Technology Trends for 2002
Tuesday, September 25, 2001
Visit the AccountingWEB Workshop Calendar for upcoming sessions.
The ever-expanding role of today’s CPA/Financial Executive often includes that of trusted technology adviser. Keeping up with the unrelenting pace of change in technology is a daunting task. The Technology Trends for 2002 session provides information that will help you stay abreast of the latest technology trends including:
- eSupply Chain Management
- Knowledge Management
- Electronic Based Financial Reporting
- Customer Relationship Management
- What's Next?
You can read the complete transcript of this session.
The material presented in this session will give you a fundamental understanding of these trends and their impact on CPAs and their clients as well as financial executives and their businesses. It will also provide resources to gain more information on the various topics.
September 25, 2001 Session Sponsored by: PricewaterhouseCoopers Comperio
Session Moderator: Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us today! I'm happy to introduce Lindy Antonelli, who will present a workshop on Technology Trends for 2002.
I would also like take a moment to thank PricewaterhouseCoopers/Comperio for sponsoring this workshop. Comperio is the world's most comprehensive online library of authoritative financial reporting and assurance literature. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial at their web site, http://www.pwcglobal.com/comperio.
Lindy Antonelli, CITP.CPA, brings over 13 years of systems integration and accounting software consulting experience to the table. She is the CEO of Access Technologies, a leading Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions Partner.
She has led her organization to many sales and service achievements, including Partner of the Year, Consultant of The Year, and Presidents Club. She is also a Certified Instructor for Microsoft Great Plains.
Lindy sits on the Illinois CPA Society's Consulting Services Executive Committee, and heads up the IT Special Interest Group for the Society. She is on the Technology Committee of the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Lindy has been recognized as one of "Tomorrow's Leaders Today 2000" and recently has recently been named an ?Influential Woman In Business of 2001"
Welcome Lindy - and thank you for joining us today!
Lindy Antonelli: Thank you to accountingweb.com and thanks to our sponsor, PricewaterhouseCoopers Comperio. Before we get into today's Technology Trends, I have just a few logistics for our virtual meeting:
- If you have a question, ask it!
- If you have ideas on other emerging technologies, let me know!
- I'm sure you know where the coffee and restrooms are!
Lindy Antonelli: Seriously, this is meant to be an interactive session so your participation is welcomed!
As businesses develop innovative strategies to compete effectively in the new economy, finance executives expect their roles to expand. More than 65% of nearly 1400 CFOs polled in a recent AICPA survey said that over the next 5 years, they anticipated taking a more active part in technology decisions and strategic planning.
Let's start off with some questions to our online participants. How many of us online today are in public accounting/consulting? How many in industry?
Skip Neill: we are attempting to break into tech consulting
L. Carl Dupree: accounting
Lindy Antonelli: What are you in now Skip?
Robert Keister: Public - but do tech consulting
Skip Neill: we are a small CPA firm with two offices
Lindy Antonelli: Sounds like most are in public now, great!
Lindy Antonelli: Looking into my crystal ball, we will explore a few of the top technology trends facing us trusted business advisors in the coming months. Today we will discuss the following trends:
- eSupply Chain Management
- Knowledge Management
- Electronic Based Financial Reporting
- Customer Relationship Management
- Final thoughts on what's next, things that we couldn't cover today but we will talk about in future sessions.
The idea of Supply Chain Management is pretty simple.
- Companies supply product
- Others are producing it
- Different companies are delivering it
- To come to the end result of selling the product
Lindy Antonelli: It sounds pretty straight forward, right?
What happens is when you start adding people and companies to the mix, the numbers grow and it gets a little complex. As we cross multiple companies you can imagine the barriers like brick walls that go up because companies are not freely sharing information with their suppliers, with their customers, even within their own organization.
So information does not flow very smoothly. You see things like lost shipments, delays in processing, vendor shipments not getting there on time, not reaching your customer needs and that makes for unhappy customers on the selling side.
The key to eSupply chain is to break through these barriers. It's really important to know breaking down walls means to get the information flowing between companies and between trading partners - starting with the supply and purchasing side going through your own company's internal manufacturing or distribution onto delivery, so that you are buying from your vendors what you need to produce and getting it to your customers in a timely fashion.
The concept has been around for a long time but the trend now is the electronic part of it. There are systems our there now that will handle this - that will actually manage all these relationships.
And in order to understand your supply chain you have to really understand and know your demand chain. Anyone out there know what a demand chain is?
A demand chain starts with planning, demand planning and supply planning. Demand planning is based upon real-time data and also sales projection, but this requires systems to be able to do this. Supply planning is actually determining the means of sourcing and delivering based upon that demand.
Knowing your demand helps not only in your fulfillment, which is fulfilling not only your product but your customers needs providing the goods and services that you need to provide but also collaboration and coordinating all the various elements we just say with the supply chain to make a successful execution.
Knowing demand - that's the key to supply chain management.
What we've seen is that the supply chain systems that are coming up most of them are based upon radio frequency (RF) technology. The basis of the solution is handheld units you can walk around the warehouse with to capture data.
The return on investment for these RF technologies is pretty quick ? 7-10 months for most solutions. It's hot and companies are looking to us as advisors to identify issues related to their supply chain, then solve their problems.
Knowledge Management (KM)
We'll start this trend off with a quote from Samuel Johnson - one of the most quoted men of the 18th century: "Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."
For as long as people have been keeping records, they've been struggled to find efficient ways to file their work. Ancient Assyrians, who scratched records on clay tablets, stored documents in pigeonholes in the walls of libraries ? writing a list of each room's contents on the wall. Sounds like the beginnings of a database, doesn't it?
Today's technology has advanced well beyond clay tablets, but databases still require pigeonholes of sorts - fields, with a list of the contents - a table. Once this data is stored, how do we find it again?
So we need to have knowledge, need to manage it wisely, need to have systems with integrity to be able to manage it. I'll start out by saying that companies no matter how small or how large can benefit from knowledge management systems.
In layman's terms, KM is taking what you have in your heads, and in your employees? heads, putting it into electronic documents, and organizing those documents in your computer system so you can easily retrieve them and build upon that knowledge.
The process flow goes like this:
- Collecting data - interviewing employees and organizing data files to start building this database
- Extrapolating and publishing information
- Analyzing the data - "e-analytics"
- Taking action - change your business accordingly!
Lindy Antonelli: Let's examine each of the steps in the process.
The primary tools today for collection are database systems such as accounting and business management systems, CRM systems and eCommerce databases. The best database platform for these systems is one that is flexible and powerful enough to handle the remaining tasks of extrapolating and analyzing the data. Microsoft SQL Server is our platform of choice.
To extrapolate and publish the information search engines are king!. Some of the ones we may think of are on the web as consumer-based products - Alta Vista, Google and Inktomi. They also have corporate editions available. Also, most of today's database systems have some extrapolation tools built-in.
To analyze data, your best bet is a report writer such as Crystal Reports, or an OLAP product such as Cognos. These tools are extremely powerful and are relatively easy to use. You need to have the analysis part of this equation easy to use so your employees will get on-board and use it!
Knowledge management technology won't revolutionize commerce, but it might reduce the likelihood that employees will waste time and energy searching for misfiled information. That sure beats tucking clay tablets into pigeonholes!
Scott Cytron: Lindy - how can firms pass this knowledge along to their clients?
Lindy Antonelli: We can start by helping them identify where their "knowledge" is stored. Then we can help them get their data organized and possibly moved to an integrated database or KM system. Finally, we can teach them how to use their KM systems and keep them up to date.
Scott Cytron: How does this become part of CPA services?
Lindy Antonelli: In the Advisory or Mgmt Information Services line of business. I see it in some accounting firms as an "IT division" for knowledge and data.
Scott Cytron: Sounds good, but what about a really small firm or sole proprietor?
Lindy Antonelli: Start with recommending a good accounting system for your clients - one that can capture not only historical data but proforma stuff such as CRM and forecasting. Some accounting systems, such as Great Plains, allow you to integrate document management right into the system. They also integrate with search engines for extrapolation and to report writers for analysis
Scott Cytron: That's good feedback. Thanks.
Lindy Antonelli: you are welcome.
Electronic Based Financial Reporting
Lindy Antonelli: Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), formerly code-named XFRML, is an open specification that uses XML-based data tags to describe financial statements for both public and private companies. Now, in terms we can all understand:
Bruce Woodard: Do you know of any other accounting programs that provide that information?
Lindy Antonelli: Any major system will offer at least some of the features I spoke of earlier. Are you looking at a certain system?
Bruce Woodard: Researching
Lindy Antonelli: This is a good place to start!
Lindy Antonelli: Now, back to XBRL - XBRL it's the EDI of the net. 4-5 years ago a couple of CPAs got together and said wouldn't it be fantastic if we could all be linked to each other from a financial perspective? XBRL is a standards-based method with which users can prepare, publish (in a variety of formats), exchange and analyze financial statements and the information they contain.
XBRL benefits all members of the financial information supply chain!
And over the next 2 to 3 years every accounting package will be sharing information using this core methodology. They will all be mapped with this taxonomy of XBRL.
Its source is in XML - Extensible Mark-up Language which has been around for years. Actually this was the foundation for a lot of internet stuff. It allows rich text documents to be used over the web, and the key that a common dictionary defining business rules is employed.
The Forefathers of XBRL took the idea from XML and let's create a dictionary, if you will, for a financial report. For instance cash and equivalents would all be mapped to the same place in this dictionary they all would be defined the same.
In my opinion again several years down the line, it will allow us as trusted advisory and accounting professionals to spend our time using things like knowledge management tools to analysis the data and to provide better information to our clients.
Instead of compiling information and instead of being historians, we will become more pro-active in providing more beneficial consultative type of information to our clients.
Ramsey: How will this address differences in accounting practices globally, great session by the way!
Lindy Antonelli: Thanks Ramsey! Global standards will be part of the taxonomy, the dictionary. This will allow companies with foreign subs, etc. to easily consolidate financial statement information. To break down the language and accounting principles differences.
Scott Cytron: I thought XBRL was a language. Why is it described as a technology?
Lindy Antonelli: It is more than a language, it is business rules that will affect the way data is combined, or compared The technology part of it is that firms will need to learn, understand and employ it, so we as advisors can assist our clients with it.
Lindy Antonelli: Did I answer your question, Scott?
Scott Cytron: I think so.
Lindy Antonelli: XBRL is sponsored by the AICPA. Major software vendors and international players are also heavily involved.
Not only users and auditors benefit from XBRL, but business report creators and readers. Think about trying to decide whether you want to invest in the company and maybe buy some stocks, especially now ? there are some great buys out there!
Maybe you wanted to buy something but you weren't quite sure and you wanted to compare several different companies' financial statements. If you had XBRL and could easily compare financial data your decision making process may be reduced from hours to minutes.
To wrap up XBRL - it benefits all members of the financial information supply chain!
Lindy Antonelli: Our next timely topic - CRM - Customer Relationship Management - benefits all members of the sales chain!
Customer Relationship Management
Lindy Antonelli: CRM is the seamless coordination between all facets of customer-facing people: sales, marketing, and field service. It's integrating people and processes using technology. Also maximizing relationships, improving service levels/profits and allowing team/virtual selling - that's what CRM is all about.
Does anyone out there know how much more expensive it is to get a new customer versus retaining a customer? I'll give you a moment to submit your answers.
Okay, I'll tell you then! It's 6 to 7 times more expensive to get a new customer then retaining a new one!
Another question to all of you - Do your Clients know what it is costing them to acquire a new customer?
Some of the now-defunct dotcoms had customer acquisition at upwards of $100k or more per customer!
Usually it's smaller than that but still pricey.
The vision for CRM is the customer or client - center stage - the full round trip. What it really means is that all of the various processes (marketing, service and sales) are integrated in one system.
The customer is in the center.
Interesting fact: The decision to put in CRM system it is coming from the top down. It is coming from the top management - the CEO or the owner of the company.
This opens up a great opportunity for us financial advisors to start a conversation with the owner or executives of our clients to find out how they feel about CRM.
The next 5 years CRM spending is going up from 9.4 billion to 34 billion dollars. It's about a 30% growth rate per year. Where traditionally, for instance, our Microsoft Great Plains business has been with accounting software (historical systems), we are now seeing a shift in mindset to put in CRM. Lets manage our customers, let's keep our customers happy.
Here are some closing stats on the average CRM project over a 10 month time-span. 15% revenue growth, 21% increase in customer satisfaction, and 20% employee productivity gains (Gartner Group).
Quite impressive, huh?
Anyone out there using CRM in their business today? Or recommending it at a client's business?
Kimberly Anderson: Yes, we are using it today for our sales and marketing. We just recently implemented Siebel.
Lindy Antonelli: Great! How do you like it so far?
Kimberly Anderson: It has been a great solution for us!
Lindy Antonelli: What do you see as the greatest benefit, biggest bang for your buck?
Kimberly Anderson: Everyone in our company can see the data, this ability to share information allows us to better serve our customers and thus retain them
Lindy Antonelli: Thanks Kimberly, sounds like you are happy with it.
Lindy Antonelli: Here's a look at what we see coming in the future of technology trends:
- Wireless networks - hot topic but products just aren't there yet.
- The Mobile Professional - take us financial executives, we are on the go, we need to be mobile, what do we need to do that?
- Hosted solutions - things like Microsoft bcentral and the .net initiatives will be the way of the future. They are just coming out now.
- ASPs - last year they made a big push in this market place. Today most of them are not in business. As accounting and finance professionals, we didn't embrace it, but we will be coming around as we see security issues and bandwidth problems getting resolved.
- Bandwidth - the next wave of bandwidth companies will be solvent!
- Procurement systems over the net - part of the supply chain but you don't have to be full supply Chain Company to take advantage.
- eLearning - HOT! HOT! HOT! You are eLearning today! Our time is only going to get more precious.
Lindy Antonelli: Any more questions, comments, or thoughts this afternoon?
Lindy Antonelli: Your comments are appreciated.
Bruce Woodard: Do you have a recommendation of a comprehensive system that provides all the technology you have discussed today, targeted to a small business?
Lindy Antonelli: Microsoft Great Plains has just announced their Small Business Manager. It's running on SQL desktop so it will have the KM abilities.
Robert Keister: XBRL seems to be suited more for larger organizations -- do you see any benefit for smaller companies?
Lindy Antonelli: It will reduce audit/compilation fees for smaller companies, and allow us accountants to focus on more value-added, higher priced services.
Scott Cytron: What do you mean by the next wave of bandwidth companies being solvent?
Lindy Antonelli: With the disintegration of most of the DSL providers, at least the Chicago area really felt a blow to their bandwidth.
Lindy Antonelli: Most of our clients who had service with Northpoint, rhythms, etc. had to go to dial up this spring and summer.
Scott Cytron: Thanks.
Lindy Antonelli: Sure.
Lindy Antonelli: Closing thought: "Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology" John Tudor.
Lindy Antonelli: Fitting for our presentation today!
Lindy Antonelli: Any other questions?
L. Carl Dupree: Thanks for the information.
Lindy Antonelli: You are welcome.
Lindy Antonelli: Thank you for your participation in this session, please feel free to contact me via phone or email if you have any questions. Lindy Antonelli 630-871-7300 x152, firstname.lastname@example.org
Session Moderator: Thank you Lindy for an informative session!
Lindy Antonelli: I'll be online if anyone wants to continue with questions.
Session Moderator: And thanks once again, on behalf of AccountingWEB, to PricewaterhouseCoopers/Comperio for sponsoring this session
Lindy Antonelli: Thank you to all of you - enjoy the rest of the afternoon!
Bruce Woodard: Thank you for your time and knowledge, now I have to go figure how to manage it.
Lindy Antonelli: Please do contact me if you have any questions on these or other technologies, I'd be glad to offer information or my assistance.
Lindy Antonelli, CITP, CPA, brings over 13 years of systems integration and accounting software consulting experience to the table. She is the CEO of Access Technologies, a leading Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions Partner. She has led her organization to many sales and service achievements, including Partner of the Year, Consultant of The Year, and Presidents Club. She is also a Certified Instructor for Microsoft Great Plains.
Ms. Antonelli sits on the Illinois CPA Society’s Consulting Services Executive Committee, and heads up the IT Special Interest Group for the Society. Ms. Antonelli is on the Technology Committee of the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She has been recognized as one of "Tomorrow’s Leaders Today 2000" and recently has recently been named an "Influential Woman In Business of 2001."
Voice of the Editor
Which isn’t completely true. I mean, occasionally I drop by when I manage to sneak out of the nonstop frat party over at Going Concern, but I’m mostly a wallflower over there. I’m happy to say that I’ve been given express permission (or explicit orders, if you like) to wander over here to AccountingWEB more often.
Why is that, you might ask? My job is to replace the irreplaceable Gail Perry as Editor-in-Chief. What does that mean? I don’t really know! I think it’ll be fun getting a feel for things, throwing in my own thoughts here and there, and listening to the discussions you’re having about the accounting profession.