November 30, 2018, Hutchinson, Kansas and Knoxville, Tennessee – Randy Johnston, CEO, Network Management Group, Inc. and Brian Tankersley, Principal of Tankersley Consulting, announce the launch of the 6th Annual Accounting Firm Operations and Technology (AFOT) Survey. The AFOT Survey will remain open through January 31, 2019. The survey results eBook, to be released in May 2019, will continue to remain a free resource delivered to practicing accounting, tax and bookkeeping professionals who complete the survey.
“We are always pleased to understand the technology in use by CPA firms across the United States. The survey provides operational information to CPA Firm Leading or Managing Partners while revealing new trends,” said Johnston. The AFOT Survey continues to lead the profession as the nation’s most valid and complete, professional and insightful presentation of data impacting decisions being made centered on technology budget spend, software adoption and practice management. “I’ve learned something of note every year of the survey,” continued Johnston.
*** Take the survey now: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6thAnnualAFOT ***
The 6th Annual Survey eBook will feature a fresh new design, trend lines and consultative commentary from Johnston and Tankersley. “The survey’s validity is hugely important to us; we take this aspect seriously due to critical operational and technology decisions being made by practitioners based on the trend lines our survey reveals,” said Tankersley. “This survey is the premier benchmarking tool for practitioners nationally.”
Facts about the 6th Annual AFOT Survey
Survey areas include:
Randy Johnston is CEO of Network Management Group, Inc. (NMGI), a company he helped to create in 1983. Johnston is renowned throughout North America for consultation he provides on CPA Firm on their operations and technology, while also serving hundreds of CPA firms by proactively managing their technology. Johnston provides insight and guidance for firms of all sizes interested in growth, profitability, mergers and acquisition.
Dr. Leslie Garrett is the CEO and Founder of Insight Research Group (IRG). IRG is a research firm founded on the principle of providing valid, unbiased and actionable data. Research conducted by IRG entails carefully selected survey methodology to bolster confidence and ensure valid results for a population being measured.
Brian Tankersley, CPA,CITP, CGMA is a consultant, author, and speaker who specializes in accounting technology issues. Tankersley has spoken in 47 US states, and three Canadian provinces, and writes for major accounting press outlets including CPA Practice Advisor and AccountingWeb. He is also a faculty member for Yaeger CPA Review.
I’ve noted a significant rise in the number of phishing and malware attacks I’ve received in the last few weeks. With open source phishing tools like GoPhish available to anyone for free, it’s more important than ever to train your employees and be more diligent about where you go online.
I’ve included two of the most recent messages I’ve received to remind you to be very diligent when you are going through your e-mail.
Note that this message is from a service I’ve never heard from, and the fax number of the sender (+1 659-802-3681) is from an area code that doesn’t exist, and the CSID (fax header) is from Massachusetts. Also note that the attachment is an HTML file – and it probably has some bad stuff in it.
Lesson: If the message looks odd, verify its validity with the sender. If you can’t determine the sender, don’t open it.
2. The portal login – This attack sends a message which purports to be from a portal, but the real objective here is to get you to visit a site you shouldn’t visit and make it look like a legitimate website you use. In the screen capture below, I’m allegedly being sent a PDF file from a CPA firm in Washington State which is a “proposal”. Since I don’t do business with the firm, I have to assume that it’s bogus, and I should ignore it. It’s probably a bogus e-mail, linking to a bogus website, with a malware-laden file awaiting me.
This kind of attack is easily perpetrated with free, open source software – because I’ve personally set up the software needed for this in Linux. The application, GoPhish, is designed for security professionals to use when testing their employees, but can also easily be used by fraudsters trying to get access to your e-mail accounts.
While I didn’t click on the link to the OneDrive site, I fully expect that it would have had malware on it or would have tried to trick me entering my legitimate username and password into a fake website. There are a number of free tools which will help you set up fake websites in GoPhish, and it is trivial to use this tool to retrieve the credentials entered by victims.
The bottom line here is that the bad guys are getting better, and it’s becoming easier than ever for criminals, teenagers, and “script kiddies” to use open source software to gain access to your confidential data.
If you’re interested in training your employees and testing your vulnerability against phishing and other e-mail attacks, the following services offer employee training programs for a reasonable price:
You can also see reviews at the Gartner Group’s website online.
Intuit continues to lead in cloud accounting adoption among small businesses and microbusinesses in North America, with almost 1.9 MM companies on QBO in the US. QBO continues to make strides outside the US, with 800,000 companies in their latest user statistics. Xero continues to grow in the US, with 132,000 North America users as of the end of March, but we expect that those numbers will grow more quickly due to possible synergies from the Hubdoc acquisition in August.
QuickBooks Online Self-Employed, a product which is designed to track the cash receipts and disbursements of independent contractors, grew to 750,000 subscribers this period. Although the number of subscribers bundling this solution with Intuit’s TurboTax income tax preparation software was not disclosed this quarter, last quarter approximately half of QBOSE subscribers also purchased TurboTax.
Intuit has quietly launched a new product targeted at companies with 10+ users called QuickBooks Online Advanced, with premium support, and priced at $150/month. Industry observers I speak with tell me that they expect this product to go upmarket top serve larger businesses over a period of years. A strategy for involving accounting professionals and software consultants in QBO Advanced has not been launched yet, as the product is not available on wholesale billing for ProAdvisors at this time (9/2018), and we have not heard of a QBES-style “Intuit Solution Provider” VAR program for QBO Advanced at this time.
Despite these improvements, desktop accounting continues to be the dominant platform for small business. Intuit’s most recent revenue statistics (under the old GAAP standards, not the new ASC 606 rules) show that revenue for the QuickBooks desktop ecosystem continues to lead the QuickBooks Online ecosystem by a significant margin. While this will evolve over time, the ratio of QBD ecosystem revenue to QBO ecosystem revenue for Intuit’s quarter ended 7/31/2018 is 1.36:1. (source: Intuit)
While we don’t have a method of providing a true “apples to apples” comparison of QuickBooks desktop user counts as compared to QBO user counts for a number of reasons, it’s clear that desktop has a larger share of revenue. The online ecosystem continues to grow, and it’s hard to quantify the impact of the recent QuickBooks Enterprise price hikes on that desktop revenue. Sage and Xero continue to be a worthy competitor to QuickBooks in many segments, new products like BQE Core and AccountantsWorld Power CAS continue to show promise. Ultimately, if artificial intelligence and machine learning can even partially live up to the hype surrounding them right now, the whole game could change – but for now, the desktops are paying the bills.
I’ve written for a number of outlets in the last few weeks… so many that I haven’t been posting here. Some of those articles which have already been published include:
I’ll be back soon with more, but for now, I hope these give you some new meaty content to chew on.
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Many states offer what’s called a “Tax Free Weekend” or a “Sales Tax Holiday” every year. This is a series of dates when sales tax is not charged in the state on certain kinds of items, like clothes, computers, and books right before school season, or hurricane preparedness right before hurricane season. While you should visit the website for your state’s department of revenue to learn more about your state’s program, I’ve included a partial list (compiled by the Federation of Tax Administrators here) which lists, in chronological order, the upcoming sales tax holidays for the remainder of 2018.
If you’d like to download the spreadsheet I used to create the table above and the maps so you can try to figure out what was required, you can download it from my ShareFile site.You may ask, “what does this have to do with accounting technology?”, and the answer is that I used two features in Microsoft Excel to transform the data. The first, Get and Transform Data (formerly known as Power Query) was used to import the data from the Federation of Tax Administrators website and convert it into a useful format. I then did some additional formulas in Excel to filter out the dates which occurred earlier in the year. The second, 3D Maps (formerly known as Power Map) was used to create the map showing the states on a US map so I could have an image to go along with this post.
Many other groups have articles or graphics you can share on social media related to these holidays, including the following:
(Editor’s note: I recently penned a column for The CPA Practice Advisor titled,
“Blockchain is a Database. Get Over It.” This article is a followup to that article which addresses some additional issues which I was unable to address in the original article. This article has been adapted from an e-mail I sent in response to a reader’s comment about my lack of enthusiasm for current deployments of blockchain in accounting – because it’s an emerging technology.)
Here are direct quotes from two major media articles from Q1 2018 which I reference in my CPA Practice Advisor article titled, “Blockchain is a Database. Get Over It.”:
“It reflects that (blockchain is) a big bubble,” said Huy Nguyen Trieu, an associate fellow in fintech at the Oxford Said Business School, on the spate of company rebrands.
From Reuters’ Alasdair Pal, “Blockchain Name-Grabbing has Echoes of Dotcom Bubble”, February 8, 2018
And here’s another quote from The Atlantic:
Bitcoin might be where Pets.com was in 2000—a technological curiosity in search of an enduring business need. But blockchain is not where the internet was in 2000. Even blockchain’s biggest defenders can’t say what the technology’s most obvious consumer use-cases are going to be, because they plainly don’t exist yet. It is possible they never will.
The point I’m trying to make is that blockchain is an application platform, and the applications – not the platform itself – are what’s going to change how we work, and they largely don’t exist outside of a few pilot projects as of yet. I feel like much of the current fascination/obsession/cult of blockchain is not much more than misplaced enthusiasm for the get rich quick schemes surrounding the cryptocurrency asset bubble – say 80% of it is this – there are some important parts (20%), but you should be careful. While those apps will be useful eventually, I think you should focus on what will make you money instead of what is shiny.
Let’s take another approach to explaining this- imagine if you and I were transported back in time to our 1970’s selves (sans cigarettes and leisure suits) and someone was talking about how SQL-based databases were going to change the world. I would say sure, SQL is an important technology for software developers, it’s a great technology, and the applications did change the world – but for the end user accountant, auditor, or bookkeeper, SQL in 1975 was a tool which needed to be dealt with once there were applications which used this platform. From an accounting and auditing perspective, IT auditors, internal auditors, and IT specialists who worked with CPA firms were the only people who did much with SQL until the late 90’s.
For the average, non-Big Four firm, there are so many other technologies which need to be higher than blockchain on the priority list – CRM, social media, automation of bank feeds and transaction recording, OCR and AI technologies like those utilized by Receipt Bank and others, data analytics and testing tools like TeamMate Analytics – the list goes on and on. (On that list, blockchain should be just below a Myspace page and just above alpha-testing a self-driving car on the current technology priority list for most users and firms.) While the tools utilizing this platform are evolving, the apps just aren’t there on a widespread production basis at this point. In my opinion, there is much more profit to be earned by dealing with practical, actionable technology which you’re not currently using rather than trying to leapfrog to blockchain unless you have specialized needs and are going to have custom code written, and then, it’s still a crapshoot.
I do think that blockchain will be a bigger deal in the governments of most other industrialized countries before it is in the US due to the comparatively poor state of US government-side technology and the fragmented nature of regulation in the US compared to the rest of the world. In Canada, everyone can file all federal and provincial tax filings with the Canadian Revenue Agency online using the same set of rules and they take all returns. Canada also has a standardized system for classification of accounts which allows financial reports to be filed electronically with the government (GIFI), which is built into Caseware Working Papers (90% market share in Canada). In the US, we have to file with so many different jurisdictions and regulators, with different taxability rules, and many of the states can’t really handle e-filing, so there’s not the incentive for a centralized blockchain like some of the ones proposed for recording VAT in Europe (See https://blog.kpmg.lu/how-blockchain-could-help-fight-or-even-end-vat-fraud/ for more information here). As a result, there’s not the same need
The Indian financial system has had a number of radical reforms after its implementation of a national value added tax (GST) in 2017. The government is trying to eliminate the non-taxed cash economy by (1) eliminating large denomination bills, (2) making their version of ACH payments very inexpensive (but not free), and (3) reducing the supply of paper banknotes in circulation. While some think that blockchain may eliminate banks in India by 2030 (https://yourstory.com/2018/02/blockchain-state-bank-of-india/), my gut says that the political power of banks/financial intermediaries and the state’s compelling interest in controlling money laundering and the cash economy will present massive barriers to its implementation and widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies. Anything that takes political power away from those who have it (and the related money and control of institutions) will be resisted vigorously – and remember that the money laundering penalties in many countries are beyond draconian in most cases – so the penalties for being an early adopter are more like “life in prison” and less like the fines for driving a cab without a medallion.
I hope I’m wrong and blockchain changes our lives sooner rather than later, because it’s a very cool technology and addresses the data integrity issues associated with electronic data very elegantly in a tamper-resistant ledger.
The reality of the 25 years I have been in the profession is that some really smart people said that computers were going to displace all accountants by 2000, then other experts said that outsourcing was going to kill the jobs in profession by 2010, and now we have people saying that blockchain/AI/machine learning is going to kill all accounting by 2020. My response to them is that it’s 2018, and we’re all still here – I don’t think anything will kill accounting totally. While it may change the way we work eventually, consider how much accounting has changed in my 26 years in the profession:
(By the way, I did all of those things on a daily basis when I started in the profession, and now I do almost none of them in a given day.)
Technology isn’t going to eliminate us unless we let it by trying to stay in the past and ignore how it changes our work. I would argue that the tools we’re going to use in the future and how we work in the future are going to change in the next 25 years at least as much as they changed for me in the last quarter century. We’ll have to have new tools which don’t yet exist to audit blockchains effectively – but those tools will become available in the next couple of years. So learn a little bit about blockchain – I’ll be doing some webinars to explain some of the concepts in the future – but don’t let the fear of missing out (FOMO) drive you to try to force-adopt it before the tools are ready for what you do.
Right now, for most people, blockchain is a bleeding edge technology, and almost all of you should wait until it’s a little farther along before you try to embrace it – but you should learn about it and be ready when the apps arrive. I hope you’ll join me at the remaining 2018 K2 Technology Conferences to learn about this topic and many more strategic technologies which will affect you in the future.
Some CPE webinars which may help you learn more include:
I’ve updated the CPATechBlog Cloud Accounting Dashboard for the latest statistics on cloud accounting adoption for the most recent earnings and public company disclosures from Sage, Intuit, and Xero.
Highlights from the most recent updates include the following:
While Intuit has a lead in US cloud accounting, if the much vaunted machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities which the cloud brings us in the next few years ever actually happen, accounting software may become something that people used to use – like buggy whips. Truthfully, if the technology winds shift quickly – it’s still anybody’s race.
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My client has been using QuickBooks Pro for well over 10 years. They upgrade every few years however the file size is getting very large. They do not want to switch to another program and do not want to switch to QuickBooks Online.
I was under the impression that the newest versions of QuickBooks allows you to purge old data or allows you to reduce the file size.
What should I do?
Carl in Philadelphia
You may want to consider using the Condense Data feature in QuickBooks (File, Utilities, Condense Data from the menu)- it will let you remove the old data as well as the old list items – vendors, customers, accounts, etc. which you haven’t touched in years.
You can download a PDF file with directions on how to do this by filling out the form below:
I’ve been watching with great interest the efforts of Microsoft to migrate its enterprise customers from perpetual licenses with software assurance to subscriptions. When we read recently that Terry Myerson was leaving Microsoft and his team was distributed to the four winds, we knew big changes were afoot, but I learned that Microsoft had already sent some signals to the IT community which I had somehow overlooked. Mind you – I work hard to keep up at technology. I listen to podcasts like Windows Weekly and This Week in Tech, I read lots and lots of blogs, attend a lot of briefings, and do a lot of tech social media – but somehow I missed something big coming up in 2020 and another event in 2025 which Microsoft signaled in February 2018.
I was preparing to speak at a state CPA technology conference a couple of weeks ago, and noted again that the following end of support dates were pretty close with each other:
Hmmm. That’s interesting. Three big ends of support in a relatively small period of time – and the discontinuance of an ENTERPRISE Office 365 SKU on Windows 8.1, less than a year from the end of support for Office 2010 SP2.
I then saw that on October 14, 2025, Microsoft ends support for the following applications:
They say change comes in threes, so I was intrigued – what were the big things changing in 2020 and 2025? So, I took to Twitter and asked two leading Microsoft journalists (Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet and Paul Thurrott of Thurrott.com) to tell me what they thought was going to happen:
Paul came back with a quick quip which made me smile:
Mary Jo, however, being the more enterprise-sympathetic of the two, came back with a post she wrote in February of this year about a February Microsoft announcement I had not read as closely as I should have related to the 2020 date – and as usual, when St. Mary Jo speaks, thou shalt listen, and you ignore her at your peril.
I reread her February 2018 article and the related Microsoft blog post. As expected, the post says that Office 365 ProPlus will no longer be supported on Windows 7 (due to its EOL the same day) and Windows 8.1 as of that date (even though Windows 8.1 support doesn’t end until 2023). The post also says that you’ll have to be on one of the last two semi-annual channel releases for Windows 10 at that time (e.g. what we used to call “current branch for business”).
But here’s something I missed – you can’t use Office 365 ProPlus on the long-term servicing channel version of Windows 10 Enterprise – the one used by almost every enterprise who implements Windows 10. So if you took the bait and bought Office 365 ProPlus because it was less expensive than the software assurance alone for previously owned volume licenses of Office, you can’t go home again. Really.
Microsoft customers who bought Office 365 ProPlus (the version of Office included in Office 365 enterprise, government, and education SKUs like Office 365 E3 and E5) will be unable to stay on the Long Term Support Channel (LTSC) versions of Windows 10 and use Office 365 ProPlus. They will have to instead use the semi-annual channel update (formerly known as “current branch for business”) of Windows 10 instead of the LTSC channel. This has the potential to create many new headaches for Enterprise customers with backward compatibility of legacy applications, as it’s going to force you to update Windows twice a year – so instead of zero Windows feature updates a year under LTSC, you’re going to get two a year – two more opportunities for Windows, drivers, and your apps to find fault with each other’s new bits and decide to not work together.
Let’s back up and do some finance background here – for those not familiar with the term, a “triple witching hour” is a quarterly time of big volatility in the stock market due to the simultaneous expiration of stock market index futures, stock market index options, and stock options. (For those who want to know when the actual Triple Witching hour occurs, it’s the last hour of trading – 3-4P ET – on the third Fridays in March, June, September, and December.) As you can see in the previous part of this post, we’re going to have big changes in 2020 – and possibly bigger changes in October 2025. I, therefore, declare that henceforth, I will refer to October 14, 2025 as “the Triple Witching Day”.
Given the possible end of perpetual licensing and IT as we know it, let’s go back and look at what’s going to happen on that day, the end of what I will now call:
Microsoft ends support on 10/14/2025 for the following applications:
So the first version of Windows 10 LTSC (the 2015 version), the one which was likely adopted by many enterprises, is going to end that day. Office 2016 ends that day – OK, no big deal yet… but this one – Office 2019 ALSO ends that day. So may be no option but Office 365/Microsoft 365 at that point.
Let that sink in for a minute.
There may be no option but Office 365 or Microsoft 365 at that point.
What’s really going to happen then? I have no idea – but it could be–(with apologies to Don McLean) – “The day the (Microsoft perpetual) license dies?” Mind you – this is not something which has been overtly signaled by Microsoft – it’s all based on inference, speculation, and conjecture (and Paul’s wise crack, which one wonders if he was congratulating himself on being a smart aleck at the same time he was sharing a possible reason for the convergence of those dates). Either way, it certainly makes for an interesting story, doesn’t it? And – it makes you think about how long you really have until you’re forced into all subscription, all the time. Maybe not as long as you think.
Nobody but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and maybe a few of his closest apostles know at this point, but I know a company whose SEC filings, press releases, and blog posts I’m going to read with a fine toothed comb for the next few years – because ending perpetual licenses is a very big change which could (and should) influence long-term IT strategy today. As the details emerge, it should be an interesting few years as we see how hard Microsoft and the other software vendors are going to push hard to move us all to subscriptions running on the cloud – voluntarily – or perhaps involuntarily.
Note: Microsoft PR/WagEd people – would love for you to set the record straight and help me correct any errors I’ve made in this post. If you would like to make any statements, I’m @BFTCPA, my office number is pretty easy to find online, and I’m in the office from 9-6 ET every day this week. I’m sure that the two tech journalists I admire most – @MaryJoFoley and @Thurrott – would also welcome a statement on this. Help us out here – and please – stamp out any ignorance I have with respect to your future plans – because a lot of people in businesses who use Microsoft Windows, Office, and Windows Server are going to spend a lot of money in the next few years, and it would help them make better investment decisions if they knew more definitively how quickly you’re going to force the laggards to move to the subscriptions and the cloud.