Cloud-based software developer NetSuite Inc. has created an accountants network program with the goal of educating the CPA community about the financial and ERP vendor's products and enlisting them as recommenders.

The program is free for accounting firms and their clients who are running NetSuite.

The company had, in its early stages, attempted to introduce an accounting-centric program, but is hopeful its newest incarnation will be more successful.

"Accountants were some of the earliest adopters of NetSuite going back to 2002," explained NetSuite vice president of channel sales Craig West. "In those days, we had a solution provider program, but then after SOX, firms had to dial back on receiving commissions on software licenses, so it was harder for us to reach them. Customers have started saying, 'I need a new accountant and I want someone who knows NetSuite.' Additionally, as accountants grow in our network, we will have a more available list [of accountants] who know a particular industry and know NetSuite that we can recommend to customers."

NetSuite users whose accounting firms join the program can provide the firm with secure single-seat access to their NetSuite account at their discretion.

Accounting firms in the program also get discounts on training classes, as well as a free NetSuite demonstration account. Firms can also receive benefits for referring new business to NetSuite, and be eligible for a 10 percent commission on the first year's license for new referrals.

NetSuite president Zach Nelson admitted that a formalized program has been a long time coming, but claimed that the company has never ignored accountants, and that now is the right time to make the push.

"Going way back to the NetLedger [the precursor to NetSuite] days, accountants were a big part of our strategy," Nelson said. "The cloud approach, we thought, would be a boon because they could handle more clients and the model would allow you to log into their account, handle more clients, and do the work remotely. It has taken longer to move [to the cloud] than we or anyone else would have liked. Now I think [CPAs] are getting it and they want broader services to offer. We always thought the accounting community would have a great opportunity with us."

CLOUD MIGRATION

The American Institute of CPAs' marketing services arm, CPA2Biz, has also made it clear that it wants accountants and CPAs to embrace cloud-based solutions, whether for themselves or their clients.

And while NetSuite is not a part of the portal's Trusted Business Advisor Solutions program, CPA2Biz president Erik Asgeirsson recognized the significance of the company's latest move.

"[The announcement] clearly shows the level of adoption which is occurring in the CPA profession related to cloud computing," said Asgeirsson. "In particular, cloud computing is making a significant impact to client accounting and providing virtual CFO services for small businesses. This announcement is another validation of what we are experiencing with our firms and programs."

Others active in the accounting community see the move as either an evolution in the company's lifecycle or, at the least, validation of the cloud computing space.

Accounting technology analyst Randy Johnston has followed NetSuite since its inception and recognizes that it was not always an easy sell to accountants. "It's nice to see NetSuite return to their roots of working with accountants, which is how the original product was developed," he said. "CPAs can be, and are, great recommenders when they are engaged. But getting them engaged is the trickiest part."

Barry Boese, a CMA at the Ontario office of Baac Office, was among NetSuite's first certified consultants in Canada, and played an integral role in shaping the new program. He had suggested the free accountant's login, and said that he had spoken with the vendor over the years about establishing an accountant program. Baac Office has been a NetSuite consultant for 10 years.

"Accountants and CPAs work mostly with the small and midsized businesses and they don't know ERP systems as well," Boese said. "They know QuickBooks or Peachtree and when clients are ready to move up to NetSuite, many CPAs will say 'Hey, I haven't seen this that much, don't use it.' This program is great because what they are really doing is getting more accountants familiar with NetSuite. It will take some time to make that transition, but it will happen more. We were a QuickBooks [consulting] shop at one time, and now we are a NetSuite shop." AT

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