with the use of these innovative tools. The solution, which seemed evident, actually helped to create a new set of problems for the accounting practice – limitation of scope and professional services.

The advent of client write-up systems caused many accounting professionals to turn away the mechanical bookkeeping work that had previously been the core of the practice. The perception that the accountant’s value was solely in the review and issued opinion of the financial information overshadowed the importance of managing good record keeping for the client business. Accountants were reticent to continue performing low-margin bookkeeping work when an incredible increase in efficiency in processing summarized information had been created.

Many client businesses were left to their own devices to perform the basic bookkeeping for the company, which resulted in less accurate information being provided to the accountant. This, in turn, resulted in the requirement for the accountant to re-engage in reviewing original documents and verifying (auditing) the bookkeeping records provided by the client prior to doing the write-up and financial report generation. Efficiencies that had been gained were being diminished. Ultimately, this created a bigger issue with billable hours and profitability than did the original problem.

The changes in the accounting industry were not subtle. In a very short period of time, a flurry of cottage bookkeeping and business-support companies were created. Personal tax preparation, small business bookkeeping – these were the new industries being formed that would take up the work that the CPA left behind. For some accountants, attempting to remove the bookkeeping service was akin to removing a body part. Undoubtedly it damaged a few client relationships, but mostly it just reduced the workload. And the bigger issue still remained – how to get quality data in a useable form from the client business in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost and keep the billable hours up.

The next phase of attempting to solve the efficiency and accuracy problem was the introduction of computerized bookkeeping applications directly to the client business. Again, the perception in the market was that this resource, if properly delivered and managed by the accounting professional, would provide accurate information from which the professional could generate financial reports, perform audits, and prepare tax returns. The representation by the leading software companies in this area was that "if you can write a check, you can do your own bookkeeping". Unfortunately, the perception was only representative of part of the reality.

The professional accounting practitioner is not typically a technologist, and the selection, delivery and implementation of technology is not his forte’. However, the model that had been developed determined that many accountants would now have to understand, promote, and support accounting applications in their client businesses. In order to be able to interact with the information produced from the accounting system, the accountant typically recommended something that was familiar to him. This would ensure a high level of quality in the support services offered by the accountant, but did not necessarily represent the best business "fit" of the application to the client business model. To further exacerbate the problem, the accountant now had a more streamlined source of information from the client business, but the information was still not likely in a reportable form. Write-up still needed to be done, and the data still had to be transported to the accountant in some manner.

This involvement by the accountant in the technology had other negative effects on the practice. In many cases, the professional spent more time and effort in selling and setting up an accounting system for his client than was spent actually performing accounting services. The focus of the firm was redirected from providing high-level accounting and financial services to facilitating technology and process changes inside the client business. This caused many firms to move away from their core competency and try to create new means of generating revenues to strengthen the business case for their involvement in technology to such a high degree. At this point it is important to reiterate that the professional accounting practitioner is not typically a technologist.

As time progressed, the accounting industry managed to find some peace with this new way of doing business. Many professional firms created specific business units to do little else than implement and support computerized tools and processes within their client businesses. Some practitioners simply became computer savvy to ensure a level of future participation. Regardless of the fact that information still needed to be transported, reviewed, adjusted, and reported – the accountant was at least interacting regularly with the client and could bring some controls to the bookkeeping function.

The costs of computer equipment, software, and associated services were dropping rapidly, and many firms that had been profitable in the technology areas were finding that it would not last much longer. The realization that none of the computerization efforts had caused a substantial increase in the profitability of the accountancy side of the practice caused the firm to return to the question of offering bookkeeping services directly to the client business and to become more fully, directly involved once again. This would, hopefully, result in the engagement for more profitable higher-level work. This decision, naturally, resulted in the return to the original problem – how to get the information from the client, morph it into a useable form, report on it, and get it back to the client in a timely manner – and still make a profit on the business.

In order to perform bookkeeping and similar services at a profitable level, and keep the costs to the client within reason, the accounting professional must be able to provide these services in a manner that does not commit substantial costly resources that will rapidly absorb the revenues generated. While bookkeeping is often seen as a loss leader for a CPA firm, doing the books for a business client can be a very profitable venture if serviced properly. And doing the books often results in the engagement of the accountant for more, and more profitable, services.

The solution to the problem is a technology-based solution, and is one that facilitates a new workflow and process that is far more efficient than the previous model. Unlike previously available "solutions", those available today do not require a complete overhaul of the business model. In many ways, the technology that has become available mimics the systems that are being replaced. This technology is simply provided in a better, more flexible and more powerful manner. The tools being used are easily recognized, and are presented in such a way that allows professionals and their client businesses to enjoy the benefits without having to expend effort and resources to incorporate them into the existing business.

Through the use of easily-recognized platform and application technologies, coupled with the innovative method of delivering these applications using the Internet as the network, the accounting professional and client business now have a means for interacting in real time with live business financial data. Streamlining the process for obtaining original documents and information, creating an audit trail at every level of the transaction, and providing the means for accessing and interacting with the data from a variety of locations by a variety of potential users – all are aspects of the increased efficiencies and effectiveness of this computing model.

It has been recognized that businesses can increase their productivity levels enormously through the use of properly designed and implemented virtual office technologies. The value proposition revealed is far more than simply reducing the cost of obtaining and supporting information technology.

Through an understanding of the specific issues facing the accounting industry, and recognizing that the processes used in this industry would not change rapidly, it was realized that the developed technologies and services could have a significant positive impact on how an accounting practice interacts with and supplies services to a client business. Further investigation clearly demonstrated that, if used consistently, the audit trail and compliance aspects of the process could also be substantially improved.

The ability for an accountant to utilize staff bookkeepers effectively depends upon the ability of the staff to perform their functions in a timely, accurate, and secure manner. Constraints caused by logistics – physical location and similar factors – could be virtually eliminated through the use of on-line solutions. Staff members, regardless of locale, could be provided access to a computing environment and infrastructure that is shared with the client business, providing easy access to both the applications and the data required to perform the bookkeeping function.

Further, messaging resources - such as voicemail and fax services unified with electronic mail – and document management services create a resource for obtaining original documentation in original form from the client without compromising the integrity of the audit trail. Voice messages, for example, provide the means for memorializing cash transaction information and, if produced in an electronic file form, can be archived with all other information to provide a solid, irrefutable audit mechanism.

There is a technology paradigm shift occurring. The platform is evolving to the Internet, and many of the old rules no longer apply. Incredible computing power is available from anywhere, provided you have broadband Internet access – which is becoming almost as available as plain old telephone service. And with this technology shift is a commensurate shift in the accounting industry. The changes that are happening to the landscape of computing lend themselves to directly solving a number of the key challenges faced by the entire accounting industry, and address many of the needs and requirements of business in general. The accounting industry is running at breakneck speed to keep up with the advancements in technology. Successful firms have come to the realization that the corporate CFO and CIO (or the comptroller and the computer guy) must now work more closely together.

In reality, the accounting industry as a whole encompasses every business and individual who is required to keep and maintain records of financial transactions, i.e., everyone. Technology use by the accounting industry will, as history has clearly demonstrated, affect more than just the accounting industry. The impact of technology on any business can be extreme. The impacts of technology on this industry can ripple changes throughout the economy.

Joanie C Mann
I am a very determined and driven person. Unlike too many others, I am always working and striving to achieve my goals. Lately something has come to mind and bothers me greatly. When did it become bad to be very determined and wanting people to be straight with me.I don't like people giving me half answers to my queries. I don't like people stringing me along or making up stories about how
Who is better ? Who has a better work ethic ? Who works harder ?Questions that nations love to answer. Always in its own favour.What comes out of the mouths of government is all garbage, and shame on the media for promoting any of it.We are living in a flat economy and flag waving not appropriate.I am not a fan of off-shoring for financial reasons, but need to find who will do a good job.The
What is the matter with call centers ?After experiencing too many situations, have concluded can't get intelligent and informed answers from customer service representatives. All of them are incompetent dim bulbs.Before point the finger at outsourcing and off shoring as the problem, there is a few call centers which not. The companies employ morons. What about receptionists in small businesses
What is happening in this society in regards to communicating with one another. We have all kinds of technological advancements, but we are not communicating. Back in the 90s we were all emailing, instant messaging, chatting on-line. Cell phones were better also.Today we have more expensive cell phones but not better. No one is using email and instant messages to any great extent. Spam or a fear

Understanding ASP – Application Services Providers

The concept of running your business applications over the Internet is not necessarily new, but the technologies and services which have emerged during the past few years have introduced a variety of options and methods for working online. Fundamentally, the ASP (application services provider) model breaks down to a single practice: using a service provider’s resources for running the programs you use and accessing the associated data. Regardless of the nature of the specific application service, this basic premise is the foundation of the application service provider model. In seeking to fully understand the variations in ASP business models, it is important to recognize the separation between the actual application and the infrastructure necessary to run it.

Applications, Licensing and Infrastructure
There are really only two different types of application service providers – those who offer the use of an application and the associated infrastructure as a single subscribable service, and those who provide the infrastructure as well as the management, and may or may not supply the application licenses. This second type of ASP is frequently also referred to as a managed services provider or an application hoster (example: e-Accounting

When an ASP offers you both the application and the infrastructure together, it usually means that the application software licensing is being provided as part of the service. In most cases, the application really IS the service. This fits into the "Software as a Service" category, where the cost of the software is part of the use fee for the service. This model is typically available for web-based applications: applications which have been developed specifically to run in a web server environment and are usually accessed using the browser.

An example of such a service is Intuit’s QuickBooks for the Web. This is an application which exists only on the Intuit servers, and may be utilized exclusively by subscribing to the service and running via the web. You cannot purchase the software for installation on your own systems – it exists only on the Web, and only from Intuit (example:

ASPs offering application hosting and managed services frequently focus on the types of applications which can be licensed and/or installed on the customer systems. While some of these may be web-based applications, more frequently they are LAN- and desktop-based applications.

Many organizations recognize that the comprehensive functionality and features of installable software cannot be replicated with a fully web-based application, and are therefore using application hosting as a means to "Internet-enable" access to these applications and their rich functionality. In this model, the ASP may or may not be offering the actual application licensing, and is certainly focusing on the underlying infrastructure and management thereof. The primary benefits of hosting licensed applications include the retention of the investment in the software asset, as well as the introduction of cost-efficient technology service management and the assurance of working systems for both local and remote user bases.

The Argument over Cost of Ownership
In most cases, the ASP will tell you that the cost of technology ownership is the biggest reason for adopting the ASP "lifestyle". At the heart of the issue, this is the truth. HOWEVER, most businesses don’t fully understand, or account for, the entire cost of acquiring and maintaining their business technology. When an ASP quotes a price for an application service, the first instinct of the customer is to compare that to the cost of software. This is an exceptionally bad way to approach the comparison, especially if the desire is to enhance or improve access or reliability as opposed to changing applications or functionality.

The comparison is more accurately made by looking at the entire system – including remote access support, security management, reliability and performance, and any other systems-related issue that extends beyond the functionality of the applications themselves. For example, a comparison of Intuit QuickBooks products – Pro version vs Web version – is appropriate because both applications offer different features and functionality. The additional comparison, available due to the ASP (application hosting) model, would be to add the features of a hosted and Internet-based delivery of the QuickBooks Pro application. Now, an accurate features and benefits comparison can be made, as both applications (the Web version as well as the hosted Pro version) offer Internet-based access and managed applications and data. The cost comparison, however, still represents a challenge.

Where the costs compare
Fundamentally, the ASP is replacing certain internal equipment, software, and IT management functions. For example, Windows programs run on Windows, and therefore require a machine running Windows. ASPs delivering Windows-based applications must provide the Windows infrastructure and systems in order for the applications to run. There are, of course, costs associated with these resources. This becomes part of the cost of the hosting service. The ASP delivers other benefits that many local PC or network installations do not and could not have or afford if approached using more traditional methods, such as secure remote user access, reliable data protection, security monitoring, and offsite IT disaster recovery. Whether or not the application licensing is part of the ASP model, the technical and operational benefits often still deliver lower costs of ownership and improved operational capabilities that many companies would not otherwise be able to afford.

But the costs of technology and tech operations, as well as the resultant cost-impacts to general business operations, are often difficult to demonstrate in their entirety. Especially with small businesses, where the business owner frequently places no real value on his own time, the ongoing costs of managing and maintaining technology becomes arguable. Therefore, the face-value ASP proposition hits on more emotional issues, such as the ability to work when it is convenient, knowing the system is well-managed and secure, and gaining the ability to work closely or more collaboratively with others.

Wrap Up
First, remember that one size does not fit all. While every business has fundamentally similar technology requirements, there are also specialized requirements that may need to be addressed. The method of selecting business technology – especially applications – has not really changed over the years.

First, find the software that your business needs, and then find the best method of running that software. The options for "how" to run the software have increased, and what you read on the box may not accurately represent the possibilities.

Second, consider why you run certain software in your business. An accountant, for example, may not actually use QuickBooks for their business, but uses lots of QuickBooks because that is the format client data comes in. This is a situation where technology costs and processes are increased due to collaborating with an outside organization. Both the client and the accountant bear the cost of software and the infrastructure to run it – a redundant expenditure. ASP services may represent the better alternative, offloading the redundant IT costs and management from the accounting firm, and offering both the client and the accountant a better way to interact at a lower overall cost. For a manufacturing company, the software may represent a means for controlling aspects of the manufacturing process.

Determine if your requirement is strategic and supports a key area of business, or if the requirement is in support of less critical processes. (Hint – outsourcing is a great way to cost-efficiently handle non-strategic technology and/or processes).

Last, look at the entire picture. Always consider the total business requirement. Applications which may not seem critical or particularly strategic may in reality support key processes, lending efficiency and effectiveness to the more strategic core applications. Consider also the overall data management requirement. Is it effective to have business data distributed in several systems? Is there redundancy in the stored data? Does the business have a way to ensure security of ALL business data?

There is no single right or wrong answer with respect to using ASP services. What works well for one company may not work for another. Business culture, management participation – many influences impact the effectiveness of business technology – whether internally sourced or obtained through an ASP.

One thing is certain, however. Constantly changing and evolving technologies represent both an emerging opportunity and an ongoing challenge for business. Technology outsourcing and ASP services have proven to be a means by which businesses may meet the demands of operating with innovation and efficiency.

Joanie Mann
I have reach a significant milestone. No longer can tolerate working for and with people that can't please. However there is some people respect and like personally.

As an Aries, I am always working and striving to accomplish my goals. I give much energy and time.

Yet still can't please why ?

Here's the answer. There's too many people that can't deal with such a person. Someone who cares
It was a hard 2004. Several upsets and few successes. However I managed to rise above all the problems.

I changed jobs so that have more time to devote to my business. I am more confident in own abilities and know can achieve anything.

I am an Aries and 1 life path. I won't let anything get in my way. I won't let anyone intimidate me or try to sabotage my success.

Software for rent: the Application Service Provider wave

Need to use a computer application like QuickBooks and want to access it from work, home or even on vacation? A handy way to do that is through an Application Service Provider

Link to a conversation with’s Vice President of Strategic Alliances Joanie Mann