Accountants have long sought better ways to get market information from their many software databases.

Tax and accounting professionals should be able to mine their databases, particularly their time and billing systems. It’s that kind of ability that separates practice management software from simple T&B. Moreover, they should be able to mine them from a central location, and not have to look in separate applications that must be separately updated. They should be able to take their tax client databases and figure out which clients are the best targets for selling additional services. Sound familiar?

The hot thing in the general business application market is Customer Relationship Management and the related Professional Services Automation.

Both take contact information and relate it to back-office accounting information to yield usable data for marketing and prospecting. Hmmm.

Whether or not this is the year of CRM—the year business starts looking seriously at the application, not buying it—is subject to debate. But the fact that Microsoft Business Solutions got 900 people to show up at a Toronto event while ERP (now often called ERM, enterprise resource management) events produce empty seats, shows the interest is real.

CRM or PSA have the promise of converging with practice management applications. Some observers think we will rapidly move into CRM tailored for various industries. Meanwhile, practice management for accounting firms needs a technological evolution. It started with small software companies providing divergent platforms to firms. Many have been acquired and are being integrated with suites. But we’re really not there in terms of systems talking to each other.

Here is a need that needs filling. Somebody, such as Microsoft or Best Software, should take their CRM offerings and calculate a way to link CRM with CPA practice management and time and billing applications. Why not provide the market data with systems that link to industry standards? Why not achieve this at the same time as we develop systems that allow one-click updating of the myriad of accounting firm databases?

Maybe this will be something that will come about through Web Services, perhaps from some ISV and will be done on the Web. Maybe, this can be accomplished in connection with the use of Microsoft SQL Server and will be done through LANs. Maybe, it will be accomplished through a marriage of technologies.

If Best intends to turn the former CPASoftware into its prime vehicle for reaching CPAs, linking Visual Practice Management to PSA or CRM makes sense. The same is true for Microsoft with Microsoft CRM, although the software giant does not market applications for CPAs. Likewise, if Intuit wants to increase its ability to sell multiple products to accountants, it needs to get these systems to work and play better together.

Would accountants buy such an application? Would you be interested if I offered you an application that could give you timely feedback on how to find new revenue-generating opportunities from your existing customer base?

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