Industry Insights—A Conversation with Lindy Antonelli

Our latest Intacct Industry Insights interview is with Lindy Antonelli, one of the nation's top experts in cloud accounting and financial management solutions. Lindy is a consulting partner at Armanino LLP and founder of the Cloud Accounting Institute. As one of the 10 fastest-growing firms in the nation, Armanino offers a broad range of audit, tax and consulting services to public, private and non-profit mid-market companies with domestic and/or international operations. The firm’s cloud practice focuses on migrating organizations from legacy entry-level and mid-market on-premise accounting software to Intacct’s cloud financial applications.

Our conversation with Lindy covered topics including migrating to cloud accounting systems, integration, and cloud security. Here are the highlights…

INTACCT: What are a few best practices for migrating clients from legacy accounting to cloud solutions?

LINDY ANTONELLI: We follow the Business Simple methodology, which I trademarked six years ago. It is built around communication. We start by working with the client to establish budget, time frames, and goals. We get together at various “success points” during the project, such as after the configuration and before user training. At those points we review the budget, discuss our progress and refine our timeline and project plan for a successful go-live.

INTACCT: Is it hard for clients to abandon their on-premise systems?

LA: Legacy accounting systems tend to be highly customized. If we were working with Microsoft Dynamics, for instance, we would install it on their server and then suddenly, it becomes a unique solution for the customer. Then the customer has to deal with the complexity of maintenance and upgrades on a highly-customized application. With the cloud, it's all based on standards. We implement the same way for all of our clients and make sure that the functionality works well for everyone. Sometimes, we need to work hard to get clients to think differently, to envision a new and better way of working. There is a subset of people who simply want to open the server closet and touch the dusty box, look at the blinking lights and know that their data is right there. But there are also a lot of business-savvy people running finance departments today and they are seeing the true benefits of having standard GAAP accounting processes, easy interfaces, and not having to maintain an IT-intensive system. Managing the hardware and software components is no longer their problem with cloud. They can focus on the functionality and improved visibility, plus the gain the benefit of a lower total cost of ownership.

INTACCT: How have software integration challenges improved or changed in the cloud?

LA: Cloud software tends to be best-in-class solutions, so that you can pick and choose the best applications for your business. Cloud publishers realized from the beginning that they had to get really good at managing integrations. They have web services and APIs so that customers can interface the application with their websites or other applications. This can all be done at a low cost, using a relatively easy process. And guess what, the integrations don't break with upgrades. Of course there are solutions like NetSuite which automatically integrates CRM, finance and other applications into a cloud suite, but then you're stuck with everything the way they want you to have it. Those vendors won't have the best module in each area. So that is the trade-off.

INTACCT: How much harder is it to integrate cloud apps with legacy systems?

LA: It depends on the legacy vendor. They must have created APIs and more importantly, the APIs must be open and accessible. You will likely need a programmer to write the interfaces when they are not open.

INTACCT: What should a customer ask vendors about their integration capabilities and support?

LA: The first question is do they have open APIs that are public and downloadable from their site? One customer of ours went down the road with NetSuite, did a proof of concept, but then discovered that their APIs were not as open and easy to use as expected. They decided to go with Intacct. So a proof of concept is an excellent idea, and you also need to know about any required tools to do the integration. Finally, what will this all cost?

INTACCT: A recent AICPA survey found that the top barrier to adopting or expanding accounting solutions is security. Any thoughts on that?

LA: It's interesting, because we also did a survey of business and finance professionals recently through the Cloud Accounting Institute, and security was second on the list after integrations. Cloud finance vendors are going to be compliant with the top standards. For security, it is SSAE 16, formally SAS 70, and that is the marker that a vendor has strong protections and metrics for privacy, uptime, and security. Achieving the standard requires vendors to spend millions of dollars on their data center and on security technologies. If I am working with a nervous prospect, I will ask them, can they afford to spend millions of dollars on their security? Usually they say no. So with cloud solutions, customers can take advantage of the best security for a low cost.

INTACCT: Now a couple questions just for fun…

What are your favorite things to do in Chicago?

LA: It depends on the season. In the summer, it is tennis, golf, swimming, and most anything else outdoors. In winter, I enjoy snowshoeing, ice skating, shopping, and movies in front of the fireplace.

What is your most memorable vacation?

LA: Sanibel Island in Florida is where my family and I have been vacationing for spring break for many years. We love the shelling, biking around the island, and the laid-back attitude when we are on “island time.”

If you could start over, what career might you pursue?

LA: I love tennis and wish I would have pursued it further in high school and college. But in reality, I love what I do professionally—getting to work with really smart, interesting people who also have a great passion for what they do!

To stay connected with Lindy, be sure to follow the Cloud Accounting Institute blog. You can also follow Intacct on all our social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. To network with other people interested in cloud financial applications, join the Intacct Cloud Accounting group and the CFOInsights group on LinkedIn.

Do you have an idea for someone you think has interesting industry insights we should interview? Send us your suggestions for consideration.