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Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. His business interests include a diverse range of industries from manufacturing to property to technology. As a technology commentator he has a broad presence both in the traditional media and extensively online. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

More about Ben here.

5 responses to “Finding a Babel Fish for Data”

  1. Martin Kleppmann

    Nice write-up, and I’m delighted to see so much interest in OAccounts. An open ecosystem of accounting software and third-party tools would be a benefit to everybody, and I hope that by working together we can create this ecosystem. Look forward to hearing more from you on the subject.

  2. Dennis Howlett

    @ben: I’m sorry but you’ve grossly misrepresented what I said. Let me quote:

    “Time and again, the software industry has shown itself incapable of finding standards on issues that make interoperability a reality. We’ve been talking about XBRL for years and only now is it showing signs of life.”

    It took many years to get anywhere close to open standards and even now they have a dreadful habit of being bifurcated. There is nothing about saas that qualifies it as unique in that regard.

    I also said: “API’s certainly help in the development of other applications. Check what Freshbooks has been doing with partners like Basecamp, Outright and IAC-EZ. Check what Kashflow has done with and others. I said the other day that Kashflow could become a platform. But then equally it might plough its own path and add on the very features that others are developing. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.”

    That’s where the industry is now. I then went on to say:

    “I see the point of having standards for the movement of data between services like Mint, PayPal and the accounting apps. But if the complete lack of standards there is an indication of how well/badly the industry as a whole is doing then I’m afraid we could have a very long wait. That’s not to say it won’t happen, just that politically, let alone practically, the industry is in for one heck of an uphill struggle.”

    If you’ve spoken to any developers you’ll know that managing payment gateways alone is one heck of a struggle. PayPal is notorious for being ‘twitchy.’ That’s a genuine issue.

    I don’t believe any of those points are ‘simplistic’ but an exposition of the reality of software development.

    My final point about the schema they’re talking about is also potentially problematic because hub and spoke systems are notoriously difficult to scale though reasonably easy to engineer. Up to a point. That’s why companies like IBM have big businesses on those areas.

    None of what I say should be construed as a dampening down of the debate – as the lengthy comments seem to be doing very nicely.

  3. Ben Kepes

    @Dennis – my “simplistic” comment was a reference to your statement suggesting slow potential uptake for OAccounts due to relative long accounting application upgrade/switch cycles.

    I believe both SaaS integration, and SaaS delivery itself introduces a completely new paradigm to both of these factors which will significantly change the landscape.

    It’s a great discussion however and I applaud Martin’s thought leadership on this one

  4. MyCake

    we’d welcome this kind of standardisation. perhaps it will be the market that starts to demand this? If we (and others i’m sure) could offer SME’s the equivalent of Mintel or Keynote industry comparisons (though we could do it more regularly and in greater detail without needing to survey for it) then the pull that users would create should help demonstrate the opportunity rather than the threat of these sorts of standards.

    or am i just an idealist?