The Cloud Is Delivering SOA For Small Businesses

Helping Accountants Work Closely With Clients

When generally-available broadband and Web-based applications emerged, some enterprise-level software developers envisioned a world where users would not interact with specific applications, but would instead interact with data in a view and context relevant to their processes or functional requirements. Data would potentially reside in different locations or environments, but the “framework” would provide a means to define, access and integrate data throughout the enterprise. This concept, referred to as Service-Oriented Architecture, is defined by Wikipedia as “ a set of software engineering principles and methodologies for designing and developing software in the form of interoperable services. These services are well-defined business functionalities that are built as software components (discrete pieces of code and/or data structures) that can be reused for different purposes.” 

It sounds logical, and in the world of enterprise computing it makes sense to develop a means to provide each user with a relevant interface and relevant information. So how does a small business take advantage of a similar approach, and provide for each of their team members the information and application functionality they need to efficiently and effectively get their jobs done?  It’s not so difficult, and it’s called the Cloud. Today, the Cloud is delivering SOA for small businesses.

The Cloud isn’t a place or a product, it’s a platform. (I realize that definitions vary, but when it comes to small business use of the internet, the term “cloud” is essentially interchangeable with the web, so we’ll run with that.) This platform offers quite a lot to business users, in terms of subscription-based applications, data management, communication, and other tools. As these tools and services have matured, standards-based connections and integrations have been created. Standalone applications and separate pockets of data are now communicating with each other in the background, in the cloud, allowing small businesses to enjoy many of the benefits of the enterprise SOA approach.

Consider a simple example using QuickBooks desktop editions and the Bill.com solution.  Bill.com allows a business to manage their bill payments, vendor information, and other data in a web-based solution. Bill.com also seamlessly integrates its data with QuickBooks desktop editions. Using this capability, accounting professionals are able to provide their clients with a direct means of approving and managing bills and payments, and the accounting pro gets the data when and where they need it – in the accounting system. The business owner isn’t a user of QuickBooks, and isn’t exposed to other functionality or data that is not relevant to what they need to accomplish.

Another example of this approach is using Freshbooks.com, a great solutions for small businesses who want to invoice customers, receive payments, and even track time and invoice from it. Freshbooks gives a small business owner direct access to the functionality they need to get their work done, but it doesn’t force them to work within a full checkbook or accounting solution. With the integration between Freshbooks and QuickBooks, accounting and bookkeeping professionals can bring in the data and do the necessary work for the client, but in the program that works best for them.

For accounting and bookkeeping professionals, this cloud-based reality suggests that a new approach to the delivery of back-office support to businesses should be adopted, allowing for a more meaningful level of involvement by the client, and by defining and implementing the necessary controls to ensure integrity of the data.

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