Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Myths Debunked While-You-Wait

'Cloud Accounting for the 21st Century – Debunking the Myths' was the name given to the seminar I was at last Thursday (22/9). A conference room in Kings Cross was filled by over 50 (my guesstimate) guests of Cloud Advocates, a new consultancy offering from the co-joined minds of Richard Messik & David Terrar respectively. 

Both guys are equally well-respected and experienced as advocates of the cloud (see what I've/they've done there?) with successful consultancies already, so one could argue that CA is a natural and logical progression. If you're interested in what these guys do behind each others backs you can click here and here :)

I landed half-way through what turned out to be quite an interesting and positive discussion, featuring key users of Twinfield, Xero and E-conomic respectively on 'using cloud accounting in practice'. Grabbing the only spare seat I could see at the back of the room, I quickly realised this was where the collected vendor reps were encamped. Great to see some friendly faces, to meet one or 2 others - where only emails/phone calls/tweets had been exchanged previously - and also to be introduced to other new interesting contacts of course.

The point of such an event (and CA of course) is to put across the very real benefits of cloud computing to those who will really benefit from it, in plain English, free of techie jargon. This is very much dear to my own heart, coming as I do from a distinctly non IT/software background. As David Terrar put it on the day, 'I've not been tarnished by the software industry'! - not yet David, not yet!!

I've long been aware that the software industry stands guilty as charged of talking over the heads of potential users, patronising them and being condescending in general - having been a victim myself. I also know that on occasions cloud co's can lapse into jargon if unchecked. But, TBH the more successful SaaS co's rarely do. This is not a coincidence. 

Unfortunately I missed Dennis Howlett's presentation via Skype early on. I understand it had a surrealist air to it so a shame I missed that! I at last got to see Mark Lee present, which was an interesting surprise as I didn't expect him to be the 'anti social media guru', which was refreshing and a relief. I don't think the irony of his relentless self-publicity (about half the slides featured 'where to find Mark Lee'!) was lost on anyone however, but maybe that's the point? Nice work if you can get it.

To prove a point, on more than one occasion I've suggested the tearing down of a Facebook page (for example). Purely because it was not being administered...at all! A blank Facebook page has a much more negative effect than no Facebook page IMHO. The same goes for Twitter and the rest of them. No-one can argue the benefits of social media when one gets it right. But one must have both the resources and the vision, i.e. joined-up and with a goal. Of course it will evolve and grow etc. But, otherwise don't bother. BTW - I know what it's like not be cool too - I work with techies.

All in all, it was a good event. If I sound surprised it's because, I have found most similar events tedious and/or hard-work TBH. Not all, but most. Without a doubt there is a need to for this sort of event, especially well put-together and well managed events such as this. Including a tight focus and a good mix - maybe 90/10 or 80/20, with a vendor minority and the majority a mix of significant partners and users conveying their experiences and success stories that highlight the benefits much better than the vendors could do themselves. And genuinely interested potential users of course.

I think a maturing on my part may have some part to play in my appreciation of the event. Hence when a discussion got hijacked by the security red herring question for 5 minutes, I didn't storm out the room or start slamming my head against the wall. I simply took a deep breathe, just like the rest of the room. Likewise, when the days most surreal event took place - a short presentation by a desktop virtualisation provider (yes, you read it right) - I simply opened up my Twitter client, like the rest of the room. Yep. I'm getting  old alright;)

I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of virtualisation here, but I did get to wondering 'when is a SaaS provider, not a SaaS provider and vice versa?'

A big thank you to all in involved. MyPAYE certainly appreciated the love in the room! 

Other coverage:-

If I've missed any please add them in the comments.

Thanks to Kevin McCullum (FreeAgent) for the title, inadvertently provided via Twitter (I would have thought of it anyway:)

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