Remember Y2K? Not the end-of-the-world Year 2000 hype, but the short-term business bonanza that the hype created for accounting software resellers?

Sarbanes-Oxley, mused a CPA at a major firm, could be the next Y2K because of its potential to create a short-lived demand for high-priced services from both CPA firms and resellers who are trying to cash in on its requirements.

During the height of the build-up to Y2K, which started as early as 1990, Cobol programmers were in high demand. The Cobol coders, whose careers had been made tenuous by the change in the mainframe market, suddenly found high-paying jobs that had them considering buying mansions one day. The next, this CPA continued, they were looking for homeless shelters after Y2K passed, the world didn't end, and the computer business was back to a more normal demand for what was an aging language.

It's clear from surveying firms for the Accounting Technology VAR 100 that CPA firms that made their SOX practices part of their technology consulting units are getting a big revenue bump. It's more about selling brainpower than technology. But it is very expensive brainpower in what is a fairly uncharted business arena.

CPAs are out there creating and testing internal controls. Accounting software resellers are offering their services to make sure data is secure from electronic and physical threats, and that systems do exactly what the vendors say they do, both in terms of how they compute and how the computing processes relate to business processes.

The end result, the doubtful CPA says, is that some firms have built up large organizations with very expensive talent who are supported by the very large bills that are reaching clients. Some VARs are getting the largest contracts they've ever seen in a segment that doesn't have a lot of good software tools. "You can get $25,000 for delivering anything," the CPA says.

Businesses, he continues, won't have to do anything resembling the scope of work now underway, once the initial flurry of activity has passed. And then there will be these very expensive organizations with a lot less revenue coming in.

Some high-talent help could be available pretty cheaply in a year or two.

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