2017 was a big year for cloud integrators. In previous years the term “cloud integrator” wasn’t well known. But last year accountants started to actively seek out cloud integrators. Either they had tried helping clients implement solutions themselves – and it was much harder than expected – or they had decided to just focus on accounting, be it doing tax returns, compliance, monthly reporting and so on.
But what’s next for the cloud Integration industry? Here are my predictions for 2018.
1. More apps, more cloud integrators and more content
Think that “information bloat” from thousands of addons and apps is bad? It’s going to get worse. The list of apps that connect to Xero and QuickBooks Online grows every week – and that’s just the official software solutions. There are hundreds more with connections available that just aren’t certified.
There is no doubt that there is an opportunity for more apps. Businesses increasingly want to move to the cloud because they see the benefits of doing so or are sick of paying ongoing server and internal IT costs.
Alongside the influx of new apps and cloud integrators there will also be a flood of content trying to get your attention for these apps. No matter how good an app sounds, make sure that you do your research and your testing to ensure that it’s the right solution for you.
If you don’t have the time or expertise, engage an experienced cloud integrator to help you find the cloud solution for your business before you waste your time and money on the wrong one.
2. Software vendors doing more implementations
We have all experienced the growing pains of the cloud software industry over the last few years. Cloud integrators have overcommitted, software companies haven’t trained support staff fast enough and unfortunately, you can’t become a successfully cloud integrator overnight.
We started out with clients needing inventory management. It takes considerable time to learn the solutions available to an expert level.
It’s not just about knowing the solution yourself but knowing how to sell, implement, train others and support everyone involved – to an expert level.
Software vendors have been burned by unsuccessful implementations. Sometimes it is the fault of the software. Sometimes it’s the fault of cloud integrator for not providing the correct setup, implementation, training and support, not the software itself.
Software vendors will subtly push away from partner referrals and increase their direct implementation and training services. Software vendors don’t want to bear the pain of rookie cloud integrators ruining the reputation of the software and increasing their attrition rates.
3. More customisations, less generic automation
As cloud integrators have honed their skills and their systems they have looked at automating their training and support processes. This may reduce the price of implementations, but low-cost services aren’t likely to develop a system to its fullest potential.
Clients need to feel supported. They need to ask questions and feel comforted that they have all the resources they need to hit the ground running with their new cloud system. To provide higher levels of service, cloud integrators will start focusing on more personalised connections with clients, more powerful implementations and less generic automation.
The time for lite training and fluffy webinars is over.
4. Partner programs will become more expensive and more technical
Along the same lines as above, software vendors are sick of getting burned by rookie cloud integrators. They will demand partners meet higher certifications to guarantee standards. The barriers to entry to become an implementation partner with many software companies will be more expensive and more rigorous.
Cloud integrators will need to become more serious about their business and know niche solutions to an expert level. It will improve the quality of partners doing the software certification programs because the training is becoming more focused, more technical and more practical.
5. The term “cloud integrator” will become recognised globally
Our recent visit to the US in late 2017 was an eye-opener. I have seen the growth of our industry first hand over the past nine years. Australians and New Zealanders are open to the idea of consultants who can help you find the right solution and manage a software project.
Here’s what I found in the US. Cloud accounting adoption increased substantially after dramatic improvements to QuickBooks Online in 2016-2017. So has the idea that apps are needed to make QBO even better.
In the US, they have already cottoned on to the fact that apps and cloud accounting go better together from day one.
I stood in a room full of hundreds of accountants at QBConnect (Intuit’s annual QuickBooks conference) who wanted to learn about how to select apps for clients. Over 500 people easily at a conference for “new” QBO advisors and users. You have to be lucky to get half that in Australia at Xerocon which has double the number of attendees.
But here’s what was so interesting. The US has effectively two professions in their massive traditional software industry that we would consider for the role of a cloud integrator in Australia. They have “selection consultants” – who help the client select the right software solutions, usually providing a choice of two to three, and then introducing the client to the software vendor to make their final decision.
The chosen software vendor either assists the business to implement their solution or introduces them to an “implementation partner”.
As cloud integrators we do both – help find the solution and implement it. In the US the concept of a cloud integrator is also limited by the historical understanding of which services you need to move to new software.
Many US business know they need a cloud integrator and they need apps to improve their efficiency and profitability. But they don’t know how to find those people that can help them. Throughout 2018, you will see the term “cloud integrator” become much more common globally as demand for a smarter solution increases.
2018 is going to be an exciting year for the cloud integration industry as it booms across the world.
If you are working with clients that need to move to the cloud, ensure that you do your research and find the right cloud integrator that suits your clients and your business.
Image credit: TW Solutions