Association helps accountants warm up to SaaS

Accounting firms can be conservative about trying new technologies -- especially when they're worried about the security of data in the cloud. Recognizing this, the profession's association has essentially endorsed cloud computing and teamed up with selected software-as-a-service vendors to help get accounting firms more comfortable with adopting Web-based services that could enhance their businesses. 

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) so far has established alliances with four preferred providers: Bill.com, Copanion, Intacct and Paychex. AICPA selected the vendors based on adherence to security standards and commitment to the accounting profession, said Michael Cerami, vice president of the AICPA's for-profit services unit called CPA2Biz.

"We do see a higher degree of comfort [with SaaS] because this has been vetted by their professional association," Cerami said in an interview.

Association members can use a CPA2Biz microsite to sign up for the Web-based offerings. For example, one service allows an accounting firm to monitor a client's financial data online - instead of passing documents with less-current data back and forth. The accounting firm can then take fast action if, for example, the client's cash flow drops dangerously low.

The result is more efficiency and a closer relationship with the client, Cerami said. "We want that relationship to be as sticky as possible."

And the for-profit CPA2Biz unit gets some "remuneration back" for steering business to the preferred vendors.

It's an interesting business model that puts the industry association in the role of being a vital middleman. I wonder if other industries will consider this model.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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