>>Update 4th April … Dennis has his interview up Progressive Practices in Australia powered by Xero
Dennis Howlett, IT finance industry analyst and commentator most well known for his blog Accman, visited Sydney recently (he lives in Spain and hails from the UK) to attend the 2012 Mastering SAP Technology Conference. While over here I introduced Dennis to three of Xero’s Australian accounting partners.
This brief meeting resulted in an open and insightful video panel discussion about the accounting industry in this part of the world and the impact that cloud computing is having on practitioners. With me was Guy Pearson of Interactive Accounting, James Solomon of Elite Financial and Dyean Moodley of Wilde Financial Services.
After sharing a few short observations about his time in Australia, including the high cost of pizza and poor availability of wireless broadband services in hotels (he’s not the first), we got into some interesting discussion.
First up Dennis was keen to validate what he sees as a global trend toward a new breed of practitioner – one that is moving away from what he describes as an ‘entitlement’ mentality where these typically old school accountants fail to accept that the world has changed. He explained that when he speaks with this style of accountant he consistently hears them claim that demand for cloud accounting amongst SMEs is typically in the single digit range. “Well that’s fine but it’s only their take on their existing client base. Do they bother to look outside their practice to see what is really happening?” says Dennis.
“This type of complacency is giving rise to a new style of accountant. One that is perhaps not fully qualified or hasn’t the years of experience, but is clearly more entrepreneurial and willing to tap into their network for ideas and different ways of servicing clients,” he says.
Happily for me, Dennis was not disappointed in what he learned from Australian accountants. He heard real examples of how cloud technologies were being used to grow practices nationally and to facilitate remote servicing of clients. There were interesting insights into the change management challenges in moving from a silo-based partnership to one that leverages the collective skills of the partners and embraces change. He was also intrigued to witness how the role of the accountant was expanding to one of technology advisor to small businesses and where new services were being offered to help clients move to the cloud.
Dennis sees enormous similarities between the Australian business landscape and other geographies where there is “clear frustration among buyers who can’t understand why their accountant is having them use systems that don’t help them”. A good example is bank feeds. As Dennis put it, “This is something so valuable to the business owner but one that you simply can’t do in an on-premise environment. Well you can, it’s called EDI, but who builds for that these days?”
Always keen to have the last word I’ll leave you with Dennis’s view on why positive change in the industry is moving so quickly in Australia.
“Because you are at the end of the world you have to adopt early… You guys are further ahead in terms of capabilities and I think my followers back in the UK will be surprised.”
We’ll keep an eye out for the video of the panel discussion and invite your thoughts on how accounting is making the bold shift to cloud.