Today, the accounting landscape looks very much like the environmental landscape of 20 years ago. Where once there might have been a debate about carbon emissions, global warming and rising sea levels, today a debate now rages about cloud software, security, functionality and usability.
During the environmental debate there were the doubters, the detractors, those with vested interests. And that is no different to what we see today with the debate around cloud, cloud technology and the efficiencies it brings.
Interestingly, the well known Technology Adoption Life-Cycle Model can be applied to the history of the environmental debate much in the same way than it can with the cloud debate. The model breaks down the adoption of technology over a period of time into five groups of people.
Twenty years ago there were placard-waving, “I will chain myself to this mulberry bush” greenies who most of us ignored because we were too busy. Over the last few years we have witnessed some accounting (and bookkeeping) practices adopting and advocating the advantages of online accounting software, and the third-party app ecosystem that exists around it. They are telling their clients that they must change the way they do things. They are modern day Bob Browns (?) and Bob Geldofs.
The Early Adopters
Fifteen years ago there were Prius-driving, “I won’t eat tuna” Greenpeace supporters. Now we have accounting firms getting t-shirts, a Twitter account, a nice website and fixed-pricing plans. And they are setting out to learn about different accounting software and cool add-ons, and not just rely on what they know.
The Early Majority
Five years ago there were the organic-chicken eating, “I sometimes re-use gift-bags” recyclers. And we now have firms sending their young managers along to accounting roadshows and workshops to find out why it’s spelled with an X and not a Z, if it is pronounced in-VIT-box or in-VITE-box, and asking them to prepare a PowerPoint explaining it all in layman’s terms.
The Late Majority
We are only now starting to see the turbo-diesel SUV owning, barn-laid egg loving brigade that buy a new green Coles bag each time they shop. And we are also seeing their accounting equivalent questioning who these new firms are on the BRW Top 100 and reading about another accounting roadshow season in the Financial Review print edition.
And lastly there will be the foie gras spreading, “Palmer might have a point on clean coal” minority that would never drown a puppy or use plastic bags to throw their rubbish into the oceans, that we may never see again. The firm of Kodak and Partners think that cloud is how high their corporate office should be.
But the technology adoption lifecycle is an important one. Supply must be able to keep up with demand. Innovation needs time to find a niche, and then evolve before early adoption.
Very often, between early adoption and acceptance by the early majority there is a period known as the chasm. Many technologies have reached the chasm, but have not crossed it. I have heard it said by some that online accounting is at this point – at the chasm. But by definition, this chasm is the period between early adopters (the technology enthusiasts and the visionaries) and the early majority (otherwise known as the pragmatists).
I don’t know about you, but I see accountants and bookkeepers as pretty pragmatic folk. And as far as I can see it, these pragmatists are already adopting cloud computing.
That chasm that they talk about was crossed some time ago. That boat has sailed. We are now approaching the tipping point – the point at which there is an inevitable mass adoption of online accounting, and it is just over the horizon.
With online accounting, the question is not if, but how soon.
Roger is CEO of Invitco, a cloud service that extracts data from supplier bills to import into accounting systems.