I’m sure you’ve heard about ‘the cloud.’ As far as technology is concerned, it’s a big deal and lots of people are talking about it. If you’re uncertain how it works, here’s a brief, albeit watered down, explanation:
Rather than relying on a local server, cloud computing provides professionals with access to a network of remote servers, hosted on the Internet, that enables them to store, manage, and process data.
While that may not sound like such a big deal, it means that you can access your data, including some software, from just about anywhere you want using your device of choice: desktop, laptop, tablet, SmartPhone.
But how does that affect your ability to serve clients? A recent article in the Journal of Accountancy claims that many accountants are using it to bolster business by providing more client accounting services (CAS), because now bookkeeping and other “write-up” activities can be accomplished more efficiently using cloud computing.
Author Jeff Drew explains, “The digitization of financial data and the evolution of cloud computing, broadband connectivity, and mobile devices have made it possible for accounting firms and their clients to access critical information and applications from virtually anywhere at any time. …Cloud-based software automates or otherwise greatly reduces the manual labor associated with transactional accounting functions.”
Now accounting professionals can offer CAS in a scalable model that enables them to serve more clients with less time; you could potentially increase your clientele without increasing your workload, making your business significantly more profitable.
Jeff Drew referenced Geoffrey Moore, technology author and business consultant, who outlines a four-stage process to establishing a cloud-based CAS:
- Specialize. Moore suggests that streamlining one’s efficiency when it comes to cloud-based CAS can be accomplished by selecting a specific industry. Then it’s important that you create a “common system of record” that enables both accountants and clients to access and analyze current financial data. In addition to this, there should also be a cloud-based system for exchanging documents between accountants and clients.
- Build a client base. Chances are you’ve already established a client base, but if you’re moving to cloud-based CAS, you’ll need to ensure that everyone on your roster in onboard with your plan. Establish a process for informing all your clients of the change, being sure to emphasize how it will benefit their businesses.
- Expand your practice. This step requires that you create a location-independent practice and attempt migrating client communications to online channels. Once you do this, you can recruit clients outside your physical boundaries because the cloud enables you to do your industry-specific accounting for anyone, anywhere.
- Deepen the practice. Accountants must deepen their expertise by attending industry conferences and learning from other professionals sharing their specialization. Drew, paraphrasing Moore, explains, “Once they achieve expert status, CPAs can take on a trusted advisory role, in which the CPA becomes more of a strategic partner than a technician.”
While new, and possibly daunting to some, cloud computing offers accountants the ability to expand their practices and streamline their processes. It may be time for you to get your head into the clouds!
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Drew, Jeff. “From ‘Write-up’ to Right Profitable.” April 2013 JournalofAccountancy.com