The management challenges of moving to a cloud-based accounting practice

Your cloud practice is growing rapidly so you need new team members. Offering remote and flexible working would enable you to recruit from a wider geographical area and hence talent pool. But how do you make this work for your practice and ensure that client services are still efficiently delivered?

Access to client data

You’ve solved this problem by moving all your clients onto cloud software. Further enhancements include clients saving attachments of all their purchase invoices into the cloud software, either directly into the software on an invoice by invoice basis or via a receipt processing app such as ReceiptBank.

Make sure that your staff members have appropriate access to client data as required for their roles. Ensure your client is aware of all your team members so they don’t wonder why an unknown user has been accessing their software – this doesn’t help build trust!

Access to practice data

While you were taking your clients onto the cloud, did you move your practice too? If not, then you will need to consider how to give your team access to the practice software and data.

The first consideration is how often and how many of the team will need to work remotely. However,a note of warning – once one team member starts working remotely then you and your team will quickly identify more opportunities for flexible working! If it is just occasionally then consider using software such as Teamviewer, which enables remote access to your PC at work. However, this will necessitate having another PC at home and is not robust enough for heavy data transfer.

Otherwise, consider either a hosted environment or Software as a Service (SaaS). Providers such as Hosted Desktop UK will host your server virtually; or you could host it yourself – but remember to back it up in multiple locations.

Saas would seem the obvious solution, but currently there is no full suite of cloud-based compliance solutions from the main established providers – although there are some new players emerging such as Capium, Taxfiler and mTrio. Microsoft: 365 and the Google suite are options for your general office software.

Paperless filing of data is essential to remote working and options include DropBox or Google Drive (with appropriate security protocols); or maybe a dedicated document management solution such as Reckon or Docusoft. Maybe add a portal to allow your clients to upload confidential documents to you rather than using email or post.

Client communication needs to be centrally stored so everyone can reach it. Emails could drop automatically into your CRM package or your document management solution or you drag and drop emails to your DropBox or Google Drive.

Inter-team communication also needs to be considered. Emails can become unwieldy, but with instant messaging such as Slack you get a quick response and the note can be saved alongside the client job.

Strong working processes

With a remote workforce, strong working processes are essential to ensure that all the team are working in the same consistent way. it is important to know what stage all the jobs are at, particularly if you are working with outsourced team members in different time zones!

A quality practice management solution, such as mTrio or Workflow Max, allows job processes to be set-up – allowing them to be split into tasks for each team member. The tasks should include a checklist of items to be performed and a link to any master documents used. There should be clear reporting on the utilisation of staff and job progress to ensure that deadlines are met. However, you could equally well use spreadsheets, but they can quickly become unwieldy in a bigger practice. Whiteboards can’t be accessed by remote staff – unless you’re using Google Jamboard!

A little bonus for all this hard work and investment is that it has been shown that having strong systems in your accountancy practice, including paperless filing, will significantly increase the value of your practice when you want to sell it.

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