As CPAs embrace technology to boost their practices, software providers are improving and growing their solutions to meet those practitioner and client needs. Here, in no particular order, the largest of those tech trends impacting accountants in 2014.
As more companies moved to the cloud, security concerns followed, especially in the wake of several high-profile data breachesranging from Home Depot to Sony. These hacks kept the topic top-of-mind for consumers and practitioners, as well as vendors that worked to beef up their data protection and client advisement on security best practices.
A mobile-first strategy was often more heavy on the lip than the service, but software providers are increasingly budgeting for todays anytime-anywhere reality. Intuit devoted part of its inaugural QuickBooks Connect event to a developer hackathon, NetSuite continues to honor the most successful developers on its cloud platform, and they both offer an open API playground to foster continued innovation. Even companies without such robust app marketplaces are beginning to lead with app development, instead of lag behind.
While Bitcoin is still young enough that its full impact has yet to be felt on accounting, financial professionals are still preparing for the reality of digital currency. And as software providers continued to announce new integrations with payment services like Square, the debut of ApplePay made virtual swiping a mainstream activity--and a vital functionality.
Training Toward the Cloud
Intuit pushed its customers toward the cloud with the unveiling of its revamped QuickBooks Online, but, with enough Pro Advisors still clutching their desktop versions, the company assured those legacy users they will not be phasing it out anytime soon. Providers like Sage also recognize the lagging cloud adoption curve, nudging customers toward online solutions that rival their pure-cloud competitors, while offering hybrid models to temporarily bridge the gap.
Accounting software providers continued to expand their ecosystems in 2014, with the largest vendors doing so through myriad acquisitions. The hottest purchases were payroll companies, with Intuit picking up U.K.-based PaySuite and Acrede, Xero acquiring Monchilla to expand services in the U.S., and Sage purchasing PayChoice. NetSuite, meanwhile, unveiled its own next-generation payroll service for large enterprise customers.
KPI Insight & Advisement
An advisor is only as good as their data, a fact many software providers have recognized in equipping accountants to fully embrace that role through more comprehensive dashboards. These analytic hubs not only increase accountants visibility into their clients financial health, but break the big data down into more digestible, and relevant, key performance indicators.
Cloud adoption has given companies like Intuit, previously limited overseas, an open platform for international growth. Globalization and its attendant tax complexity enabled experts like Avalara to add the funds, executives and partnerships necessary to support its in-demand solutions for international calculation and filing. Xero also looked overseas, but from its lucrative New Zealand and Australia foothold to greater U.S. penetration. The company faced an obstacle with the departure of its North American head Peter Karpas, who had been angling for a U.S. IPO, but continues its aggressive push into the market.