Early this month, AccTrak21 announced that it hired Michael Dickson as vice president of channel development, a position that promises to have its challenge in establishing a reseller program in a mature market.
Dickson, also incoming chairman of the Ohio Society of CPAs, certainly must have some energy because he continues as CEO of SysTrust Services Corp., the company that develops the standards for the AICPA’s SysTrust program. What is SysTrust? To use the official description, "SysTrust is an assurance service that independently tests and verifies a system's reliability."
With Dickson, who had previously been working as a consultant, hanging onto the CEO position at SysTrust, you have to wonder just how well that program is functioning if he is willing to take a full-time job with a high-risk venture like AccTrak. AccTrak has some smart people with Wayne Harding, formerly of Great Plains and CPA2Biz, as president, and Dave Bergstein, a tax software industry veteran who also worked at CPA2Biz, as sales and marketing vice president. (Harding was the founding president of SysTrust Services, but resigned and sold his stock when he took the CPA2Biz job.) And Introducing a new company to the American accounting market is definitely high-risk.
Yet, SysTrust looks like another of the AICPA’s many road-to-nowhere programs. SysTrust is not WebTrust because SysTrust seemed to have something going for it. It make a lot more sense. After nearly five years on the market, WebTrust, which was predicted to have 400 Web sites under its assurance seal in the first year, had 32 at last count. (From my periodic visits, I’ve never seen WebTrust get over 36 sites, that occurred about two months ago. Sites with seals includes VeriSign and two affiliates, and the AICPA and two Big Four affiliates.)
The principles are sound and certainly, many companies need some kind of standard-operating procedures (what SysTrust basically provides) when it comes to technology.
But SysTrust faces two major problems, the first of which is the AICPA’s approach to marketing. I remember a WebTrust proponent talking about how individual firms will market WebTrust. I refer to this as the Judy-Garland-Mickey-Rooney-approach. "Hey, there’s old clothes in the attic. Let’s put on a show and save the school." It just doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with WebTrust, SysTrust, or CITP. If the AICPA had a thousand Bennett Golds, a Chartered Accountant in Canada who has had more success than any other firm, WebTrust would have had a chance. The same is true for SysTrust. It needs proponents with marketing budgets that can deliver a national campaign.
The other problem is the delivery vehicle. CPAs with training can deliver IT assurance services. But so can IT personnel. And does SysTrust really set itself apart from other standards system?. Maybe. But where are the corporate endorsements, the press releases, the telephone calls from users talking about the program’s value? Neither the AICPA nor the SysTrust Web sites have statements, prominent or otherwise, such as "SysTrust helped us turn our business around."
And you just have a feeling that as risky as AccTrak 21 is, Mssrs. Harding, Bergstein, and Dickson, have picked a new employer that has a better chance of succeeding than either SysTrust or CPA2Biz.
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