If you have not yet adopted cloud technology, you really should look at it for the upcoming tax season. You might say that it’s too late to look, but I suggest you try using it on a small scale, for example, with a handful of clients or a few team members before you roll it out to all clients and employees.
Key to adoption is careful planning. Here are five questions to ask yourself and others in your firm:
- Which cloud partners do I choose? Do your homework and talk to your peers, look at reviews of the different options, and a get trial version of the software. Better yet, get a live copy of the software and try it on some of your clients. Some companies, such as Intuit® ProConnect™, will give you a free copy of their software, such as ProConnect Tax Online, to use for a limited number of clients for free. Evaluate the security measures you will put in place, and ask your cloud solution provider to let you know what it will do to keep your information secure. The information is in the cloud, so you will need to discuss backups and whether the information could ever be transferred to another cloud solution. In addition, check out the provider’s training and support.
- Which solutions integrate with each other? If you use QuickBooks® Online Accountant, for example, you can manage your clients and their QuickBooks files from a dashboard. Tax returns can be created in ProConnect Tax Online by mapping where accounts in your clients’ QuickBooks files need to go on a tax return. QuickBooks remembers the mapping for future returns, and if your clients use QuickBooks Online, you no longer need to exchange QuickBooks files with them. Everyone can access their files at any time. Once QuickBooks Online is adopted, look at QuickBooks Apps to help manage payroll, accounts payable and more.
- How will you make the move? Do you have any tech-savvy team members in your firm who can help with the transition? If not, you could contract with someone to help you, but make sure that a high-level team member from the firm is involved with the process. You could also designate someone in the firm to start learning more about cloud solutions. The team member assigned to that task should be knowledgeable about the direction the firm wants to take and good at evaluating the potential solutions.
- What will your workflow look like? How you implement the change is important, so the firm’s processes will need to change based on the new technology. Make one or more team members try the new technology first. Adapt your firm’s workflow for the new technology and get feedback from those using it on what works well and what needs fixing. Ask them for solutions to any problems they encounter.
- Why should we adopt cloud technology? The firm needs to evaluate if a solution will save time and money for you and your clients, but also consider what additional services could be provided if less time was spent doing some of the mundane tasks that could be automated with cloud technology. Backups are now the responsibility of the solution provider. Updates are done automatically. There is anytime, anywhere accessibility from any computer – and most also have access via their phone or tablet.
A better experience for you and your clients could be accomplished with online for your clients to upload their tax documents. The firm can add documents to the portal for the client. You can ask questions and request additional documents to complete their returns. Upon completion of their returns, you could put a copy of the return in the portal. Your clients might not even want a paper copy of the return, knowing that their documents and a copy of the return exist in the cloud. Getting your clients to sign their e-file authorization forms can be done electronically, where you send it to the client, they sign it digitally and return it to you. This can expedite the e-file process when the return is complete. You could then use QuickBooks Online to invoice your clients and email a copy of the invoice to them. Using QuickBooks payments, you give your client the option of paying the invoice online using their bank account, or a credit card. The payment links back to the invoice when it is received.
These are just five questions to ask; I’m sure there are more based on your unique firm profile, knowledge about the cloud and experience. Good luck for a great tax season!