[IMGCAP(1)]Cloud computing is changing the way CPA firms serve their clients, and while there's no question that competition among vendors is fierce, there's a new phenomenon developing: those same vendors are working hard together to better serve their CPA customers. 

We're at a development stage where the profession is beginning to see real benefits from collaboration among the leading players in the cloud accounting space. That's why it's so vital we actively support what game theorists call "coopetition," a shared effort by competitors to advance a new industry or technology. In this way, a rising tide does truly lift all boats. 

There is growing realization among CPAs that the cloud is revolutionizing client accounting services, a trend that represents real opportunity for firm growth. The enthusiasm we continue to see from practitioners is one measure, and it's clear we're near the inflection point Geoffrey Moore talks about in the technology adoption cycle he first charted in his bestseller Crossing the Chasm

But we sometimes get ahead of ourselves. There's still a lot work to be done to make technophobic firms willing to get on board. For cloud accounting to become robust and mature, we have to continue to make the benefits more transparent and continue to lower the barriers to entry. 

What does that mean? We have to make the technology easy to adopt, with topnotch training to make sure firms, and their clients, get full value from the switch. And we need to have products that work well together. No one wants to have separate sign-ins for multiple applications or a set of cloud-based solutions that - no matter how powerful - aren't really integrated. 

All of that interoperability and innovation will require lot of shared mind power and shared purpose by the profession's cloud community. It won't just happen in a vacuum.    

The good news is that vendors have an incentive to come together to strengthen cloud accounting. We've all witnessed snafus from a single company in a tech-related field that can have profound implications for the entire sector. Setbacks can blunt progress, but successes on a unified front can hasten adoption; it's just common sense.

So how do we capitalize? By having more events that bring the decision makers at cloud-related companies that serve the professional tax and accounting community, as well as key visionaries from our profession under one roof. Having events like this are just good business and they are starting to happen. 

Coopetition between vendors means better service to you and your clients and, ultimately, better sales for the vendors. So the next time you speak with your cloud vendor, thank them for going above and beyond in adopting the "spirit of coopetition."    

Want to be part of the ongoing dialogue? Drop me a line. 

Greg LaFollette is vice president of product strategy for CPA2Biz, the technology subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs. He will also be a participant in the upcoming SaaS Executive Roundtable event hosted by CPA2Biz Jan. 29-30, 2013. This event will bring together many of the cloud vendors that serve the tax and accounting profession, as well as key accounting technology visionaries and influencers.

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