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The idea that the Internet levels the playing field for business is a bit overblown: there seems little chance that the smallest businesses can serve the largest. Still, cloud-based products do represent the chance for small businesses to significant increase their markets and their capabilities of serving them.

That certainly is the message of the vendors rolling out products on the Internet. From accounting to practice management software, the message is that applications in the cloud let the publishers provide more functions to smaller businesses. That has been the message from Deltek, which serves architects and engineers and is increasingly having an impact among larger accounting firms. CCH has made the same argument with the SaaS version of its ProSystem fx Document.

And it is a strong theme among the practice management firms such as Office Tools Professional, which has served the market for several years, and Xero, which has just pushed its way into the field.

Although many smaller firms do not use practice management applications, they perform the function somehow, argues Mike Giardina, CEO of OfficePro. And with Intuit lurking in the wings with its online practice management package, firms are soon going to have a much wider variety of software to choose from in this category. The more traditional vendors, such as Thomson Reuters, with its new Practice CS, and CCH with its SaaS offerings, are also in the field.

So the chances are that firms that never considered practice management products will now find something that fits their budgets. These will increasingly link to social media platforms, and the distinction between front office and back office applications is going to erode as most business functions are rolled into one product for running a business.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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