How To Move Your Accounting Office Into The Cloud
In outer space, astronauts would kill to have the freedom to control their mobility and save time. On Earth, accountants and their firms can do this all the time by moving to the cloud.
For the skilled couch potato, having everything in one place without getting up is the perfect cure for laziness and maximizing time watching TV or playing video games. For accountants, that luxury is vital for untapped potential or renewed success. Just ask the David Bergstein, CPA.CITP, CGMA.
“Firms are embracing the cloud because it gives them connectivity and mobility,” said David, a regional strategic account manager for Intuit’s® Accountant and Advisory Group. “The cloud frees firms from having to be in a physical location to work or connect through Citrix and allows them to work wherever they want, to reduce the size of their physical office, number of servers, and the need for back up and disaster recovery, as well as multiple individuals in the firm to manage these systems. Less physical servers and equipment in the office mean reduced labor costs, giving the firm the ability to use those people elsewhere to generate revenue.”
Moving to the cloud is a big step for firms, and requires patience and preparation to set up. While undergoing or accepting the need for change can be difficult, Bergstein says this fear of change should not be a barrier to putting off the pursuit and implementation of the cloud. He says to think of it more as change management than just the cloud, because the “change” is really only in the operating system. It isn’t about moving only one application; instead, it’s about moving all you have on your servers to the cloud in a systematic way so that your software integrates and functions with your entire workflow.
David has spent more than 25 years working for various organizations, including Thomson Reuters, Wolters Kluwer, AccountantsWorld and CPA2Biz. Today, he has never been more excited about ditching the old ways and experiencing the change in workflow and unparalleled results that the cloud entails.
“Every accounting firm seems to have similar goals, revolving around the desire to have more efficiency in performing their functions to save time, being able to generate more revenue and having an increased realization while serving their clients with the best answers and advice that allow them to cross-sell the other services of a trusted advisor,” said David, who recommends focusing on a Level 5 Service concept once you have your tools in place, as evidenced by Edi Osborne’s book, Firm Forward. “The cloud gives you the peace of mind to be able to accomplish all of these assets!”
While the cloud is a giant step in the right direction, David urges that choosing the right provider is invaluable to making it all work out for you and your firm.
“The bottom line is to pick a provider that not only has the solution that will solve your needs to improve workflow and efficiency, but also provides you with the assistance to move forward,” he said. “Providers need to document the steps you need to take to migrate or switch from your present processes, as well as let you know how to get your present data into the new solution.”
David says that not knowing how to proceed – and with no clear direction from a cloud provider – is one of the biggest hurdles for firms to move to the cloud.
“I would also tell firms to create a document and a checklist on what they are trying to accomplish, and think about structure, document management, billing systems and tools that they would need as they grow and connect with each other. I would ask them what services the firm is looking to provide and make sure they find a vendor that has an ‘ecosystem’ that will allow them to expand as they perform more services.”
For example, if a firm starts using QuickBooks® to perform bookkeeping, but then decides to also prepare tax returns, all a firm has to do is look to the provider’s offerings, or ecosystem, to see that they can add another product, Intuit Tax Online.
“All a firm has to do is press a button in a function called “Book to Tax” that practically gives them a completed tax return,” said David.
The best practice in approaching the cloud, according to David, is making sure this document he described above dictates what you are trying to change and has a checklist to monitor that the solution is solving that need.
“The checklist should have a workflow diagram of what steps the firm is performing now and the time it takes to do them to see if the solution providers they interview can quantify how they can help them reduce steps and automate the processes,” he said. “That way, accountants are freed from mundane tasks of recording sorting and summarizing transactions.”
The process is similar in the undertaking, but its execution and organizational decisions vary based on the size of the firm. Larger firms look for administrative tools in order to control the amount of information their staff has access to call up. In other words, firms want a dashboard or a tool that controls who has access to the clients and files, and the ability to assign and remove employees.
No matter the size of your firm or what kind of services you provide, David believes the cloud is the solution. Approaching the cloud and setting yourself up for its success starts with training and education. Follow those two paths and you will be ready to accelerate business with the convenience and luxury of the cloud!