To be effective means everyone has to believe and abide by technology use. The key is to understand that this is no longer your father’s tax and accounting firm. Today, people expect to use technology that is current and functional in support of their work. Employees of all ages will quickly lose interest and increase their dissatisfaction with the work being done when technology is not available to support their activities. Tax returns are not done by pencil and carbon paper. Audit worksheets are not prepared with a re-sharpened pencil. Client correspondence is not accomplished with an IBM selectric, paper envelope and 41 cent stamp.
Staff knows that the work needs to be done. They also know that often the location of where that work is done is irrelevant. Because of technology, preparing a tax return requires the staff person to have client contact and then be in front of their computer. Where the computer is — office, home, coffee bar, car, airport, ski lodge, cruise ship, et al — is irrelevant. The computer needs to be securely connected to the application and the data. Good computer implementation will support the connectivity among individual staff, their computer, the host server and the necessary security procedures to protect confidentiality and privacy.
Workflow automation and engagement management are just two of the applications that are better when they are supported by technology. One of the vendors providing such software is XCM (www.xcmsolutions.com). The application supports engagement management and automates information necessary to monitor, control and report on work being done.
This screenshot shows one dashboard report of the status of an engagement. This information is accessible from any office or remote location. In this way, every staff can access the company system to learn of work status and their next assignment and deadlines. At KAF, XCM instills a best practices approach to every aspect of the firm.
The foundation for using technology is that electronic data is faster than moving paper around. Sending a document across the country made history with the Pony Express, Parcel Post and then Federal Express. Facsimile did lots to improve speed, and then the Internet raised the speed bar.
This capability to have real-time information allows management control to flow at the speed of people getting the work done rather than at the speed of meeting schedules. Partners can check status Tuesday morning, Sunday afternoon or any time needed in order to properly provide supervision of each engagement. This makes work management far more efficient and effective.
SUPPORTING A BETTER WAY
Implementing technology solutions does not happen in a vacuum. In this environment, there is a real need for smart, technologically savvy staff. Cheryl Burke, COO, DiCicco, Gulman & Company LLP, knows about the need to focus on investing in technology with efficiency. The firm has a clear vision of its requirement to be able to work from anywhere. “The flexibility to perform tasks from anywhere, not just with e-mail, can keep projects going,” says Burke.
Firms using remote access have a distinct advantage in supporting staff. In a paper-driven world, too much effort is expended in non-interesting, mechanical processes. Staff members want to be challenged and enjoy exercising thought for every task. This means using technology. Burke has experienced significant benefits from walking recruits through the office where they can see how triple monitors are on every desk and paper clutter on desktops is minimal or non-existent. The staff attitude towards work tasks without technology can be summarized in the following graphic, courtesy of Glen Keenan, President of XCM Solutions and XPITAX, LLC.
Everyone uses the Internet to access a vast amount of information. Firms need to recognize that the good prospective candidates will make the effort to research any prospective employer. This includes doing standard Google-type searches, viewing the company website, and doing comparisons with the data retrieved among all prospective employers.
Consequently, it is essential for firms to know what is being discussed in the cyber world about the firm, its partners and its history. This can include MySpace, YouTube and other social networking or chat sites. The first research location will often be the firm website. This can be the initial point of contact for the new applicant, and they will often be looking for answers to these questions: