As the face of accounting technology changes, so too does the myriad of challenges and questions surrounding the role of accounting professionals and the products and services they use.
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Accounting and related technology makers like FinancialForce.com are very much a part of the change that is occurring, given how people and companies are looking for ways to work more efficiently in an increasingly mobile world.
We recently spoke Jeremy Roche, chief executive of the cloud-based financial and accounting product maker and questioned him about how he feels the current environment is affecting his company and accounting technology overall, as well as where – if at all -- accounting professionals factor in.
AT: What is the biggest challenge facing your company today, and perhaps even accounting technology in general?
Roche: I think the biggest thing is managing growth, particularly recruiting people with the right skills in the right places. There are scarce resources out there and we need to look at what we [as technology developers] are doing with them; one step is training accountants in technology. Is it because of our growth that it’s more pronounced? We don’t know. I don’t think we’re doing enough to make it attractive to get the next generation of developers, where are my next product developers going to come from? Maybe it will be accountants who are getting trained in
AT: As a follow up, how are you addressing this issue?
Roche: We are actively recruiting across the whole business and targeting the consulting-type roles and even in sales we are encouraging people with qualifications to make the move into technology. Some are practitioners, but being where we are geographically it is challenging and I thin as we grow that challenge will be lessened.
AT: How do you see the role of accounting professionals affecting your business and accounting technology on the whole?
Roche: Over last 12 months we’ve seen a lot more investment of time in cloud-based technology from accountants. It used to be that most engagements we were in were IT leading accountants towards the cloud. Since then, more accountants are taking the lead themselves and that’s a sign of cloud technology maturing. I think more accountants have been exposed to cloud-based technology, whether it’s HR or payroll, at some point finance functions will move to the cloud so that exposure is leading people to look at the technology for their own use.
A lot of the conversations are becoming more interesting, not just talking technology, but the business benefits and often the CFO and the accountant are driving that conversation, not IT. This is a sign that the technology has matured to the stage that it’s less of a technology discussion and more of a business process discussion.
AT: How is social media impacting technology and the accounting profession?
Roche: This is the most interesting development for us. The social tag is a bit like cloud now, it’s a popular term, everyone is talking social but what we’ve really seen what it can do and the way we’ve evolved our thinking. You can lose an accountant when talking social because they think of it as Twitter or Facebook, but when you show examples of it within an application it begins to make more real sense.
It’s about the real time conversations that can happen while you are working on a journal entry or some part of a back office function. The social bit for us now is you have the accountant, the guy delivering whatever it is, the sales people, and the contract managers all around the information at the same time. The conversation also can stay within the transaction, that’s what makes it social. For the accounting industry itself it’s become increasingly important that they are involved in the social streets. We believe in the borderless accounting department and having that social aspect allows you to do that.
AT: Who or what is driving innovation now with regards to accounting technology?
Roche: I had a quick look at the ideas presented recently in our customer portal and the highest activity levels are from the tech-savvy accountants, they are the ones pushing the technology boundaries. I think the breed of accountants now leading the reviews and implementation of technology are really pushing us and other accounting technologies.
I can say a lot of our growth is in that a lot of those legacy systems are not supporting how business want to evolve. People are doing business differently so they expect systems that can keep up with the way they do things. Businesses have to adapt to the way they sell or reach customers as the costs of maintaining older systems are so high.