A Conversation with Mark Holland: Don't Be Frightened of Software as a Service

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Having launched an online accounting service, Revas, Baker Tilly OnLine managing partner Mark Holland urges the accountancy profession to embrace the latest technology tools.

Much as it may affront us, there are still those people who subscribe to the old stereotype that accountants are single minded, number crunching, spreadsheet-loving technophobes. While there may be a few who still conform to that image, a great number of us don't as we all realize that technology is continually changing. So too must our profession.

The past decade has seen accountants emerge from the backroom shadows to the forefront of company activity, necessitating greater responsibilities as boardroom business strategists and analysts. With the take up of high-speed broadband and the advent of web-enabled software applications, there has been no better time for accountants to get to grips with the latest generation of technology.

Over the last couple of years, Baker Tilly has recognized that such technological advances are creating new business opportunities within a wider global marketplace. Client demand has pushed the firm to make more of the potential of the internet and existing IT infrastructures.

This led us to create our own, fully functional online accounting service known as Revas. Software as a service (SaaS) is one of the fastest growing segments of the IT industry. At first glance it may seem like Baker Tilly is simply jumping on the technological bandwagon.

But there are differences between what we are doing and the SaaS model. SaaS can give clients ready and cost effective access to accounting applications they might not otherwise have, but many firms' ambitions are limited to using SaaS to deliver a compliance service only. Revas goes well beyond mere compliance monitoring and incorporates tailored management reporting and focused business advisory work.

Having provided Revas to a selection of clients for the last three years, we know what works and what doesn't. As a result we know the service has long term viability and is not just another high tech fad.

Baker Tilly created Revas in response to client demand and we knew precisely what services to cater for - though we will continue to refine and develop the service. The Revas philosophy represents a market driven commercial opportunity along with the prospect to develop new markets and expand our business. Other firms will need to have the appetite and systems in place to follow suit.

In our opinion, the future will see companies increasingly looking to avoid the implementation and administrative hassles, not to mention the costs, of traditional salaried finance departments. This shift will open the way for an array of new online applications. For those with the inclination, providing online services can bring real value to clients, be challenging and energizing for staff to deliver, and profitable for the practice overall.

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