TPAC 2024 Wrap-Up

TPAC 2024 Wrap-Up

Fri, 19 Apr 2024

Is AI coming for your accountancy job? What will your legacy be? This year’s TPAC keynotes didn’t shy away from the big questions!
 

TPAC 2024 wrapped up last weekend, ending a hectic run of conferences for the Orchid team. TPAC Southern Africa was held in the spectacular Drakensberg region of South Africa, following hot on the heels of TPAC North America in Vancouver.

For those not familiar with TPAC, it’s an acronym for Third Party Advantage Conference.

Running since 2003, it was and remains the brainchild of Doug Ash. It is unique in that its focus is 3rd Party Add-ons for Sage 300 and provides a fantastic opportunity for developers like us to showcase our products to the Sage Business Partner community. Orchid Systems is proud to have exhibited at all 21 North American TPACs, as well as both Southern Africa editions.

As well as multiple product-specific sessions, the TPAC agenda always includes an impressive range of ‘main stage’ events and keynote presentations. This year was no exception, as illustrated by the precis below of the Vancouver sessions. (Disclaimer: I wasn’t an attendee, so these summaries are based on what I’ve heard from those who were!) The Southern Africa keynotes also picked up on these themes, but with different presenters and angles.

Is AI Coming for your accounting Job?

Don Thomson, an elder statesman of the Sage 300 community, posed the question people in many industries are asking, given the often hyperbolic headlines about millions of imminent job redundancies due to AI.

The answer, in a nutshell, seemed to be “Don’t panic!”.

High-profile tools like ChatGPT have been trained on large language models, and can certainly answer language-based questions with eloquence and a convincing air of authority. This can lead us to believe that they are smarter than they actually are!

When it comes to to basic numeracy, let alone complex maths, they leave an awful lot to be desired. He gave several examples to illustrate his point. One of them was simply asking what the current date is. I tried this myself:

AI-Date-Question

More eye-raising still, I asked it again a week later, on April 19th, and it gave me the same answer!

ChatGPT got it right, so it can chalk that up as a small win, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence about what’s going on under the AI bonnet, and how much I should trust it on far more complex computational tasks. I wouldn’t be asking AI to create and lodge my tax return while I head for the golf course. Not just yet, anyway.

Always keen to get a second opinion, I asked Microsoft Copilot “If I were an accountant, should I worry about AI taking my job”. After a page or so of dense and not terribly helpful copy, their summary was:

AI is not a threat; it’s a tool that can enhance your capabilities as an accountant. Embrace it as a valuable resource rather than a competitor!

That may be something Don and AI can agree on! 

To illustrate the opportunities on the horizon, Don mentioned the February announcement of a strategic collaboration between Sage and AWS in the field of AI-Driven Accounting and Compliance.

Sage Keynote

Mark Hickman’s attendance was perfectly timed. It gave the audience a chance to congratulate him on his promotion from Managing Director of Sage Canada to that of Sage North America, announced just 2 weeks earlier.

Key takeaways were that Sage is investing more than ever in the ongoing development of Sage 300, which continues to perform strongly with both existing clients and new sales. (We heard the same story in Africa.)

In short, there is still a lot of life in Sage 300!

The Sage 300 Channel: Leaving a Legacy

Robert Lavery has been a respected member of the Sage 300 community for decades, starting well before commencing his long association with Orchid, so his insights are always relevant and of great interest.

This year’s talk provided something of a ‘State of the Sage 300 Nation’ address. Some key points:

  • Sage 300 has evolved over the years, becoming “More Customizable, Portable, Integrated, Modern, Mobile, and Compliant.”
  • ISVs have been key contributors to the modernization and continued relevance of Sage 300.
  • One reseller told Rob that “Sage 300 is a powerhouse when bundled with these types of products. There is nothing it cannot do.
  • The Sage 300 channel is going through a “right-sizing” through mergers and acquisitions, but...
  • There remains a place for smaller business partners who can build relationships with and provide personal service to smaller customers.

Robert’s presentation wrapped up by throwing out a challenge to his peers to start thinking about what their legacy would be. What will they pass on? For some that might be a personal legacy built upon their character and reputation, for others a business they have built or a cause they have contributed to.

He invited them to celebrate their part in the strong, loyal partner community that continues to support Sage 300.

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