[IMGCAP(1)]Paring down, partnering up and planning for the future are all relevant topics this week, including my take on a recent trip to the Information Technology Alliance Spring Collaborative.

The past week has been full, what with my travel to the ITA 2013 Spring Collaborative then back to the NY Accounting Technology show -- oh, I have a few words to say about that too -- but let's get to the real key news first, shall we?

News: Top Sage partner Blytheco has Sage ERP and CRM VAR BrainSell take over its Sage 300 ERP Business. After years of being an Accpac(now Sage 300) partner, along with representing a myriad of other Sage products, Blytheco has effectively sold its Sage 300 practice to BrainSell. The Mass.-based firm will essentially take on all new business and Blytheco's existing Sage 300 customers, while Blytheco will conduct some marketing for the product, but ultimately referring the business to BrainSell.

My Take:  Admittedly Blytheco, much like Sage, is focusing more on "core products" in terms of investment and marketing. As a VAR Blytheco had to decide where it wants to put more of its time and money as well and with just 35 Sage 300 customers coupled with increased interest in X3 from Sage and Blytheco's customers, the firm decided to do just that. Blytheco also still has Sage 100 on the ERP side and plans to continue with that business, though admittedly its balance of Sage and non-Sage products are evening out -- some of which is by its own doing, some not. Blytheco took on SugarCRM and NetSuite in recent history and with Sage selling off SalesLogix and its Nonproft products -- which Blytheco also represents -- its non-Sage offerings are increasing.

News: ITA advances its next generation efforts with the addition of the GenNOW and ITA Technology Leaders(ITL) programs. The new initiatives are focused on expanding participation by younger professionals in the CPA firms, consulting reseller firms and technology vendor members.

My Take: So the 15 year-old organization of top VARs, internal technology leaders at CPA firms, and (increasingly) accounting/ERP technology vendors recognizes its members are getting older. I suppose many organizations at some point come to this realization, even the accounting profession in general is grappling with succession planning and general "aging out" issues. The point is simple: you can either make a plan and stick to it or just talk about it until younger members (potential and otherwise) find somewhere else to go or form their own group. ITA still has value, after all they do represent many of the innovators and thought leaders at top firms, product makers, and VARs in the accounting-related technology space. Their efforts, their voice, their presence has a strong stake in how the profession (CPA and VAR alike) can move forward. But if they age out with no one there to take over, or their views simply don't evolve then the purpose simply dies. Efforts to make the ITA skew younger and welcome the true future leaders have not always gotten off the ground, but I think this time -- if they can stick to it -- they may get it right. GenNOW is about getting the younger minds together to find out what ITA can and should be doing to continue the group's influence after their mentors and elder partners move on, while the ITL program will help ensure that leadership training is in place for those who need it, regardless of age. After attending this year's Spring Collaborative I think these efforts have a chance. Membership clearly realizes the grey hair in the room and it was actively commented on throughout the conference(not by me per se, I'm greying as we speak). We'll see how it works out, I hope it does.

News: Cloud-based social CRM vendor Avectra has joined the AICPA's Trusted Business Advisor Solution Program and will be endorsed as a preferred provider of constituent management services for CPA firm clients. Avectra is also currently being used as a back office management tool by the AICPA itself.

My Take: Avectra seems to be getting a lot of attention, from VARs and CPA firms alike. It's not exactly a CRM system, but more of a sector-specific (that mainly being nonprofits and other organizations) management tool. It's also been a little while since the AICPA added to this program is it seems that of late it's efforts around the cloud have been more about process than products. Just take a look at their DigitalCPA efforts, for example, which is predominantly about showing firms how they can and need to look to technology to help evolve their practices and better serve their clients. This is a bit of a different take from "hey the cloud is great and here's a bunch of products that we belive can help you," which still has value to many firms but it's another level. That said, it seems the Program still has life and for the AICPA to actually be using a product that's endorsing as part of the program is further testiment to its impact.

Final thoughts: OK so I mentioned I went to the NY Accounting Technology show. Every year, always a good place to meet up with vendors who have supported us and possibly see a new face or two. Occassionally there's even a session or two that offers a nugget of useful information to our readers, but without getting into anything highly critical I will say that for the record if you are going to have a technology conference of Any kind these days(accounting or otherwise), WiFi access needs to be a priority. Perhaps it will be different next year, unless those who attend don't want it to be. 


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