The relationship between software providers and clients has changed radically in recent years, at least in the accounting industry. As a matter of fact, I believe that this change is not just in our industry, but that software companies are crossing borders more broadly. The clients that entrepreneurs have worked so hard to acquire, are suddenly becoming joint clients and you start getting advice on how to run and price your own business. This reality really hit me when the CEO of Digibalance companies, who runs our operations, said that most of the accounting software updates are negative, trying to steer us in a direction we don’t want to go.
Cloud services (SaaS) have been a major, and in many ways positive, game changer for the software industry. For example, the current operations of online accountants firm AutoAccount are completely dependent on cloud based applications, and we have no longing for server software or even more ancient local installations. However, the active interference of a software company in our own business is strongly disapproved by the entrepreneur. The most equivalent memory that comes to my mind is that of an exchange student from decades ago. The endearingly jealous host family brother legendarily uttered “how about making some own friends” when he noticed I was constantly hanging out with his old buddies 😊. However, it’s an equally sensitive issue with the entrepreneurial mind. When a software salesperson, after one Teams meeting, starts calling your long-term customers “our customers”, a mental war is easily waged.
The set up has become quite awkward for the entrepreneur as a client and is starting to resemble a dating market. Software providers are inviting you to constant non-productive meetings and calling the entrepreneur a partner, which he or she may not want to be. The tricky part comes when the accounting software company changes their pricing to reflect how they feel the client’s industry should operate. In our own accounting process, we run over 2000 client books a month and even small changes in pricing can be critical. For years we were effectively reliant on one accounting software, but in the current climate this dependency had to be broken. It is now a question of which provider’s software, pricing and attitude best supports our own processes. In Sweden, for example, after a little initial fidgeting, we have been understood where we are going with our own business. Then we can talk about partnership.
An entrepreneur should never become arrogant and turn a deaf ear to comments from outside. A person unfamiliar with your field, may occasionally make comments that hit on a surprising point that you hadn’t thought of. I would still encourage every entrepreneur to protect their customers. If you are not vigilant, someone is always ready to co-opt your customers mainly to support their own business.
Author Mikko Ilves the Chairman of the Board of Digibalance Group