You know your own history with computing resources. Perhaps you started with mainframes or mini-computers. Apple II and Radio Shack's TRS-80 appeared in 1977, IBM's PC arrived in 1981. PDAs arrived and left. Wherever you started, you, and the rest of the accounting world, use smartphones rather than cellular phones, use laptops instead of desktops, and connect to the internet whether in the office, at home or traveling. Computing is no longer an appendage handled solely by the IT department behind a locked door. The computer, and therefore computing, is always with you.
The very smart phone was first delivered by Apple in 2007. This was the year that the world of Apps pushed its way into our 24 hour space. Apps will continue to grow exponentially.
It is not just Amazon and EBay that impacts your personal digital lifestyle. Buying through an App is reaching dynamic proportions. Your pizza order, financial payment transactions, book reading, and all varieties of communicating with friends, associates, and clients have already been embraced by many. The App is moving into the home entertainment space. Apps on your digital cable/internet TV will be used by consumers and abused by business marketing with short and long bursts of interruptions.
Everywhere Apps means that computing is no longer just an appendage it is always connected and integrated with you. Your computing power exists everywhere. You do not have to be in the office, or at home, or open your laptop and sign on to some modem connected server. What you want is on a belt clip ready to process.
It is nice for an App to find the nearby Starbucks, deliver a weather report or play music. The everywhere App does more. Access to these Apps is through any device that is part of your computing resources. Many of these Apps are already being used. For example: email, calendar, contact lists, shopping and direction assistance maps.
Other Apps provide significant 24/7 support that many are already using. These include Evernote, Page Once, Google Docs, iTunes, and every social networking service, to name just a few. With frequent synchronization, these Apps deliver content regardless of what equipment you choose to use: smartphone, laptop or public web-connected computer. These applications are being rolled out on a daily basis. Collaboration software from Google, Microsoft, Intuit and many others rely on available everywhere access. Check out www.basecamphq.com for collaborating activities among multiple users.
The importance of everywhere revolves around the ability for every stakeholder to access up-to-the-moment data. This can be bank balances, bill payment, client notes, tax reports, audit issues, et al. Audit teams will connect and update client information. Staff will send and receive messages regardless of location. This all the time access will stretch the elasticity of data so that it will be used and managed by responsible and accountable members of the firm or client.
The issue to be overcome with each collaborative App is the expectation that the data retrieved is in fact the most current. Being dependent on accuracy and reliability continues to be one of the tasks that CPAs need to continue to focus upon.
How the CPA and the CPA firm participate in the development of these Apps is another issue to consider in 2011. Many firms have portals for clients and staff to enter, retrieve and process data. There are specific needs that the CPA can fulfill, especially with everywhere Apps that promote access to data and resources. Growth will also come from wirelessly connected devices sending and receiving messages directly. This will be an advance beyond the text messaging of today.
While everywhere expands, it is expected that wireless hardware will have short life cycles, somewhere between one and two years. Organizations that rely on large volumes of assorted data need accuracy. These include healthcare, security, financial services, etc. The sidebar to this will be the reliability and speed of the networks carrying all of this information. Everywhere is built on quick and accurate.
Social is Everywhere
Social collaboration has changed many of the interactions and communications for businesses of all size and industries - even CPAs. Throughout the next decade, social computing will grow as part of every business function within the company. Social interactions will be embedded in every website, and linked with Apps so that everywhere can be expanded. Business processes and transactions is moving to an individualized open and sharing environment.
The CPA firm, like everyone else, must learn how to embrace social based computing and social based Apps. Video content is morphing from a security tool and a marketing (e.g. YouTube) tool, into a tool that improves the way businesses communicate, collaborate, and educate all stakeholders. Visual communication accelerates all activities of firm and CPA/Client communications. Problems can be solved, decisions can be made and information can be shared in a direct person to person interaction rather than elongated email exchange that can last several days or longer.
The combination of social collaboration and Apps everywhere is the platform for the creation of new and improved ways to gather and distribute intelligence. The CPA is a knowledge resource that is well suited to this growing everywhere interactions.
Delivering services that are tailored to a client's individual preferences, past experiences, and what they happen to be doing at each moment will return significant rewards for the firm and the client. Amazon has shipped over 47 million Kindle 3s in 2010, making it their all-time best selling product. Your CPA firm needs to decide how to use its knowledge resources to develop newsletters, articles and books in digital format that could be read and then discussed with clients and prospective clients. Discovering ways to create a personal and engaging experience for end-users is key to being a leader in the everywhere world we are moving into.
The no boundaries digital world of information and content will expand every year forever. Businesses are drowning in information - and still want more, creating big opportunities for "big data" analytics and management. Accounting, CPAs, organizations and all of us as individuals will expand our libraries with unending endurance from Gigabyte to Terabyte to Petabyte to Exabyte to Zettabyte to Yottabyte and beyond.
Within our forever, we need to accept technology obsolescence at the time of purchase, so we will not feel a sense of loss when replaced. Everywhere we go, we will have our Apps for business, for entertainment, for friendships and for guiding us to locate the road ahead.