Knowing the Tech Talk

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There's always a question of just how much technology accountant professionals should know. How interested should they be in topics such as Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management, and other concepts from the happy land of three-letter acronyms?

Probably very, although it does not always seem obvious.

There's a product in the market called SageWorks that provides basic analysis in plain language so that CPAs can advise clients on how to improve their financial performance. It will say things such as "The cost of goods is too high." It's a good primer that produces in plain English what a lot of fancier packages do in a more robust way with dashboards and alerts.

Partner Insights

But outside of doing mathematical manipulation, how do you tell a client how to reduce cost of goods and improve turns? That's where understanding technology comes in, because it is nearly impossible to improve many basic measurements without understanding the way technology accomplishes these things.

Firing Clients

One school of thought says that firms should keep only their A-level clients. However, that seems harder in bad economic times.

But with the economy improving, is it time for CPAs and technology consultants to give the boot to C-level and worse clients? And do firms really make money on those folks anyway? Senior Editor Richard McCausland touches the appropriate bases in "Pruning the Client Base."

And with the economy improving, do clients want to see their investments brought together in one central place via account aggregation? Carly Lombardo writes about aggregation tools in "Account Aggregation: In the Loop."

With more investments worth watching, it's also time to check out the products in this month's "Portfolio Management Software" review.

How hot is Customer Relationship Management? With reports of reseller sales rising 50 percent, "The CRM Boom" is more than hype this year. What is driving it?

Speaking of hot, industry-specific competencies are all the rage in the financial services world. Are tax software developers going along? McCausland looks at the issue in "Tax: A Vertical Perspective."

Finally, Accounting Technology goes where no publication has gone before, in "Bob Scott's VAR 100," the first-ever ranking of accounting software resellers by sales volume.

Consider the cost-of-goods issue. If you stock too much inventory or carry too much outdated inventory, that changes cost of goods, which changes gross margins, which changes profits--just everything that really counts. How can someone serving a client for whom inventory issues are important give the kind of advice that will result in process improvement, without understanding the basic concepts of modern Supply Chain Management and at least being able to talk to a consulting firm that will install and tune the system?

Similarly, how can an advisor not understand the basics of Customer Relationship Management? CRM impacts the way a business sells goods and services. It translates the impact of sales calls and marketing campaigns and the way numbers stream into the accounting system, which lets owners know how their operations are performing.

Business does not operate independently of technology. It never did. Introducing any new technology changes the way processes work and inter-relate with other processes. Business analysis cannot operate without considering the impact of technology. It never could, although it takes many advisors time to understand that they must move beyond the numbers.

This may just be another way of telling the old story that financial advisors who wish to profit in the current economy must go beyond totaling the numbers-- preparing tax returns and financial statements--they must move into value-added services. With low-level jobs, such as data entry and data manipulation more and more moving to places such as India and Eastern Europe, financial advisors increasingly need to become experts in business process analysis and re-engineering, if for no other reason than to be able to co-ordinate with other advisors who have such expertise.

After all, isn't it a lot more fun to be able to tell clients how to fix something, not just that it needs fixing, and to point them towards the right tools? Or even help them use the tools?

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