EnterConf opened today in Belfast, Northern Ireland in a former Harland & Wolff warehouse building (now home to a skateboarding park). The venue is grungy but the presentations – from the great and the good in enterprise software – help paint a picture of enterprise software in a state of flux.
The flux is, to some extent at least, being caused by cloud technology. Enterprises (and governments) are all over this technology and want to be seen to be using it. Sometimes they have no choice – such is the tendency for developers, in particular, to start using the new cool thing – the C-suite is then forced to pay the bill for an enterprise license. There’s talk, at EnterConf, about the ‘shadow cloud’ – non-approved software entering the enterprise and staying there.
But most SMEs see little down-side to the cloud. And a new breed of software vendor has entered the domain traditionally occupied by Google to offer very handy functionality for very little cost. One such company is cloud based accounts vendor, Xero.
Xero, along with competitors Sage, KashFlow and others, offers its software for a minimal monthly fee. Functionality grows with need as the business grows.
Such cloud based packages have transformed the lives of small business owners and accounting firms. They have also caused government tax authorities to reappraise the nature of the relationships between themselves and small business owners. In the case of the UK tax authority – HMRC – it seems inevitable that its head-count will reduce as its need to provide face-to-face engagement reduces with the advent of all-electronic filing and returns.
I had the opportunity to ask Andy Lark, CMO of Xero, about his observations about how government tax authorities should rearrange themselves – in preparation for a cloud future.