Traditional accounting practices relying on non-integrated accounting systems, beware. Today’s competitive financial services world demands actionable insights that improve efficiency and drive revenue. You may find yourself overtaken by accounting firms that take advantage of cloud computing as they revamp how they serve their clients.
It’s a trend to watch for in 2017, as cloud services enable CPAs to be strategic partners that can offer more in-depth and timely financial advice to help their small and medium size business (SMB) clients succeed. Smart use of the cloud can liberate CPAs from mundane tasks through advanced automation and better use of resources – leaving more time for focusing on client success and being able to act on previously unknown insights to improve service delivery to customers.
Here’s how your firm can effectively use cloud computing.
Benefits that matter to your clients
We hear a lot about how cloud financial management tools will improve our work lives, but it’s important to focus on the impact they can have on how CPAs work with SMBs.
When considering how to promote your business, CPAs take note: the customization options cloud computing offers bring more efficiency, strategic insight and automation. CPAs will see their roles transform, spending more time analyzing data and providing assurance to clients instead of dealing with backend manual workflows.
For the savvy, this is a major business opportunity. CPAs can leverage their skills for higher-margin, knowledge-based roles such as consulting and information analysis—in turn, expanding client bases, market reach and job opportunities.
Clients put an enormous amount of trust in you to handle their finances. That trust is marketable both as a fiduciary and as a professional that will go out of your way to provide transparency and confidence in the services you provide. Cloud-based accounting systems provide the tools to eliminate common fears of data inaccuracy or inconsistency that legacy systems created. In addition, most cloud-based platforms create an audit trail as part of their general ledger, which make audits and historical tracking simple.
On the client side, access to a company’s cloud accounting suite means less travel time, email exchanges and time spent engaging with their accountant asking for information. It’s a win for both sides. Cloud technology provides unprecedented opportunities for firms and CPAs that will now be better connected via mobile devices that can access cloud-based applications, communications and data.
Florida-based Engineering Express is a prime example of how the cloud helped overcome the struggles a business faces when operating on a homegrown system limited by narrow reporting and integration capabilities. Before its use of the cloud, project tracking was painful and limited because of errors due to manual and duplicate data entry. The rapid response company was unable to sustain its growth rate without a scalable, enterprise class system. Most critically, the lack of visibility across projects disabled teams, impeding the ability to identify critical issues and sending projects off-schedule and off-budget.
The firm knew they needed to adapt in order to seize more business opportunities. Utilizing cloud applications, the engineering firm now has the tools and intelligence to put the right team, right skills and right project plan in place to complete any task, large or small within budget and scheduled timeframe.
Tailoring to Needs and Protecting Your Assets
Customization options offered by the cloud can enable greater productivity, security and data accuracy for accountants, but it’s important to understand exactly what will provide the most value to you and your clients.
Tailoring a cloud service allows for improved automation capabilities, which can promote effective collaboration within accounting firms. Tailoring workflows can also eliminate time-consuming manual tasks, human error and the complexities of Excel, as streams of data are more easily synced and drilled down into when necessary. That means that dreaded month-end processes can be automated, significantly cutting time for reconciliation, reporting, and other labor-intensive tasks.
Imagine a business operating from several disparate locations, with location-specific policies that introduce difficulty when parsing overall employee data. Now imagine not having to deal with errors or wasted time and resources. With the right centralized and automated tool the data is readily accessible for actionable-insights and employees don’t have to worry so much about logging and managing time, providing time to focus on opportunities and close deals. It’s easy to achieve with the right software.
Once data flows have been automated, firms must protect that information. Fortunately, advances in encryption technology and access safeguards have mitigated the majority of initial concerns that kept accountants from moving their data to the cloud. And, since financial information is now less likely to be saved on physical computers and hard drives, the likelihood of lost or stolen devices compromising information is greatly reduced.
Share the secret
For accounting shops that face unpredictable fluctuations in today’s economy, the biggest hurdle to cloud adoption is figuring out how to optimize and capitalize on new opportunities.
Research shows that cloud accounting solutions can significantly boost productivity because it frees CPAs to spend more time providing financial guidance to their clients. Furthermore, accountants can help their SMB clients improve financial performance, take better advantage of financial advice and make better, faster business decisions.
And in the event of scaling up or down, cloud-based services’ characteristic elasticity keeps pace with client needs and business requirements. Cloud accounting solutions can be tailored to fit businesses of any size, at no capital expense for servers and hardware, and provide analytics designed to help companies at every stage of growth.
The rapidly changing business environment requires CPAs to embrace innovative platforms that cut through the burden of data entry and other reporting work. Cloud computing services deliver results across the board to help firms develop comprehensive strategies and prioritize real-time and actionable financial advice for clients. Nobody enjoys administrative tasks, so systems that can allow you to focus on more strategic roles can improve job satisfaction and increase your value to clients. Forward-looking firms must adopt cloud computing platforms that facilitate elevated business strategy and gains for their clients or risk falling behind.
As CFO, John oversees the global finances and operations of FinancialForce. Prior to joining FinancialForce, John was the Global VP of Finance & Division CFO for SAP Cloud (NYSE:SAP) with over $1B in annual subscription revenues.