When everything is in the cloud, you improve accessibility and the client experience. You can access data anytime, anywhere. Clients and prospects are looking for convenience and want instantly accessible information.
When all the tax information is in a client portal, you can improve collaboration with your team, especially a team that is remote. You are not limited to only having workers in a local office.
Going paperless is the direction of our future. Long gone are the days when we would need to call a travel agent to book a flight for our next vacation. The same is true for tax and accounting. Everything is going digital! If you’re not, you could be left behind.
Overcoming Obstacles in Transitioning Your Firm
The first hurdle is cloud security. Some people are comfortable working in the cloud instead of having a physical document. In fact, some IT experts say that confidential information is safer in the cloud than in a theft-prone file cabinet.
However, consider defending your practice’s security against breaches due to potential human error, both within your own practice as well as with people and companies you work with. To overcome this hurdle, you need to educate yourself, staff and clients. Encrypted data, passwords, firewalls, malware and antivirus software can support a paperless environment. Check out “Protect Your Clients, Protect Yourself” from the IRS.
Getting Your Team Excited
Most accountants are logical and smart, but many are resistant to change. You must explain to your team why advanced technologies are important and then show them how they are important. Paint a picture of what the future would look like without printing every document and putting labels on file folders. Chances are your team can provide fantastic feedback on how to set up a paperless system. Rely on them. Trust in them. Glean from their insight. A best practice isto have them take ownership and have one person on your team be the go-to person when clients and staff need guidance on the process and portals.
In order to transition away from our paper files, our firm has moved to two main technology solutions. The first one is a cloud data storage provider where we store confidential client information. This storage includes an interface where clients log in via a client portal, upload documents and download the ones we place in the portal for them. While there are many choices available for cloud storage, we use SmartVault because of the ease with which it syncs with Intuit® ProConnect™ Lacerte®.
The second technology solution we use is a project management software called Asana. This program allows us to create projects, break down actionable tasks, assign work to teammates and communicate up-to-the-minute status on all projects in the queue. This is an efficient way for us to pass a virtual file folder between each team member.
When using technology, you can lose sight of the person behind the numbers. At tax time, my head is typically down so I can focus on getting the work done with excellence. I constantly remind myself that I need to raise my head and connect with my clients, who I deeply care about. It’s all about the relationship. We want to be their partner, not just their accountant. Here are a few best practices that work for us:
- Create a checklist that reflects your own process and assign the person who will be responsible for each task.
- Consider investing in additional computer hardware. Productivity increased in our office when each person upgraded to three computer monitors and enabled the preview pane feature, allowing them to toggle from document to document without opening each file.
- Create multiple signature templates to allow staff to save countless minutes when communicating with clients.
- Take advantage of QuickBooks® Online Accountant! From a tax preparer’s point of view, one of the best features is being able to create journal entries, ensuring that financials are updated in real time.
I hope you have found several ideas you can use in your tax and accounting business. Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear your favorite tip and how it innovated your firm!
Editor’s note: For more information on how a move to the cloud could affect your practice, read “Cloud vs. Desktop: What Does the Choice Mean for Security?“