I’ve been working with accounting software for a long time. Since before the Internet. Since the time when we only had single-floppy-disk computers and CRT monitors that had only orange characters (or sometimes green). My company developed a “complete” accounting system for small businesses, including inventory and manufacturing control, that we distributed on 8 inch floppy disks that had a capacity of 128K bytes (not terabytes, not gigabytes, not megabytes, just kilobytes).
In the Beginning…
Back then, the way to get the word out to potential clients was to buy lists of phone numbers for businesses, or mailing lists. Advertising involved going to about 8 trade shows a year across the country (I have stories about dealing with unions in each city) and running display ads in trade magazines. Products were distributed by US Mail or UPS, visits to customer sites were expensive and time consuming.
“Mobile” meant that we had a car, or could catch a plane or train to get to a customer site.
Enter the Mobile, Connected World
Things are very different now, in our mobile, connected world. We have the Internet, with web sites, email, blogs and more. We communicate through Facebook, Twitter, Google +.
You probably have a smart phone in your pocket that has more computing power than those desktop computers that we used to run our business in “the old days”. Certainly a lot more storage capacity.
So now I can be truly “mobile”. If I visit a client, I am still connected to my office by cell phone, by the Internet. I can see my email, I can capture receipts on my phone for posting to my accounting system, I can run my entire business from any location. If I don’t want to use my phone, I can use my iPad or laptop with my MiFi device, or even find a local Starbucks (one on every corner!) and use their free WiFi.
The Internet, with advances in cell phone and computer technology, and the “cloud”, all work together so that I can conduct my business from just about any location that I find myself. Even my client’s office.
Accounting Has Changed
Wow, have things changed since those early “desktop computer” days. Everything I want to do in accounting seems to be in the “cloud” now, or mobile in some way.
- I can work with an accounting product like Xero, built from the ground up to be an online application. Nifty stuff here, as a Xero Partner I can work with any of my client’s data from any place that I can access the Internet from my laptop.
- Heck, I don’t even NEED my laptop, I can use Xero Touch to handle all my business with just about any kind of smart phone. Visiting a client and you want to show him all the invoices they haven’t paid yet? Pull that up from Xero on your mobile phone and see up to the minute info.
- Don’t want to work with a company from New Zealand? How about QuickBooks Online, from Intuit? It is a part of my ProAdvisor membership. You can be an “accountant” user for your client without them having to pay a fee for an extra “user”.
- Out shopping for groceries and realize that you forgot to invoice your client? Just whip out your smart phone and create that invoice with QuickBooks Online for mobile devices.
- Sometimes we just have to use that old desktop software, like QuickBooks for Windows. I’m not limited to being tied to my desktop, though, as there are great cloud-based applications that will connect to my (or my client’s) desktop data. How about Bill.com to automate many of payables and receivables tasks? Or SmartVault to manage client documents?
- Heck, if you or your client really are married to QuickBooks on the desktop, you can “host” that in the cloud with a cloud based hosting company like Cloud9 Real Time, which lets me use the desktop product that I’m the most comfortable with, but from any browser!
The options are endless, accountants (and their clients) aren’t tied to a desk like they were in the past, now you truly have anytime, anywhere access to your accounting data.
But, I am Less Mobile Now!
The funny thing about all the mobile-enabled technology is that, in truth, I am less mobile now than I was back in the early 80’s.
Think about it. How many trade shows do I go to each year? Just a couple, really. I don’t use them to sell products or get clients, they are more for “networking” and meeting people. Now we have “virtual conferences” that I can attend without leaving my home office.
I don’t buy mailing lists to do direct mail, I don’t buy advertising in trade journals. I do all my advertising via websites and social media, all from home.
All of this technology, all of this new social media, has made me LESS MOBILE now. I haven’t visited a customer’s office in years! My travel budget has dwindled, but my reach is infinitely wider. Now I have customers all over the world! Sure, I have an iPad, I might have a smart phone, I have a laptop computer, but I can do ALL that I need right from my office with my powerful computer. I have a full size keyboard, gigabytes of computer memory and terabytes of disk storage, and four monitors (OK, so I’m a bit of a computer nerd).
I can access my client’s data without visiting them, I can install software on their computer and solve problems right from my own office. I can use secure portals to exchange important files. I can use Skype to talk to the client “face to face” or use Go To Meeting to train their staff.
Because of all these cloud based technologies, I don’t HAVE to be mobile! I don’t NEED to be mobile! I can work with any client anywhere without having to set foot out my front door. Isn’t this great!
Charlie Russell is the Senior Technical Editor of the QuickBooks and Beyond blog. He’s been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70’s, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when clients had a one-floppy disk drive system. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise. He also is a Xero Certified Partner. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.