As part of our Accounting 2.0 series here on CloudAve, we reached out to some accounting software visionaries to give us their take on the future of accounting/business software and how the eco system would look five or ten years out.
Heather Villa is co-founder of IAC-EZ (CloudAve review here) and she agreed to take part in this series. If you’re an accounting or business software visionary and wish to take part in this series – please contact us to discuss.
For more in this series check out this link.
The very first sentence of Jim Collin’s book Good to Great reads, “Good is the enemy of great.” That is a powerfully motivating line because it reminds us that we’ll never achieve the nirvana of a perfect plan. The best we’ve got is the good plan today and if we don’t move forward, we’re stuck.
This “good versus great” concept creates a tension in vision-casting business process software. On the one hand, we want to see far into the future to determine what it will be like to provide business process software in that world. On the other hand, we realize that we’re operating on the principle of the best guess and even then we still need to start somewhere… today.
So I hopped into my DeLorean, accelerated to 88 miles an hour, and saw into the future long enough to see some of the following concepts at work in business process software of tomorrow:
If you think that we’re providing customizable business process software today, just wait. Services Oriented Architecture – or “SOA” – is only now being implemented by large software vendors. In time, we’ll see this idea crystallize further (it’s still pretty fuzzy, unreliable, and misunderstood), and become increasingly granular while also becoming increasingly user-friendly, moving out of the IT departments and into the hands of middle management and then front-line staff. And then someone will come along to pioneer it down and make it available to midsize organizations and then smaller organizations. Some day, mom-and-pop corner stores will use the SOA concept to create their own business best practices to keep them aligned with the most profitable, most compliant processes and standards.
Integration is a funny concept because right now I believe we’re seeing the opposite – specialization. Yes, there is integration between communication devices and between some software, but it’s all pretty surface. We can get parts of one piece of software to talk to parts of another but it might require a patch or an API. But eventually (perhaps through the SOA mentioned above), specialized software suites from multiple vendors will communicate with each other seamlessly. Not only will integration be furthered between business process software, but it will also be furthered between other interfaces and business process software. One example might be: Shop at Amazon; right-click the “buy now” link to see a list of accounts you’d like to purchase with. Selecting a business account will result in an automatic flow-through of information to your bookkeeping software as well as your bank account.
This is another area where we’re just scratching the surface and it will benefit businesses in a number of different areas: A rough list of information might mean that a low-paid employee has to enter the content into the right fields before it can be used, but that is slowly changing and we’re seeing some progress there already with more on the way. Driving this change is Google, as well as other advertisers who want to integrate marketing into web content in different ways. But it will eventually become available in business process software to gather business data from disparate sources and harness it for organization to use.
Deep into the business
A fourth concept I’m seeing in the future of business process software is its inroads deep into the business. Today, different vendors are offering specific solutions to deal with specific problems. (Some vendors offer several solutions for several problems, other vendors offer a single solution for a single problem). Large software providers like SAP and Oracle fight for marketshare with various platform and middleware solutions. But eventually, I believe businesses won’t be self-contained units that are supported with software; rather, I think they will be thought of as interconnected pieces of software that work together to earn a profit. That might seem like a subtle shift of terminology but the difference is profound: New opportunities in business process software that we can’t conceive of today will be developed to create and service businesses that are stringing together their operations.
So, what does this mean for today’s business process software provider? It’s a tricky balance between vision-casting for a perfect tomorrow and moving forward with a “good” plan today. After all, today’s “good” plan is likely fraught with bugs, requiring patches, fixes, and constant attention. And yet, the future destination will never be achieved without making these initial, faltering steps.