The general wisdom has been that accounting firms in large numbers walked away from deep involvement in technology as the new regulatory climate made the high-tech world less hospitable. But not all firms walked away, and I have felt that something else was at work, particularly when firms withdrew from reselling technology. They didn’t give up on technology. They dropped over-distributed products and withdrew from markets in which it was increasingly hard to make money.
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And despite the fierce competition, some did quite well—there were five accounting firms among the top 10 reselling organizations listed in Accounting Technology’s VAR 100, published in April.
However, despite that track record, there were very few accounting firms from No. 20 to 100. And it was the midsize to smaller firms that fled the technology business two or three years ago.
It always seemed unlikely the accountants could stay away because the information they work with exists in the form of computer data. And if clients expect accountants to help them solve business problems, they undoubtedly expect them to have some ability to answer technology questions.
In the last two months, there has been a notable pickup in firms announcing additions to their technology consulting staffs, the creation of new units and the addition of products lines.
Executives like Taylor Macdonald, who heads Deltek’s channel recruitment effort, and Michael Park, the Microsoft executive who has 10,000 or so resellers under his wing, both report the return of the CPAs to the technology business.
In fact, Park, interviewed in March at Microsoft’s Convergence user conference, opined that accounting firms could be a one-stop shop for their clients.
“A lot of providers not in the technology domain are being pushed into technology,” he noted
There are going to be differences in this round. There is little likelihood that firms will return to reselling software the way they did in the 1990s when Sage’s MAS 90 was offered by thousands of accounting organizations. Nobody wants that — the accounting firms, resellers or the vendors.
The best way to get back into technology is in areas where firms can make money. There are certainly opportunities with specialized software firms like Deltek, which markets accounting applications for project-oriented organizations. Deltek has a CPA Accountant Network and Consulting channel and some firms are members of both. It also seems likely that QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, Intuit’s mid-market product, is likely to pull more firms back to the technology fold.
Another thing that may make this more lucrative for firms is the Web. If they can spend more time worrying about technology-related business issues and less time worrying about hardcore programming and pulling cable, they will have a greater chance of succeeding.
Editor Robert Scott also writes “Consulting Insights,” a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It’s insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: subscribe.webcpa.com. You can also visit us at www.accountingtechnology.com