The ICAEW Cloud conference – yet another missed opportunity

As I mentioned in my recent post, I attended the ICAEW’s Cloud Conference on Friday 24th September. I had mentioned that I did not have high hopes for this and sadly my concerns were justified – but not, interestingly, for the reasons I had feared.

Firstly the positive points – there were some. The fact that the ICAEW had decided to run such a conference was a positive step. After all it is incumbent on a leading professional organisation to keep its members informed of current trends and I salute them for organising the event. The surroundings were great – Moorgate Place is a very impressive venue – and the organisation of the ICAEW staff was first class. The fact that over 100 people attended the event was also positive as it clearly indicates the growing level of interest in the subject.


My heart sank when I saw the agenda. The second item was entitled Legal Implications – what are the legal implications of moving to the Cloud. I shall return to this shortly but my initial reaction was “oh,oh, here we go with the jargon”. My concerns were exacerbated in the opening stages of the conference. Everyone had been issued with voting pads (you know the sort of gizmos they use in Millionaire) and we had to give our prefernce to a number of multi choice, fairly anodyne questions, such as How much do we know about the Cloud and would we consider using it. The results of the voting then appeared on screen (great technology by the way!)

My hackles were raised at the second question – What are your main concerns about using the Cloud? Talk about a leading question, somewhat akin to “have you stopped beating your wife”. Why did the question have to be framed in those pejorative terms which pre-supposes that everyone should have concerns. Why could it not be asked as “Do you have concerns…” and then it could be assessed what those concerns were.

The first sessions was a presentation by a representative from Microsoft (!)  on “Cloud Computing defined” which started with a deliberately jargon filled explanation to make the point that “ is difficult to define..” Well, why is it difficult to define. Cloud Computing is using the Internet to run your applications and store and access your data…simples. It doesn’t need to be made more complicated than that… after all the Cloud is merely another method of delivery.

I’m afraid matters went downhill after that. The lawyer talked a lot of legalise which, in my humble opinion was not strictly relevant and after the breakout sessions, a presentation by the Global Director of Cap Gemini entitled “Risk and return – an overview of security risk and return” might just as well have been delivered in Swahili for all the relevance to the audience and comprehensibility were concerned. Why is it necessary to go into such detail when talking about the Cloud?

Very few people understand – or indeed want to understand – how their on-premise server or office network works. When I get into my car,I want to know two things – how to start (and stop) and who to call if there is a problem. It is the same with any computer setup for the majority of users and the Cloud should be no different. There is no need, in a general symposium to go into such technical detail – it is just not relevant.

The one bright spot was the break out session I attended which consisted  of an excellent presentation by Matt Holmes of Liquid Accounts who gave a first class presentation on the Cloud  and the relevant issues which was followed by a panel session of 4 practicing accountants who gave short presentations on why they had moved tto the cloud and their experiences in so doing. This is what the conference should have been built around and I implore the ICAEW to take notice the next time they run something like this.

So in my view a missed opportunity. 8/10 for effort – 3/10 for content.