Dennis Howlett
Co-founder, Diginomica

“If the cloud isn’t on your radar,” says Dennis Howlett co-founder of enterprise analysis website Diginomica, “then it ought to be.”

Howlett, who spent over 20 years in various finance related roles, says that cloud computing allows switched-on accountancy firms to take a much more entrepreneurial view of their business. “They are less concerned about compliance — because they see that as the cornerstone upon which everything else is built — and are thinking about how to leverage the information that cloud-based systems offer in order to act as real, trusted advisors to their clients,” he says.

Cloud adoption is happening fast. “A change like this is almost generational,” Howlett points out. “It took professionals 10 or 15 years to understand what it meant to go from pen and paper to computer methods of accounting. But this is happening much quicker.” Current data suggests that around a quarter of accountancy professionals have gone over to cloud systems, but more firms will need to follow suit if they want to thrive. Any accountancy professional looking to shift to the cloud should evaluate the solutions available and assess what is in the best interests of their client.

“The real impact is that cloud offers them access to up-to-date data... which they can share in real-time with their clients”

Real-time data
Cloud gives users access to data anywhere and at any time from any device; and it has also democratised access to business applications. “It doesn’t get much easier than a simple sign-up on a browser,” notes Howlett.

But that’s not the main benefit for accountancy professionals. “The real impact is that cloud offers them access to up-to-date data in most situations, which they can share in real-time with their clients,” says Howlett.

“One of the worst problems you can have as an accountant is trying to fix errors after date. Very often in the old days — and it’s still true today for firms that don’t use cloud — an accountant would be trying to understand what a client had done a year, or almost two years, after the event. Querying transactions that go back over long periods of time is extraordinarily difficult.

“With cloud you can argue that having information available in real-time means that your client gets a better service and is better protected.”