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
Xero is an almost two year
old SaaS accounting player that has visions of becoming a world player. Their
offering (CloudAve review here) is winning accolades far and wide and their founder and
CEO, Rod Drury, 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.
Where will accounting be in 10 or 20 years? Bill Gates once wrote: “We always
overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate
the change that will occur in the next ten.” I think we’ll see a huge amount of
change in the next few years. The last big change in accounting was the move
from DOS to Windows. Moving accounting online changes everything. Here are my
predictions for the next 3-5 years.
1. Online accounting won’t exist as a product category for long
When accounting moves online it doesn’t stay in its sandbox. Once you have
online accounting it naturally wants to link to everything else. Payroll, CRM,
your web site and line of business applications. When accounting is locked in a
desktop application only a few people use it in the back office. Online
accounting is multi-user, has different user roles allowing front office staff
in and links to all the other systems businesses use.
Small Business don’t do integration projects but in the SaaS world vendors
are encouraged to work together to integrate their products so small businesses
don’t have to. Some vendors may decide to develop the surrounding modules and
have full suites and others will make it easy to link with complimentary
solutions. Both models are valid.
Online accounting will become broader business management.
2. Bookkeeping will go away, slowly
Online systems facilitate Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) between banks,
suppliers and customers. Having the application hosted centrally allows the
vendors to continuously link to more systems and reduce manual coding. Only
brand new transactions should ever have to be coded. Even the smallest business
will have a near real time view of their financials.
Accounting remains the interpretation of the numbers, but manual entry and
coding of transactions will reduce significantly over the next few years.
3. Governments get very interested in online accounting
Centralized systems can dramatically reduce Government processing costs. As
they start looking at Standard Business Reporting they’ll see the power of the
centralized model which can be justified by reducing compliance costs and
4. Business Internet Banks will emerge
One bank will get the power of the web 2.0 model and expose their banking
services as a collection of developer friendly API’s and turn business banking
on it’s head. It will take competing banks 2 years to catch up until those
5. The Accountants channel becomes more important
When the credit crunch turns around, finance sales people won’t exist as they
did up until last year and there will be greater covenants on borrowing.
Accountants will play a key role in introducing finance into business and
reporting loan status.
6. New global leaders will emerge
There is no global mega company in this space. The incumbents will
eventually get there by acquisition but there is room for a few new players to
grab significant market share over the next few years as they are unencumbered
by legacy models. Zoho is one of the companies we’re watching as they are
executing around the space and we’re sure they’ll have a product in the market
soon. There is plenty of room however and lots of opportunity for niche and
vertical players as market size is so large.
7. It really will become software plus services.
For the next few years all the vendors are working on getting their web
architectures right. Parts of accounting will benefit from the power on the
local device so we expect to see some functions available and optimized on a
smart client, but the cloud will be working for you while you’re asleep.
8. The channel changes
New channels such as telecommunications carriers and banks become the channel
for accounting software. Retail computer stores will simply sell less software.
It’s difficult to pay a traditional retail channel under a SaaS model.
9. API standardization
A standard will emerge for the major business transactions such as Bank
Statements (beyond OFX), Invoices, Contacts etc. Some of this might evolve out
of XBRL or Standard Business Reporting as Governments get more involved.
10. Microsoft will enter the market
Microsoft is the only global software provider that already has a
relationship with the majority of small businesses around the world. They are
going to be player here, probably via an acquisition. There will still be room
for others as products go in different directions.