The idea of a CPA or accounting firm conducting regular bookkeeping or chief financial officer-type duties for their clients isn’t entirely a new concept.

In fact, many firms have had successful QuickBooks practices doing just this. But what do you do when a company outgrows QuickBooks, or even more, it can no longer afford a CFO or had to let one go recently. Enter the cloud.

It’s not clear yet whether this is the killer app that will launch accounting firms into the cloud for good, but you can’t deny that a trend is opening up as more firms are looking to cloud-based financial applications in order to take on the role of virtual CFO.

The big story here is that more firms, particularly mid-to-large regionals, are discovering they can utilize cloud-native accounting applications not only as an additional service for companies that lack or can’t afford a full-time CFO, but as an entry way to offer clients more of a firm’s services and expertise.

Perhaps it’s a perfect storm of cloud accounting applications maturing and the economy still causing many SMBs to figure out better ways to cut costs and improve their business; i.e., do more with less. Regardless, the laundry list of firms jumping into the role of virtual CFO is growing and impressive, and the vendors are well aware and setting their sights accordingly.

Intacct, for one, has been front and center in this movement recently, signing on the likes of SingerLewak, Clifton Gunderson, Eide Bailly, and even RSM McGladrey as partners.

All of them had become familiar with the cloud-based financial and accounting service provider due to their clients’ own demand for outsourced C-level services, which have in turn opened up the door to marketing other firm offerings.  In addition, these firms and others have even opted to be VARs for Intacct, adding even more revenue opportunities for themselves.

Intacct is not the only cloud vendor on the block enjoying attention from accountants looking for non-premise accounting solutions to use and offer. NetSuite, for one, has been targeting accountants of late, garnering partnerships in top firms including Hein & Associates, Baker Tilly, and Eide Bailly; all of whom see the potential to become a reseller and C-level service provider.

You can expect FinancialForce and Acumatica to enter this game as well, as both have indicated a similar type of interest in the accounting community. To me, all of this points to the fact that it may not be long before we see accounting firms come back into the VAR game in a way not seen since before SOX. We’ll have the cloud to thank for that too.


For more on cloud computing, visit the Cloud Computing Exchange.

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