The rise of firms conducting outsourced accounting services as part or all of their business is due in some part to the availability of cloud products to enable the process.

Several representatives explained how they did it to mixed reactions during a panel discussion entitled “Create New Sources of Revenue with Cloud-Based Accounting Applications” at the 2011 AICPA Practitioners Symposium and Tech + Conference on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Panelists, including representatives from Blumer & Associates, Brinker LLC, SingerLewak, and LevyChin, all spoke about their experiences and viewpoints

Some of the key viewpoints from the panel included the following:

• “Invest your time and effort and learning the tools you are going to use. I spent at least three months to get started.  We do full finance and accounting in the cloud for our clients and plan to be there for many years.” — Cindy Brinker, managing director, Brinker LLC

• “Once the bumps are beyond you, the barrier of how far you can scale goes away. It then becomes up to you to leverage your skills. Also, the trend to continue to hold client data at your firm needs to move away. There is so much risk involved in that. You just don't need to be an IT department and take it on.” — Bob Green, partner and practice leader for SingerLewak's Enterprise Risk Management Services practice.

• “As an accountant you need to be in the cloud to be competitive. We don't all have the guts to charge what we are worth, and that is a big issue. ” — Jason Blumer, managing shareholder, Blumer & Associates

• “The most difficult way to get firms to move to the cloud is change management—be able to not just be sold but understand how it transforms.” — Darrell James, CEO, LevyChin

Several questions were asked of the panelists. The one that resonated the loudest came from a small firm practitioner who asked, “All I'm hearing is the cloud is there, and you are an idiot if you are not there. Where's the ROI?”

The panelists responded that it is not always a dollar amount and can vary from client to client. However, they all found that time and money were saved in the end.