The other day I was ‘click-baited’ into watching a video of a woman attempting to squeeze herself into a set of Spanx shapewear which was evidently not her right size. The video concluded with a demonstration of what being midriff-choked by a strip of industrial grade Spandex looks like.
Two things came to mind as I watched this display of mid-section strangulation:
1) Why would any self-respecting person humiliate themselves and put it on the internet? and
2) This is what it feels like being a global accounting firm trying to use the currently available accounting and tax software built for the private market.
Global accounting firms are hampered by several factors when it comes to utilising the software that is available for running a tax compliance business for the private market. Being global means enterprise level time-sheeting and billing systems are required, which don’t integrate easily or cheaply with the toolsets needed to process trust and individual returns.
This leaves the sections of such large firms who service the private market with a disjointed technology environment that suffers from the work being performed in one system with practice management elements in another. We can but look on with envy at smaller firms using fully integrated, dashboard led, accounting and tax systems.
So why can’t we use equally versatile systems?
Here comes my Spanx analogy: it is a problem of size. Just as our unfortunate internet Spanx- wearing-aspirant struggled to successfully get into her shapewear, it has been my experience that very large accounting firms struggle to fit into the accounting and tax tools at the private end of the market.
To expand the Spanx analogy (all puns intended), a large firm has to either buy a couple of sets and sew them together so that the item in question will scale (maybe a solution for our Spanx-challenged internet celebrity) or cut away sections, keeping only the essentials (being the webbing for our Spanx candidate, and the reporting and tax engines in ours).
The promise of Cloud platforms that scale to our size may hold the answer to a global accounting firm’s Spanx issues. An open platform, powered by rich APIs that can plug into enterprise level practice management systems, and which are agnostic when it comes to ledgers, is a vision for all of us responsible for catering to teams in large environments.
But this isn’t just relevant to the large players. The new paradigm of how systems in the Cloud are integrated is relevant for the whole private client accounting industry as it will allow all of us more options when putting together our tax technology ecosystems.
So what became of our hoping-to-be-svelte Spanx wearer?
When I left her small screen debut, she was calling out to her children for a pair of scissors, having abandoned all hope of salvation.
Accounting firms, I trust, will be more resourceful.