Small- and medium-sized accounting firms are judged by their efficiency, talent acquisition and retention, and the ability to carve out a niche from the competition. The leverage that any accounting firm has today does not depend on staffing; any firm can increase its productivity without adding manpower. Technology is the new arbiter in determining winners and losers in the accounting field.
Small- and medium-sized accounting firms now have the ability to handle huge tax returns that would normally be the exclusive job of enterprise-level firms. Even with client expectations higher than ever, cloud computing allows firms with limited manpower the ability to match the workflow, compliance and efficiency of large firms.
Cloud technologies considerably improve the QuickBooks culture that dominated accounting in the 1990s and 2000s. Instead of having to look in many places to prepare engagement letters, organize source documents and prepare the final return, everything from organization to fulfillment can be completely processed through the cloud in the same workflow.
Most importantly, cloud technology aggregates data entry and information in the same place. The user interface that usually involves only the tax preparation firm is now a collaborative place for the accounting firm and the client to meet. Portals allow both sides to exchange files in real time and communicate their meaning extremely quickly. Once trust is built, cloud technology gives the firm access to client data remotely from mobile devices, increasing the efficiency of the process even more.
High Tech, Low Cost
Aside from the improved workflow, cloud technology also costs much less than traditional accounting software packages. This added leverage can be put into the purchase of efficiency, a luxury that most clients are willing to pay for. Additionally, cloud technology is usually the safest, most protected data storage location to place important information. The latest disaster recovery and malware protection techniques come to the cloud first, freeing both the client and the firm from having to deal with the logistics of security.
Moving to the Cloud
Although cloud technology has countless advantages over traditional software accounting, the move into the cloud should be done strategically. First of all, an accounting firm must assess its current bandwidth and other logistics to determine if it can support this new technology without pickups.
Secondly, an accounting firm must determine the workflows that will inevitably change because of a move to the cloud. Vital employees must be trained in the new technology as well.
Leveraging Technology for Marketing
A savvy accounting firm can also use the cloud and social media to help automate the marketing process, freeing up even more time to provide to clients. With techniques such as programmable marketing and social listening, accounting firms can redirect a great deal of their resources into the actual fulfillment of their services, while automated procedures take care of the inbound marketing programs. Current clients are happier because more time is spent on their accounts, and future clients can trust that the accounting firm has the latest technological resources to employ on their services as well.
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