Ever since my early days as an industry analyst at IDC in the 1980s, I’ve been convinced that some of the most potent, yet under-utilized resources in the IT market are the major trade associations.
When I first looked at these associations, I thought of them as targets for research purposes. Now, I view them as a terrific channel to market.
Intacct is putting my ideas to the test by entering into a new alliance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and its CPA2Biz subsidiary to encourage the association’s 45,000 member CPA firms and their 350,000 small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to adopt Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and “cloud computing” alternatives to traditional financial applications.
Under this agreement, Intacct and CPA2Biz will co-develop a new version of Intacct’s on-demand financial management and accounting applications to specifically address the needs of CPA firms and their clients. Intacct will also work with the AICPA to develop education programs and promote industry best practices based on data accumulated from the Intacct services.
According to the company and association officials who briefed me about this announcement a week ago, the agreement was a year in the making.
Intacct has been working with a variety of accounting firms on a one-on-one basis for a number of years, convinced that they could be good referral agents for its SaaS solutions. However, it became clear to Intacct that building these relationships on a one-by-one basis was not cost-effective or scalable.
Meanwhile, the ACPA recognized that its members were feeling increasing competitive pressures from a widening array of web-based, economical accounting packages which undercut the value of its members’ traditional professional services.
This alliance is not only a straightforward attempt to respond to these member concerns. It is also a bold statement by the association endorsing the value of SaaS solutions and viability of cloud computing services.
This is a watershed event because it shows how fast SaaS and cloud computing are becoming mainstream. There are few segments of the market that are more conservative than the accounting profession. The ACPA/CPA2Biz/Intacct alliance will not only help to educate CPA firms and their SMB customers about the viability and value of SaaS and cloud computing, it also promises to create new SaaS and cloud computing solutions to meet their specific needs.
I’ve been saying for months that 2009 would be the year of the channel for the SaaS industry and that a variety of new channel players would emerge to fill the void that traditional VARs and integrators won’t be able to address. This alliance will be an important test of the new kinds of channel strategies and relationships the SaaS/cloud computing marketplace needs.