Intacct will announce this morning an exciting partnership with the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) that will see small businesses enabled by the resources the AICPA has, and will see Intacct leverage the customer base that AICPA members have. Intacct sent me details of the partnership last week and yesterday I was given a briefing Michael Cerami, VP of Corporate Alliances, CPA2Biz and Dan Druker/Peter Olsen from Intacct (SVP of Marketing and Business Development and Senior Manager, Corporate Communications respectively).
More than just an onselling relationship however, this hook up brings either party’s core competencies to the table and provides SMBs in the US with a compelling offerings. Specifically the partnership means that;
- AICPA (and its subsidiary CPA2Biz) has named Intacct as their preferred provider for financial applications
- AICPA IP, in the form of business guides, benchmarking information, templates and the like will be directly accessible from within Intacct’s applications
- Intacct is developing a new version of their software to allow CPA firms to work in collaboration with their clients
- AICPA members will receive discounted pricing on Intacct’s offerings
AICPA has 350000 members, spanning 45000 CPA firms and so touches millions of SMBs throughout the country. CPA2Biz is a subsidiary with a for-profit objective of providing marketing resource for CPAs as well as developing tools that allow CPAs and their SMB clients to be more efficient and productive. CPA2Biz have been looking at building a partnership with a software vendor since their inception seven years ago. They originally looked at an ASP model and have spent the last year performing due diligence on Intacct and their offering.
Under the deal CPA2Biz will help develop vertical specific versions of Intacct (industry groups, customised charts of accounts etc) and drive adoption of Intacct via their members. In return Intacct is allowing CPA2Biz to become the only partner from whom SMBs can acquire Intacct. There is some risk involved in cutting out the direct channel in favour of a partner one – having said that it could be argued that the breadth of the AICPA membership makes giving up the direct path a small price to pay.
Intacct already has a wide selection of ecosystem partners – these partners will be pleased to hear this news – it build visibility for SaaS generally and should provide them with the ability to leverage the upside of the Intacct/AICPA relationship.
These sorts of partnerships are a fantastic way for accounting vendors to reach scale quickly without investing in their own marketing channels (or at least it gives them the ability to invest less). I have to admit that I’ve been sceptical about these sorts of channel relationships in the past – not because I’m dismissive of channel partners per se, but more because I have qualms about the desire and ability of accountants to understand the shift occurring in their industry and to look past their concerns about revenue loss to embrace the model.
I asked Cerami how he thought CPA2Biz would go driving adoption via traditional conservative CPAs. He answered by giving the example of Paychex, a payroll system that CPA2Biz entered into a relationship with a few years ago. On the back of their relationship there are now 25000 CPA firms and half a million SMBs using the Paychex product – proof that evangelism from a trusted source can drive powerful results.
Notwithstanding the tech-phobic nature of many accountants, this partnership is a real coup for Intacct as it gives them visibility far in excess of what they’d be able to. When I was briefed by Intacct in January they were sporting over 3000 worldwide customers – while 3000 customers is nice revenue on a product that sells for between $5k and $30k per annum, it’s not a disruptive figure. Having the AICPA as a channel partner could catapult Intact upwards.
Many accountants I know feel comfortable with the “bring a shoe box of invoices once a year” method and really don’t want to have collaborative relationships with their customers – this type of accountant will never be able to leverage the benefits that the online model can bring – where real time analysis and advice are a given and where mass aggregation of data allows hugely exciting and valuable new services which simply were not available under the disconnected model. I asked in the briefing about the future of this sort of “embedded rich content” especially when aggregate data is derived from large numbers of users. Intacct themselves were very bullish about this aspect of SaaS – expressing a desire to provide this functionality sooner rather than later. Cerami was a little more cautious however reflecting the conservatism of the CPA community.
We’ve seen some glimmers of what this aggregation can bring, a few vendors are providing aggregate benchmarking data to customers. But the breadth and value of these services that analyse mass amounts of aggregated data grows in step with the amount of data feeding into the pool – it’s relationships like that which Intacct is announcing that can provide the scale to enable these new data-set powered services. Let’s just hope that the professionals also buy into what aggregation can do.
An exciting day for Intacct – the hard work starts now!
(I really hate it when people don’t
respect embargoes which are, after all, a measure of the trust vendors
give us as commentators. The following was embargoed until tomorrow
morning but a less respectful source broke that embargo. I was given
the go ahead by Intacct to publish my piece early. Suffice it to say
that I will never knowingly break an embargo…)