Cloud Computing and Online Accounting for All? Some Markets Are Still Waiting for Broadband

Cloud Computing and Online Accounting for All? Some Markets Are Still Waiting on Broadband

As the information technology industry espouses the benefits of the “paradigm shift” in computing and the move to cloud computing platforms and models, there are folks out there in the world who just aren’t seeing it happen like that.  Not everybody’s working online. For many, the Internet and online working models simply haven’t intruded into their lives and businesses as it has for others.  While this may be partially rooted in conservative mentalities and beliefs which are resistant to change, the more likely reality is that options for high-quality and affordable broadband service is simply not available to them.  Without choices for affordable and useful connectivity to the Internet, online just doesn’t have the attraction it does for those who are “connected”.

When businesses look at cloud solutions and the Internet dependency that comes along with them, having more than one connection to the outside world becomes the imperative rather than a luxury.  Unfortunately, some markets are still waiting for broadband (or have very limited options for service), rendering the cloud nearly unreachable.

It may come as a surprise to some, particularly to those in East and West coastal regions, that high speed broadband just isn’t as available in other zones.  In fact, the *National Broadband Map clearly reveals limited availability and choice in numerous regions of the US.  Broadband Internet access is a necessity to support the IT industry’s shift from localized IT to “cloud” IT.  But the shift is only evident to those who are involved in it or who have that option.  For those who the industry is beginning to refer to as the technology “have-nots”, this lack of available and affordable access will ultimately create more than simply an inability to participate in broadband-reliant IT solutions.  The fast pace of innovation and evolution in IT almost guarantees that the technology have-nots will fall even further behind, possibly to the point of not being able to catch up.

 “A Growing Gap Between IT Haves, Have-Nots. There will be a growing gap between the IT haves and have-nots in 2013. The latter will fall behind the former on a wide range of business technology fronts such as mobile, cloud, social, virtualization, and analytics…” 7 SMB Technology Predictions for 2013 | InformationWeek.com

As business (and personal) technology models continue to evolve, and as new solutions and services begin to displace the old, those who remain disconnected will begin to directly experience much more impact.

Consider something as simple as using QuickBooks desktop software for small business bookkeeping.  As Intuit continues to remove elements from the installed software product, turning them into web services instead, customers with limited or no broadband access will find themselves without the features and functionality they need in the software.  And the only possibly comparable alternatives to QuickBooks desktop accounting products are Internet-based alternatives, making them not really alternative options at all.

It is also likely that lack of sufficient broadband is one of the factors motivating many solution providers to seek clients in other markets – outside of the United States, and in regions where broadband availability is more prevalent and service speed and quality is higher.  Yes, it’s true.  The United States is not the leader in broadband availability, or even in quality.

“For many people, their broadband connections are their lifelines. So what is the state of broadband in the U.S.? Well, when it comes to speed and price and adoption, we’re certainly not a leader — “middling” is a better way to describe our position.

Currently 119 million people that live in the U.S. don’t have broadband connections (for many reasons, including not wanting it or not being able to afford it) while 19 million don’t even have the option to get it. Our rate of broadband adoption (62 percent) lags behind countries such as South Korea, the U.K.,and Germany, according this year’s Federal Communication Commission report. (We’re closer to the penetration rates to Japan, Finland, and Canada.) These numbers are not likely to change soon, given that broadband growth is slowing and providers are moving away from wireline infrastructure. “ GIGAOM:The state of broadband in the U.S. [infographic]

Accountants and other professional service providers serving clients in regions lacking sufficient choices for access must recognize that their approaches to doing business will not necessarily match their peers in more fully connected areas.  Certainly, accounting and legal professionals are dealing with this reality as practice coaches and industry leaders push for IT- and cloud-enabled models for improving practice performance and creating differentiation, even as their proven applications and business solutions morph into or are replaced with SaaS applications and online service.

The take away from this is that there are still large numbers of businesses and individuals doing things with legacy tools, managing spreadsheets on standalone PCs, or writing with pens and using paper – even in areas where broadband access is plentiful.  Regardless of how forward moving the rest of the world may be there remains a need to provide service and support these IT have-nots.  Perhaps this becomes a means for differentiation, finding ways to work with businesses who are connected and those who are not, and leveraging the firm’s access and capability to deliver what the client cannot obtain directly.

Make Sense?

J

*The National Broadband Map is a tool to search, analyze and map broadband availability across the United States

Workflow is Essential in Document Driven Business

The popularity and proliferation of online applications and cloud computing solutions for business has transformed how organizations manage activities, people and resources.  The Internet-connected marketplace has introduced both opportunity and challenge for businesses of all sizes, and much of this focus has been placed on the management and control of digital documents and data.

Electronic document management has been commonly used in professional services business for many years, yet has not always been viewed as an essential technology to apply in the context of organizing and structuring the processing of the document.  As clients of these professional firms continue to generate and utilize a great deal of paper documentation and written information, firms continue their reliance upon paper files, shared drives, and other more traditional methods of organizing the work, and storing or controlling access to documents.  However, key trends in the industry are causing these approaches to be increasingly burdensome for professional service firms, including:

  • Need to support multiple offices, geographically disbursed team members, and mobile workers and devices
  • Increasing use of email as a primary tool for collaboration
  • Introduction of new risk elements accompanying new technologies
  • Increasing numbers of forms and document types coming from clients
  • Rising expectations of clients and increased market competition
  • Growing need for businesses to increase earnings and profitability with fewer resources
  • Increasing requirement for knowledge management supporting sustainability, creating the ability to retain and reuse best practices and work produced

Advances in the design and underlying technology supporting many document management solutions today have delivered great capability to firms adopting electronic document management approaches.

Benefits of implementation include the ability to create a centralized, searchable documents base which includes all client-related content, including email communications as well as documents and data files. Easy search, access, collaboration, and re-use of information are enabled, and complete audit trails may be retained. Electronic document solutions also reduce physical document storage needs, reducing costs associated with managing and storing paper files, and can better serve business disaster recovery and continuity initiatives.

While today’s electronic document management solutions may address many of the challenges involved in working with large volumes and varieties of documents and data, there are few solutions on the market which address fundamental issues relating to document processing workflows and how they are impacted by various business or data-driven events, or by the availability of people or resources to facilitate the process.

The growing problem facing businesses today is the volume and variety of information which must be organized, processed and archived. The market is sold on the idea that electronic communications and record keeping will simplify things, but the reality is proving otherwise. Businesses are hoarding information at unprecedented rates and with the ability to collect and generate increasing volumes of digital data, businesses have not simplified their information processing, they have only created a greater need.

Generating and collecting data is not the issue created, nor is ultimately the archival and storage of the information. Rather, the problem created is in organizing the work related to processing this ever-increasing volume of documents and data.

Businesses dealing with documents and transaction-based activities should not only attempt to structure workflows necessary to support the various processes, but must also seek to normalize as much as possible, developing a consistent and methodical approach to the work which results in predictable and consistently high quality service delivery.

The efficiency gained through this structuring and standardization of the work allows the professional services firm to achieve a greater level of profitability for outsourced processing engagements, which are often viewed as low-margin and low-profit activities.

Make Sense?

J

Read about Using Structured Workflow to Manage Offline Clients | Intuit Accountants News Central