Using Internet Accounting Solutions to Serve Your Clients

Brian FalonyGigi GriggsUsing Internet Accounting Solutions to Serve Your Clients
Presented by Brian Falony, Director of Corporate Programs and Gigi Griggs, Product Manager, Internet Products,
Peachtree Software
Contact bfalony@peachtree.com, ggriggs@peachtree.com

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Visit the AccountingWEB Workshop Calendar for upcoming sessions.


Summary

Bryan and Gigi's session included the following topics:

Internet Accounting Services Defined

  • What is Internet accounting?
  • What are the different types of services?
  • How do they work?
  • Advantages and disadvantages

How Internet Accounting Can Change Your Services

  • Increased schedule flexibility
  • Lower costs
  • Increased consulting services
  • Add value to current services
  • Expand your marketing territory

How to Get Clients to Use Internet Accounting

  • Security issues
  • Common concerns
  • Overcoming objections

Read the Complete Transcript!


February 27, 2001 Session Sponsored by NationTax Online

Internet Time


Complete Transcript

Session Moderator: Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us today! We are happy to introduce Brian Falony and Gigi Griggs from Peachtree Accounting.

Brian's background includes developing and implementing strategic marketing initiatives, resulting in increased revenue and value-added services for clients. Brian is the marketing director for corporate programs at Peachtree, and is enthusiastic about educating companies on the merits of sound marketing plans. Before joining Peachtree, Brian was the director of marketing services for Polaris International. His career, spanning over twenty years, includes positions as a manager in marketing information services, product manager and senior manager of marketing for such notable companies as the Shaw-Walker Company; Haworth, Inc.; Herman Miller; Inc.; Bosch Automation Products and Crowe Chizek. A graduate of Michigan State University, Brian received his Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. He has been a member of the Association for Accounting Marketing since 1991 and the American Marketing Association since 1985.

Gigi Griggs is helping Peachtree stay on the technology forefront as product manager for Web-based products. Most recently, Gigi launched the new Peachtree Instant WebsiteCreator. Before taking the reins of Peachtree Internet products, Griggs oversaw the One-Write Plus product line and helped manage the development of several other Peachtree products. She also managed the Co-Marketing Program, along with Peachtree 2000 and Peachtree Complete Accounting Plus Time & Billing. Gigi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business education with a concentration in computers from the University of Georgia.

Welcome Brian and Gigi!

Brian Falony: Thanks. Gigi Griggs and I are glad to be with you this afternoon. We'd like to cover what's going on with ASP accounting solutions and give you some ideas on how you can use Internet accounting to help your clients.

We will start with an overview of Internet accounting solutions. Then, how to use them to service clients. Finally we will give you some ideas on how to answer questions your clients might have as to whether this solution is right for them.

Gigi Griggs: What is Internet accounting?

In a nutshell, Internet accounting allows businesses to either replace their current desktop accounting software with an application hosted on an Internet site or add Internet convenience to their current desktop accounting software.

What are the different types of services?

Up until now small businesses had two choices when selecting an accounting application: traditional desktop or ASP. Pure ASP solutions mean all the accounting is performed on the Internet. This type solution requires them to move all their data from their desktop to the Web and a large number of small business owners are not completely comfortable with this just yet. There is definitely a market for this type of solution and in fact we introduced our own pure ASP solution back in April of 2000, ePeachtree. We expect this market segment to grow over time.

However we recognized that something was missing, a hybrid solution that would allow our large number of desktop customers to take advantage of the benefits of the Internet while still maintaining control of their data within their own office. With this type of solution they would be able to access key accounting data BOTH from their desktop and the Internet. In March 2001, Peachtree will introduce Peachtree Web Accounting another alternative to the current pure desktop or pure ASP applications.

Peachtree Web Accounting enhances desktop accounting without replacing it. With this Web enabled service, small businesses owners, their accountant and any offsite personnel can view key accounting data and even perform daily tasks such as entering transactions and running reports - all via the Internet! Its safe and secure and there are no conversions. And more importantly, they can continue to perform daily tasks on the office computer(s) utilizing their familiar feature-rich Peachtree Accounting software. This gradual process of moving from desktop to WebTop could help alleviate some of the fears small business owners have voiced regarding Internet accounting.

Gigi Griggs: Any questions so far?

Rolan Rizki: how secure is the system?

Gigi Griggs: We'll go into security in detail in a moment and even give you a checklist of security measures to look for.

How do they work?

Dave Simonelli: What are the advantages of this over a REAL ASP?

Gigi Griggs: Lets talk about the differences.

Pure ASP Accounting Solutions such as ePeachtree, NetLedger, QuickBooks for the Web and eLedger let customers perform all their accounting tasks online. And with this type of solution businesses can share their accounting data with assigned users from remote locations. In addition, accountants have immediate access to their client's data. The customer pays an ongoing fee for the accounting and payroll services, which include upgrades and tax updates-no more software to install.

Brian Falony: We'll get to advantages and disadvantages of both in just a minute.

Gigi Griggs: Peachtree Web Accounting is specifically designed for desktop customers who do not want to handle all of their accounting online. They want to continue to maintain control of their accounting data on the desktop, but would like to be able to securely share key information, such as customer, inventory and General Ledger information, with their accountant or with remote sales people or other employees via the Internet. Peachtree Accounting desktop data is synchronized with the Peachtree Web Accounting service. This service is not like a remote dial-in but similar to how a Palm Pilot synchronizes with your office and/or home computer. An easy to use synchronization wizard is run from the Peachtree desktop package and retrieves any online transactions in addition to uploading the latest customer, inventory and General Ledger information. Only a copy of the data is uploaded to the Internet, which is then available for remote access

Nigel Harris: How fast is the synchronization process?

Gigi Griggs: If sync is for detailed GL along with customers and inventory we have seen approximately 8 minutes with 56k

Orlando: Is the synch feature for all modules? Does it just handle GL?

Gigi Griggs: First release will handle GL, customers and inventory as well as jobs, sales reps and sales tax

Dave Simonelli: The btrieve database is already sensitive to import/export, will it handle this?

Gigi Griggs: In a manner of speaking the sync uses the import/export features.

Orlando: Can you process payroll checks from two different locations?

Gigi Griggs: Not yet but we will definitely add payroll in the near future.

Brian Falony: Now let's cover advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Total ASP Solutions:

  • Business owners can run their business from any location at any time
  • Convenience of the internet
  • No more upgrades to purchase
  • Accountants can access client data easily
  • ASP handles all the security and backups
  • No software to install
  • Instant hassle-free networking
  • Business information is available 24/7
  • Gigi Griggs: Now the Web Enhanced Desktop Application (Peachtree Web Accounting) Advantages

  • Maintain current desktop features and operations
  • Reduces the time office personnel spend relaying data and other customer information to outside sales reps or the business owner
  • Maintain control of data
  • Timely sales information for remote sales reps
  • Accountants can access client data easily
  • This is a big one Safe and secure with no conversions
  • Customer can terminate process with no adverse effects
  • Instant hassle-free networking
  • Brian Falony: Now for the disadvantages

    Disadvantages Total ASP Solutions

  • No internet access means no accounting
  • Loss of functionality from desktop solutions
  • Perceived loss of control over data
  • Perceived security fears
  • We say perceived because the reality of security and data control is very different and much better than perceptions.

    Orlando: How many users can be on the WebTop at a time?

    Gigi Griggs: We recommend 10 but there is no true limit.

    Web Enhanced Desktop Application (Peachtree Web Accounting) disadvantages

  • Currently All data is not available online
  • Data is not available real-time
  • Upgrades become mandatory
  • Lets talk a little more about secure, as it is one of the biggest obstacles to customer adoption.

    Brian Falony: One of the biggest obstacles accountants face in getting their clients to move to Internet accounting solutions is overcoming the data security issues. Clients worry about putting their company's financial information out on the Web. The objections usually fall into one of two major categories. Either they are concerned about unauthorized persons gaining access to their data or they worry that they won't have access to their data if the Web site is down. We'd like to give you some information you can use to help your clients evaluate both of these issues rationally.

    Security Measures that Stop Unauthorized Access

    Today your clients most likely maintain their accounting data on a desktop computer and on paper documents located throughout their office, never giving a second thought to the security of that data, but maybe they should. For example, when you walk away from your desk at the end of the day is your building and/or computer network really secure? Most small businesses you can't afford the high cost of sophisticated security systems that prevent physical and electronic access to their data. Peachtree has not taken this issue lightly. That's why we've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in industry leading technologies to ensure the customer's data is safe from both physical and electronic intruders. It is safe to assume the other providers have similar security.

    Orlando: Is this only for v8.02? Will it support Crystal Report writer for customized reports?

    Gigi Griggs: Yes customers will need 8.02 to access this online svc and no the reports available online are not customizable in the application but can be exported to crystal format.

    Brian Falony: Our ASP solutions use the most advanced security available. We use SSL encryption, which has never been broken: With the encryption used by our secure "firewall" server, the odds of anyone getting your financial information over the Internet are virtually zero.

    We store data in a secure building with external doors that are secured by electronic key access and pin code. Security inside the building requires electronic key access, advanced fire warning and power protection as well. Plus, there are security guards that monitor our facilities 24x7. Video surveillance cameras keep watch inside and outside our secure building.

    Browser-level encryption protects all of your business information -- before it travels over the Web. To authorize and certify access, we use Equifax, an advanced security solution designed to provide secure communications and transactions over the Internet and private networks.

    Your business information is stored on a highly sophisticated storage system (RAID), which guards against data loss and is designed to recover data quickly. The system is backed up nightly with offsite storage of backup digital tapes.

    While these are our security measures, I would say most ASP providers offer similar security.

    Nigel Harris: I assume this level of security also applies to ePeachtree. Does the new Web version imply that the take-up of ePeachtree has been very low so far?

    Gigi Griggs: Not necessarily, we just recognized that there is currently a smaller market. We have a very large desktop market that is ready to gradually step onto the Internet.

    Rolan Rizki: The back-up is done only once a day?

    Gigi Griggs: Actually we have data redundancy so there is no fear of losing information.

    Dave Simonelli: You mentioned control is in our hands, but we can't restore backups can we?

    Brian Falony: Backups can be done by contacting our Tech Support.

    Cheryl Bilger: How much anticipated down time is there?

    Gigi Griggs: Down time??

    Cheryl Bilger: Maintenance/updates, etc.

    Brian Falony: Maintenance on ASP is done fairly frequently but is not an issue since it is seamless for the users.

    Lisa Scroggins: How realistic to get an illiterate computer user, unfamiliar with Peachtree, but giving me constant indigestion re: A/R, invoices, etc., i.e., getting that illiterate client trained in Peachtree, as well as comfortable with this concept?

    Brian Falony: Getting them trained on Peachtree should not be difficult and the ASP version or the web-enabled versions are fairly straightforward.

    Nigel Harris: Can you clarify "not necessarily" for those of us in the UK please!!

    Gigi Griggs: Not necessarily meaning we have many happy ePeachtree customers but are realistic in knowing small business owners are just not ready for total ASP. Peachtree has been around for over 25 years we are not going anywhere.

    Nigel Harris: Thanks

    G. Marvin Bales: I'm concerned about another problem regarding data under an ASP model. Specifically, with all the business problems of "dot-coms" these days, I'm concerned that if I get a lot of client data loaded into an ASP accounting program, the ASP might go out of business leaving me and my client high and dry without any backup (except what we print-out), and would then have the headache of converting to another program. How do you alleviate this concern?

    Gigi Griggs: G. Marvin this web enhancement to total ASP solution alleviates the need for a conversion and if customer stops using it doesn't loose anything.

    Dave Simonelli: Who's the actual ASP Provider?

    Brian Falony: Exodus is our ASP host

    Lisa Scroggins: Be kind...I'm thinking of a particular client, who's always convinced the computer "ate" her data, screws things up, etc. ad infinitum. This could be workable…I could see what she's doing, pretty quickly after she does it, instead of running over there to put out fires all the time (and I do mean all of the time)!

    Gigi Griggs: Lisa your client may be nervous at first but with the ability for the two of you to see the same information you can guide this client "over the phone."

    Nigel Harris: Snag is Lisa, this kind of client will probably still phone you for help in logging on or booting up their PC!

    Gigi Griggs: So true Nigel.

    Lisa Scroggins: Nigel, I'm certain you are right. The reality is, she has no business trying to keep her books on computer, but insists, because she doesn't want to pay me enough to do all of it for her. Any plans to offer training to clients and/or their accountants?

    Nigel Harris: Is the transition from Peachtree to Web enabled to ePeachtree as seamless as one would hope?

    Brian Falony: Nigel, the transition clients would lose some functionality going from web enabled to ePeachtree.

    Dave Simonelli: There have been a lot of articles that the ASP market is on very shaky grounds these days. Who is Exodus?

    Gigi Griggs: Exodus is a leader in off site server hosting they are so secure they are located in a no fly zone. We can provide small businesses with enterprise level security by using Exodus.

    Brian Falony: Also, if Exodus goes under, we will move the data to another host.

    Dave Simonelli: Not worried about air strikes but over capitalization

    Victor Puchi: Are there any major differences between ePeachtree and NetLedger or Intacct?

    Gigi Griggs: ePeachtree is strong in reporting and we continue to add new features. NetLedger admittedly has more features.

    Brian Falony: I'd like to give you some ideas of how to use both to help your clients.

    ASP accounting solutions will benefit accountants in three areas:

  • Scheduling of resources
  • Increased ability to provide proactive business management advice
  • Expanded opportunities for new business
  • Kanisha Franklin: So would you recommend ASP for accountants only.

    Brian Falony: Not necessarily but it does allow you to expand your services.

    A major benefit lies in the fact that you can now access your clients’ data from your office. Previously, you had to either send staff out to the client's office or have the client send you their data. Sending staff out requires travel time along with the possibility that the client may not have all the information ready when the staff get there resulting in further delays. This cuts down on the number of clients that can be served by existing staff. It also results in increased costs for your firm and increased fees for the client. When clients send their data in, it is often incomplete or does not arrive when it was supposed to. In addition there may be a considerable amount of downtime for the client while you are analyzing and updating their data.

    Victor Puchi: How do you plan to solve the access speed problem? There are many areas that still have 28.8k access to the internet only.

    Gigi Griggs: Our research has shown that there are actually very few areas with 28.8 maybe not everyone can have DSL but usually at least 56k

    Victor Puchi: Does ePeachtree have any special programs in place to attract CPA's to offer this program. It appears that CPA's are still a key to accounting software distribution.

    Brian Falony: Accountants get free access and we are working on a program to allow clients to access their data through an accountants website. If a firm has a large number of clients using either a total ASP solution or web enhanced desktop solution, it can access most of the data for these clients from its office. The data can be reviewed and any issues addressed with the client via e-mail. The firm can establish a schedule for reviewing client data that makes the most efficient use of existing staff. The elimination of a portion of the travel time can increase the number of clients the staff can work with.

    Chris Kraushaar: It would be very helpful if ePeachtree could offer a demo company database, similar to NetLedger, to allow us an opportunity to review the capabilities of the program.

    Gigi Griggs: We are planning to have a demo company database within the next 6 months. In the meantime if you are truly interested you can contact Brian and we will get you some form of demo ASAP.

    Duane Cone: What about the previous question for difference from NetLedger?

    Gigi Griggs: NetLedger has been quickly adding many new features and currently has a large number of features but in general both are great total asp solutions. Anything specific you are looking for Duane?

    Duane Cone: I am looking for a solution for a client that has inventory and sales people who are never in the office but want access to the data.

    Brian Falony: Of course, staff will still have to travel to client locations for many functions but these visits can be reduced and you can use the information you get from the client's accounting system to hone in on exactly what needs to be done at the client site. You should also be able to instruct the client on how to better prepare for the visit so that the staff can use their time most efficiently when on-site. By using staff time more efficiently, you can lower client fees, which could have a positive effect on write-downs. You should also be able to service more clients with your existing staff.

    Gigi Griggs: Duane our total ASP solution ePeachtree offers one costing method as does NetLedger and has the ability to enter sales invoices and quotes.

    Victor Puchi: Can you make a profit at $4.95 /user

    Brian Falony: As far as 4.95 a month, I don't know. ePeachtree and our web enabled solution are $9.95 per month. We feel pretty confident we can make money at this level

    Dave Simonelli: Are there any ASP’s running Peachtree now?

    Brian Falony: Not legally Dave.

    Gigi Griggs: With Web Accounting they can utilize the full functionality of our desktop products and the sales force can access inventory and quotes online. One advantage is the desktop inventory is much more in-depth. So they get the best of both with Web Accounting.

    Nigel Harris: Do you have any sales targets or growth projections you could share with us for how Peachtree expects sales of the Web and ASP products to go in the next x months?

    Gigi Griggs: As for Peachtree Web Accounting this is such a ground breaking service that it is hard to forecast as no one else offers this but we predict about 2000 by year end.

    Brian Falony: Having client data on an ASP solution will allow you to offer regular operational reviews to your clients. You can easily review your client's current business data and prepare recommendations or improvements or changes the client should consider. All from the comfort of your office, on your schedule. This is another way to more efficiently use staff, especially during non-busy season, as well as bring added value to your clients.

    Duane Cone: Thanks for the info.

    Brian Falony: Building an industry niche specialization has been much talked about over the past 5 years but the real value has fallen far short of expectations for most small to medium size accounting firms. The reason is that most firms, out of necessity, get their business from a limited geographic area. While these firms may develop concentrations of clients in certain industries, there isn't usually enough business available to allow a partner to focus completely on this industry.

    Having access to client data, real-time, via the Internet, can remove these physical barriers or boundaries. This allows accountants to expand their market nationwide. It also will allow greater levels of specialization. Before ASP accounting solutions, specializing in craft stores may have been impractical because there weren't enough clients in a local area. Now, if someone in your firm wants to develop expertise in craft stores, they can market to stores across the country. The ASP model removes most of the need for traveling to the client's location. Combine this with the new marketing methods provided by the Internet, Web sites and e-mail, and marketing nationally becomes cost effective.

    Nigel Harris: Brian, I think many of us are convinced on the ASP case, but how do we sell it to clients? Does Peachtree have any plans to specifically help accountants in marketing these products to their clients?

    Brian Falony: We are currently working on some white papers on applications that can be used to convince clients. In addition, for our AccountCare members, we are preparing a PowerPoint presentation to help explain the benefits. Firms will be able to customize the presentation so it comes from them.

    Gigi Griggs: Another obstacle to client adoption of these services is Lack of Access (Internet is down). Actually the Internet itself is never down, phone lines may be down at times. And even some of the most popular ISP's are known to have frequent disconnects. Although there is much less occurrence of this problem as technology advances, there are still instances where this may affect a business. To help get around this type of problem you should assist your clients in selecting a reputable host but it still comes down to an issue between the client and the ISP. However with Peachtree Web Accounting a business is able to continue their normal activities within the office regardless of Internet accessibility.

    Nigel Harris: And is security really the reason why so few have taken up ASP products, or are the products themselves not good enough?

    Brian Falony: I think it is a little of both Nigel. Our focus groups rated security as a major issue.

    Nigel Harris: Kinda frustrating isn't it.

    Brian Falony: Yes. I think there is a real belief out there that putting data on the Internet will give access to the whole world. The reality is that hackers probably aren't interested in most small businesses. They are more interested in getting into the pentagon than Joe's flower shop. It is usually within the companies where most security breaches occur and that happens whether the data is on the Internet or the desktop.

    Gigi Griggs: And with the security measure we covered the data is safer than in your own office.

    Session Moderator: We have about 10 minutes left - so if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask now!

    Dave Simonelli: Any talk of letting PRC's host their own Peachtree ASP? Or purchase an ASP license?

    Brian Falony: True for Peachtree Web Accounting Dave. Not true for full ASP solutions.

    Gigi Griggs: Currently the hosting is much more involved than just "housing" the data and application but we are always open to the possibility for PRCs and other third parties.

    David Brooks: I thought that I read that the information that would be viewed via internet would not be real-time. Is this correct?

    Gigi Griggs: Not real time but still timely information and the customer can sync multiple times in a day.

    Rolan Rizki: You already told us about the security features on your part. What about for the clients, do they have to have some kind of protection for their data too while they're sending it to you?

    Gigi Griggs: We have several security measures for when the data is transmitted yes. Like 128 bit encryption.

    Brian Falony: This has been a great session. We appreciate your questions and would be happy to answer any others via e-mail later.

    Nigel Harris: On behalf of AccountingWEB in the UK can I say thanks for an insight into things to come for us over here!

    Gigi Griggs: It was our pleasure and thanks for your input and insight.

    Brian Falony: Thanks Accounting Web for the opportunity

    Session Moderator: Thank you so much Brian and Gigi - we really appreciate all the information you shared with us!


    Biography - Brian Falony

    As the marketing director for corporate programs which includes AccountCare, Brian Falony manages efforts to increase the value of services targeting program members and their clients. He brings to Peachtree a dynamic background that includes developing and implementing strategic marketing initiatives, resulting in increased revenue and value-added services for clients. In his position as director, Falony is taking the AccountCare program to a new level of service, focusing on new programs that will assist members in providing advice to their clients making accounting software decisions.

    Falony is enthusiastic about educating companies on the merits of sound marketing plans. He has addressed the topic of accounting firm marketing in presentations at conferences in the United States and Europe. Additionally, he has published articles including, “Think First Before Hiring a Marketing Director,” in Accounting Today and “Be A Go-To Person,” in the Journal of Accountancy.

    Before joining Peachtree, Falony was the director of marketing services for Polaris International. His career, spanning over twenty years, includes positions as a manager in marketing information services, product manager and senior manager of marketing for such notable companies as the Shaw-Walker Company; Haworth, Inc.; Herman Miller; Inc.; Bosch Automation Products and Crowe Chizek.

    A graduate of Michigan State University, Falony received his Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. He has been a member of the Association for Accounting Marketing since 1991 and the American Marketing Association since 1985.

    Biography - Gigi Griggs

    Gigi Griggs is helping Peachtree stay on the technology forefront as product manager for Web-based products. Most recently, Griggs launched the new Peachtree Instant WebsiteCreator. Before taking the reins of Peachtree Internet products, Griggs oversaw the One-Write Plus product line and helped manage the development of several other Peachtree products. She also managed the Co-Marketing Program, along with Peachtree 2000 and Peachtree Complete Accounting Plus Time & Billing. Prior to product management, Griggs worked in several other departments at Peachtree, including support services, training, and customer support.

    She began her career at Peachtree in customer support, learning the many facets of Peachtree products. Following her work in customer support, she moved to the training department, educating product dealers and consultants, as well as internal employees. She also was responsible for the training and certification of Peachtree support center instructors. Griggs then moved into support center management, overseeing the network of Peachtree authorized local resource centers, and coordinated product distribution to and administration for them.

    Before joining Peachtree, Griggs was Director of Education for Interactive Learning Systems, a private business college in Athens, GA, where she lectured and taught a wide variety of computer courses.

    Griggs holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business education with a concentration in computers from the University of Georgia.

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