[IMGCAP(1)]Mergers, manufacturing integrations, and partnerships abounded this week plus my take on what to expect at the upcoming AICPA Tech + Symposium.
First, as always, I think we should get to the news -- at least the events that I felt were of most interest that occurred this week and there were a few.
News: Sikich has purchased the technology consulting practice of Pannell Kerr Foster of Texas P.C. (aka PKF Texas). Effective June 1 PFK Texas's Houston-based technology concern became a part of Sikich -- one of the top Microsoft Dynamics VARs in the country. Sikich will retain all eight of PKF's technology consulting staff, including leader Greg Price who becomes a partner in the Sikich technology practice. PKF had the technology consultancy for 13 years, primarily representing Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
My Take: In some ways, this deal was a no-brainer for Sikich who over the years has had many a turn on the M & A wheel, both as a CPA firm and a VAR. In fact, to quote Jim Sikich himself, "We've had over 40 M&A transactions over the past 15 years and this one was by far the most seamless." One of the reasons was likely that this didn't come out of the blue. The two firms had known each other and worked together on deals that made sense for Sikich to do or assist with (it being significantly larger and offering more products than PKF). And on the public accounting side the two firms are members of the Leading Edge Alliance, so familiarity was hardly an issue. But the reality of being a VAR today is a song that has been sung before -- margins are not what they used to be and smaller firms that are not able to expand, specialize or partner are having a much harder time existing without entertaining a merger option. Last year by best estimates PKF's technology practice was under $3 million, and while it may have certain industry expertice in a growing market (a point of attraction for Sikich) they only handled one product (NAV). So, certainly one of the top Dynamics VARs in the country would find it attractive enough to enter a market it's not really had a permanent presence in, or the specific industry expertice, through a simple purchase. Now Microsoft gets an even bigger partner, Sikich moves further up the ranks, and PKF gets to, essentially, stay in business. Everybody wins.
News: Intacct has signed a partnership with manufacturing software developer Manufacturing Information Systsms(MISys) to deliver a manufacturing system for midsized businesses by integrating the two flagship products.
My Take: Well, it seems as though Intacct has found an answer to anyone complaining or concerned that they didn't have manufacturing -- something some VARs in particular claimed was a problem among that customer set. It's also an issue that some VARs have said even kept Intacct from -- in their view -- being a true ERP offering. While the jury remains out on that, this is a positive move when your options are basically build it or integrate it. Intacct has been successful in the integration department with the multitude of partnerships it has with invoicing, CRM, and now manufacturing among many others. So now it can say, "Yes, we now offer a manufacturing system solution."
News: Cloud financial and accounting software company FinancialForce.com has partnered with global business consulting firm Bluewolf with the goal of helping companies access and enhance visibility into data that improve bookings-to-billing cycles and enrich customer engagement.
My Take: OK, so some of you may not know who FinancialForce is or does, but this deal could help change that on some level. So quick tutorial here: They're a cloud financial and accounting product with some similarities to Intacct, particularly with its strong interest from the CFO set, and has been in the market under this name since about 2010. They are not owned or controlled by Salesforce.com, but the company does have an investor stake (along with ERP product maker Unit4 Coda) and the product is built on the Force.com platform. All of that aside, it needs some recognition and one way to do that is throught the partnerships it signs. As I mentioned, this one should help particularly because it has linked up with a global business consulting firm who plans to introduce FinancialForce.com to its clients and use it specifically to provide cloud-based applications and services to joint customers with the goal of linking up front and back office data for them. Couldn't hurt.
Finally, as I mentioned, we have the Las Vegas-based mega-con that is the AICPA's 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit. I know, you need a drink of water after saying that, but it is the largest opportunity for CPAs to get together and learn new strategies on practice management, technology, and marketing -- not to mention the high degree of networking and new product ogling.
From my perspective though, I'm there for the tech as I've always been (ok, and the networking and new product ogling too). I'm planning on giving everyone the news of the day while I'm there, though from my briefing schedule I can say -- on the product side anyway -- it won't be much. What I'm expecting is lots of talk about BYOD, security, the cloud and mobility in general and some overlaps with how technology comes into the conversation when talking about practice management issues. Everyone, at least those that are likely to attend this event next week (actually it unofficially kicks off on Sunday, June 9), seems to be getting pretty comfortable with what exactly the cloud is, as well as some of the other new technologies that are out there. The problem is still what to do with it and how to make money with it without it becoming a huge (for those still hourly billing) non-billable time suck. We'll hear talk of outsourced this and virtual CFO that, but I have a feeling that's only the beginning for where new technology will play a role in the CPA profession. Admittedly, there are some practitioners with little to no interest in bookkeeping, virtual or otherwise, so where do they fit in? Looking forward to speaking to more of them, finding out and of course sharing with you all.
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