Opinion: Why ask accountants and lawyers for IT advice?

If I want accounting advice, it's unlikely that I'd ask my dentist for that advice.

Many years ago, I created applications for food wholesalers. When the owners of these businesses decided to get a new or better computing system, invariably they'd speak to their accountants. I understand the reasons why that might seem logical to them at first, but what I saw when these clients did this, is that they invariably ended up with the wrong systems.


If you talk to the accountants, their recommendations would often be based on how good the general ledger was. They wanted to make sure that the figures that came to them from the business were already in a good state.

But to someone selling meat or fish or small-goods, that's not the issue. It's far more important for the system to understand how they sell and price food, how to track both quantity and weight, not just one value, etc. It's critical to have a system that lets them manage their warehouses properly.

Very few of the systems recommended by the accountants did that. We often gained new clients who had made an initial misstep by purchasing what their accountant recommended. (And I'll ignore the situations where the accountant was also being paid a commission by the software vendor).

So why am I raising this today?

I spend a lot of time working in large financial organizations, and security is a big issue for them. However, what I see time and again, is that they hire large accounting firms or legal firms to perform pen-testing (penetration testing), security audits of applications and systems, etc.

It's hard to imagine why anyone would expect their accountants or legal advisers to be at the cutting edge of computer security. And as someone who's involved in training people from those types of firms, I know that they might try hard but I can assure you that they aren't anywhere near the current state of the art.

Perhaps they think these firms are large enough that they'd be a good litigation target if something goes wrong (even though you can be sure their terms and conditions would prevent that), or that it somehow "looks good to the market" to use a big name accounting or legal firm.

If I really needed to secure or test the security of a system though, I'd be looking to use a boutique consultancy that specializes in that type of work. There are many consultants who are outstanding at this type of work.

They are good at what they do, and I'll bet they don't offer dental advice either.

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