The Future of Small Business Accounting (is now)

by Lynnea Bylund on January 1, 2012 · 4 comments

Kacee Johnson, at her Cloud9 Real Time Blog, recently summarized a talk by accounting tech guru Doug Sleeter of Sleeter Group.

Sleeter makes some excellent points about the future of Cloud Accounting, the breathtaking pace of new add-ons that enhance QuickBooks and other accounting applications, and whether you and your firm have what it takes to be ‘Lego Masters,’  those artists who excel at building beautiful and complex Lego art by selecting pieces from thousands of shapes, sizes, colors and textures, and assembling them using the right connections – a great analogy for how accountants  will succeed with clients in the new ‘chunkified’ world of cloud-based  accounting.

The main premise of Sleeter’s talk was that clients don’t just desire to be served, but rather they want and need to be lead masterfully into the new paradigm. And what is this brave new world for accounting clients? Sleeter says that these are some of the primary attributes –


Over the past three decades the accounting software market has been dominated by large, all-in-one accounting products such as QuickBooks, Sage Peachtree, Microsoft Dynamics, etc. The new crop of products and technologies however, nearly all of which are cloud-based applications, are “chunkifying” those large systems into specific business processes to provide more specific functionality and verticalization.

‘Zero Entry’ really?

The key to zero entry is that it moves us away from data entry, says Sleeter, and towards connecting business processes with the accounting system via software connections and data flows. We realize the goal of zero data entry by connecting customer-entered data, vendor-entered data, employee-entered data and automated recurring entries that free the “bookkeeper” from entering data.

By combining the concepts of chunkification and zero entry, we will see a dramatic change for the role of the bookkeeper. Although the bookkeeper role won’t completely disappear, the role will change from being the expert on how to enter transactions efficiently to how to manage transactions and other “data flows” from several cloud-based “chunks” of the system.

‘Collaborative Accounting Services’

Accounts and bookkeepers must focus on how to collaborate with and serve clients in ways that were simply impossible just a few years ago.

To sum it up –

In this fast approaching brave new world, cloud accounting provides the perfect platform for both accountants and clients to work collaboratively on the same data at the same time from anywhere in the world. By centralizing the client’s data in the cloud, surrounded by robust security measures (both physical and network security), accountants can provide their clients with the same features and capabilities they used to get from their premise-based systems, but in addition can work collaboratively with clients and manage their business information.

The Payoff for You and Your Clients

The process of getting from today’s world to this new, cloud-based, collaborative world may be disruptive to your practice and to your existing clients, in the end the payoffs will be huge.

The key payoff is that by focusing less on teaching clients to enter data, and more on helping them implement zero data-entry systems, everyone becomes more efficient. Your clients can focus more on growing and managing their businesses, and you can move up the value chain and provide high-value business consulting services like business analytics, real-time dashboards and management consulting.

Remember, the new accounting paradigm is coming and its the early birds who get the greatest reward.


1 KaceeJ January 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Thanks for the repost, Lynnea!

2 Richard Phillips January 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

Thanks for sharing Kacee’s post Lynnea. Online accounting gained a lot of traction in 2011 so it will be interesting to see how quickly it becomes the standard in 2012. Doug raised a lot of great points but by far the most important for advisors (and something we’re seeing globally as accountants and bookkeepers go online) is the last – where the opportunity to offer higher value business advisory services is created through the collaborative, realtime nature of online financial data. Bank feeds make this possible and should be the entry point for cloud accounting vendors. Bringing advisor tools into the same client accounting software is also changing the playing field as the software is only paid for once – but that’s a whole other conversation…which of course we (Xero) love to have.

3 Catalyst QuickBooks Editor January 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Richard, thank you for your sage (no pun intended) comments and observations!

4 Drew Shobbrook April 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Using cloud based software and API on the internet the clients gain from getting combined experience where they can pick the software that works the way they work. xero and saasu have great API and these days bookkeepers and accountants need to know how these work so that business processes can be automated.

There is also the cloud storage some of the cloud software make good use of allowing businesses to go paperless, xero and saasu have also allowed intercompany payment remittances to cut down on paper and bookkeeping time.

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