Well, as advertised, the second full day of Accountex USA (or third conference day) was chock full of application news, awards, and a peek at what the future of the accounting profession will look like.
It’s a lot to take in for just a few days among colleagues and vendors, but no one comes to conferences such as this to stay the same (as we’ve mentioned), and hopefully the conversations and learnings at events like this will continue throughout the year. But I digress, let’s get to the fun part first ... the future.
Several years ago going to an accounting technology conference, the big buzz was around how mobile applications and this thing called “cloud” were going to revolutionize how accounting professionals work. It was a lot to take in at the time and there is still much of the profession, and their clients, that are just about getting there (with cloud and mobile, that is). All of that is about to change ... again.
Taking the tone from keynote speeches by known personalities, such as Jennifer Warawa, Sage executive vice president of product marketing, and Sleeter Group founder Doug Sleeter, attendees got a glimpse of what is coming to, yet again, disrupt the profession and business in general. For many here, they heard for the first time terms such as Machine Learning and Blockchain.
So, why do these matter to accounting professionals and their clients? As Warawa explained, “There is no longer opportunity for you moving your clients to the cloud, there is with Blockchain and Machine Learning,” she said, adding “cloud is just what is, we don’t need to talk about it anymore, don’t get run over by the next trend ... your clients will be looking to you for advice to figure out how Machine Learning and Blockchain will impact their business.”
OK, so what are these relatively new terms about? Essentially, Machine Learning is internal technology that can exist in financial programs or even everyday appliances that you can commuicate with via voice or text that will fetch necessary data and ultimately “learn” what your needs are, put forth suggestions of what improvements can be made, and so forth. The “scary term” for Machine Learning is more well-known: Artificial Intelligence. But, as Warawa stated, it should spell opportunity and not fear of replacement. More encouragingly, she said, “Don’t see the danger, see the opportunity. There has never been a more exciting time to be in this profession.”
And what of this Blockchain then? This is a slightly more confusing prospect, but still with a direct connection to the accounting profession. In the most basic terms, Blockchain is an uber-secure global public ledger, or as Sleeter put it “a global ledger of trust.” In fact, he went so far as to say “with Blockchain there is no bank, no government, you can add transactions after the auditor and notary approve it, and by that I mean encrypted math. No government or regulatory body on Earth can stop Blockchain from happening.”
Sleeter continued to note that in addition to the secure transfer of digital global currency (as with Bitcoin), Blockchain can and is going to have an impact on secure contracts and exchange of digital documents.
“With Blockchain, fraud is much harder, the cost of bookkeeping dramatically decreases, and humans can focus on analytics of good data,” Sleeter added. “At the end of the day, agility trumps ability in our profession. Where do you want to be?”
Again, this is all a lot to take in and I tried to offer it up in the simplest of terms, but trust me, we will be hearing much more around these two terms. Specific to Machine Learning, we’re already seeing examples crop up in accounting products from Sage, Xero, and Intuit with QuickBooks, and of course, in more familiar names such as Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Alexa (Amazon).
Now, onto the awards. What’s a technology-centric conference without talking about application awards? So, over the course of the year, Diversified (owners of Accountex USA) received thousands of submissions for its User Favorite Awards, which were, essentially, the products that users thought offered the best experience in their given categories.
Here below are the product winners and corresponding categories:
- QuickBooks – Accounting Software
- LivePlan – Business Intelligence
- Salesforce – CRM
- Ace Cloud Hosting – Hosting
- OfficeTools – Practice Management
- Expensify – Expense Management
- Bill.com – Bill Payment
- Boomr – Time Tracking
- BQE BillQuick – Project Management
- ADP – HR
- Fundbox – Funding
- Dropbox – DMS
- Sage – ERP
- Intuit Field Service Management – Field Service Management
- Citrix ShareFile – CAS Add-on
- Tax 1099.com – Tax Add-on
- Intuit Lacerte Tax – Tax Prep
- PayPal – Merchant Services/eCommerce
- QuickBooks Point of Sale – POS
- HighJump – EDI
- HandiFox – Inventory Management
- ServiceM8 – Industry Solutions
- Avalara – Sales Tax
- Receipt Bank – OCR/Data Entry
- Zapier – App Integrator
Another segment of product accolades were the Meridians Awards. According to Accountex, these were presented to a prestigious few vendors in the accounting technology space that have displayed excellence beyond their peers in a given award category. There are only four awards being given in 2016, by an elite group of thought leaders and managing partners of firms. These were:
- Best User Interface – Receipt Bank
- Outstanding Partner Program – Expensify
- Blue Ocean App – Rivio
- App You SHOULD be Using – Businest
Finally, the Accountex Practitioner Excellence Awards recognized firms and accounting professionals that displayed excellence in service to the accounting community. The award recipients in this category were:
- Caleb Jenkins, RLJ Financial Services -- Philanthropic Excellence Award
- Jillian Smith, CPA, KuberneoCPA -- Millennial Award
- BooXkeeping -- Forward Thinking Firm Award
Look for some more video chats with attendees and thought leaders in our next installment of Accountex USA 2016 coverage.