Accountants ask question: will we ever go paperless?

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Accountants ask question: will we ever go paperless?

The future of the profession will be discussed at the Accountants' Technology Showcase Australia (ATSA) 2013 in Brisbane next week.

We were interested to see that two of the main themes of  next week’s Accountants' Technology Showcase Australia (ATSA) 2013 event in Brisbane are "going paperless” and "going cloud".
These are topics we’ve been pondering for a while, having tried out many of the major cloud based accounting packages in the last 12 months.
One of the especially interesting aspects of some cloud accounting products is the way invoices can be sent directly from one user's 'books' to another's without ever being committed to paper or even PDF files, which can be thought of as digital paper.
We have long been of the opinion that there should be at least a national standard for electronic invoicing that all accounting suites could follow. Even if the minimum requirement was that a program could import an invoice file (presumably delivered as an email attachment), that would be an advance for businesses large and small.
One of the frustrations of being a small business whose customers are exclusively larger businesses, is that they tend to have particular invoicing requirements that are one of the conditions of doing business with them.
As for cloud, small businesspeople in our circles are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of someone else storing and processing their data. But when it comes to accounting systems, opinions are still polarised - the attitude seems to be either "why would I use anything other than cloud accounting?" or "why would I want to use cloud accounting?"
Among the latter group, the big issues seem to revolve around security - in particular concerns that a username and password are insufficient to keep outsiders from their data, and also that staff at the cloud provider may be stickybeaks - and long-term access to their data.
If a traditional software vendor goes out of business, you can continue using the program until you can conveniently switch to an alternative. But if a cloud provider suddenly gets shuttered you are likely to immediately lose all access to your books unless you regularly export all the data.
As we noted yesterday (MYOB launches Xero, QuickBooks data conversion service) transferring data from one system to another is not always easy. And when things aren't easy, they tend not to be cheap.
Still, according to one speaker that will be at next week's event, "more than 50% of SMEs say they will consider looking for a new accountant if their current accountant fails to embrace the cloud."
ATSA 2013, the Accountants' Technology Showcase Australia, is being held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 14 and 15. The event fee is $585. You can view the brochure here and program here.
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