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CPAs and the cloud: A match made in heaven?

Cloud Did you catch "Dilbert" the other day?

"Blah blah cloud" sounds about right.

Corporate America's Hype Machine, apparently tiring of its efforts to pump the virtues of social media 24/7, has turned its attention to cloud computing, and with good reason. Speed, convenience, ease of access, collaborative qualities, low costs, scalability -- cloud computing has the ability to deliver it all.

But why should CPAs care?

Let's ask Jason Blumer.

"The cloud is a game-changer, and I honestly don't think we've even seen the tip of the iceberg," said Blumer, managing shareholder and "chief innovation officer" for Blumer and Associates in Greenville, S.C. "There's no telling what will happen. I truly believe everything will be online one day. ... The way small business operates in that new world is going to be amazing. The efficiencies that come out of that are going to be huge."

How would he know? Well, he's already there.

Blumer took over his father's practice a few years ago with an eye on trying new things. That included retooling the firm to take complete advantage of tools like the cloud, social media and paperless technologies. His entire firm now can work "anywhere, anytime and anyhow we want."

He took it a step (or three) further, though, particularly with his next-generation clients. "They didn't really know what they could have," said Blumer, "but they knew what we were offering them was not what they wanted."

So he began creating new consulting models to meet his clients' unique needs -- for example, compiling weekly or even daily compilation reports for younger dentists or doctors, instead of the usual monthly reports.

"They didn't know what to ask for, so they needed their CPA to be innovative enough to say, 'Will this meet your needs? If not, I'll create something you do want.'"

The cloud plays a key role in all of that -- and that brings us to Blumer's really big idea.

"I see CPAs as heavy consultants toward business process design," he said. "I see CPAs remapping people's minds and changing how they do business, almost wiping their minds clean of what they've been trained to do and saying, 'Let's start over. Now that you operate in the cloud, that means your process is totally different.'

"CPAs are going to be brand new types of consultants," he continued. "The commoditized work of tax, payroll and accounting -- we just can't compete in those areas anymore. Everybody can do it themselves. We have to become consultants at using the cloud in efficient ways."

Some folks agree. Others offer strong words of caution.

Regardless, as with social media, the cloud-computing train is leaving the station. If you're not on board -- or at least educating yourself -- you're being left behind.

Listen to my interview with Blumer in its entirety, then let us know how you're making use of the cloud.

Want to learn more?
The MACPA will be offering a program titled "Answering the Mysteries of Cloud Computing" twice in the coming months. Register to attend either the May 4 program in Towson or the June 1 program in Columbia.

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