10 Steps to a Digital Practice in the Cloud - Free Excerpt from Chapter 2
Chapter 2: The 10 Steps to a Digital Practice excerpt covers the following:
- Strategic View of IT Model
- Software Applications
- Business Processes
- Staff and Clients
- The 10 Steps
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If you are picking up this book and saying to yourself, “I am too busy to read this with all of the other things I have going on in my practice,” then you are precisely the person this book is targeted toward.
As CPAs, we are in the information processing business, and the indisputable fact is that information processing is being automated at an unprecedented pace. So the challenge we face is how to leverage this transformation to improve the quality, efficiency, and profitability of the services we offer our clients. In our opinion, that is the proper priority order for these three objectives. If you take care of the first two, the third is virtually guaranteed.
As you read this book, we want you to understand that “going paperless” is not the objective. “Going digital” is. These are actually two different ways to describe a path to the same goal. So why state the distinction? The concept of “going paperless” implies giving up something we like to work with—paper. We will be the first to admit that some days, we would prefer reading a paper copy of the Wall Street Journal while eating breakfast. We own iPads, and we use them as a reading device in many situations; but there are times when a paper newspaper is preferred. Call us old fashioned. The real value in going paperless is in getting the data and information we need to process into a digital format so that you can strive to automate that processing as much as possible. Notwithstanding our comments about preferring to read a paper newspaper, we often get frustrated when we find ourselves processing paper documents. That means we are probably doing something that could be further automated and missing the opportunity to reduce manual efforts. We also want to be able to access it via all the different Internet-enabled devices that we use: laptops, iPads, smartphones, and whatever else comes next. Thank goodness for the “cloud” that lets us access this information at any time, from virtually anywhere! Throughout the book, we will be talking more about going digital and less about going paperless. However, at the end of the day, they are one in the same.
Before we get started, there is one important point you should keep in the back of your mind as you read this book. There is no end to the efforts you can make to automate your practice. The key is to make sure you are spending your time and money on the appropriate initiatives at the appropriate times. The best way to make this happen is to develop a plan. It does not need to be an overly complicated and detailed plan but, rather, a plan that highlights your goals and objectives for the next 12, 24, and 36 months. Do not spend a lot of time on the 36-month plan. The focus should be on the next 12 months. We will outline a process for developing this plan in chapter 13, “Developing and Implementing Your Technology Plan.”
This book includes four case studies detailing a variety of firms’ experiences of going digital. Below is an excerpt from one of those studies.
Krueger & Associates, P.A.:
Leveraging a Cloud-Based Client Accounting Solution and Other Portal Applications
Firm Profile: Krueger & Associates, P.A., Tampa, Florida
Managing Partner: Kevin B. Krueger
Staff Size: 5 full-time, 1 part-time, 1–2 outside consultants
Services: Traditional services including 4-5 audits, numerous reviews and compilations, 550 individual returns, 500 entity returns.
Software Platform(s): Switched to CCH (software as a service [SaaS]): Practice, Workstream, Document, and Portal. Currently, 500 client portal accounts have been established.
Background: The cloud has allowed the firm to service clients throughout Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina from their office in Florida. They even have international clients in Thailand and Australia. The client in Thailand previously mailed tax returns that took over three months to receive. The portal has allowed them to eliminate the post office completely. Upon receiving e-mail permission from clients, the banker is set up for direct access to the portal for a period of five days, or permanently, based on the client/banker relationship. Kreuger & Associates is fully embracing the cloud model with an innovative client service offering that includes Intacct, a Web-based client accounting solution and Bill.com, a SaaS application for uploading client bills for processing and payment. For those clients who use Intacct as their accounting system, the firm can directly access the client’s information anytime, anywhere. This eliminates a number of issues with the traditional model of gathering the client’s general ledger fi les for import or reentry. The Intacct model allows the firm to eliminate the process of exchanging the client’s data files back and forth. With Bill.com, the firm’s clients are able to e-mail or fax their invoices. Bill.com will upload the invoices to their account and process an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction to pay the bills. On a daily basis, the Bill.com transaction file posts directly into Intacct.
- After finishing quarterly bonding covenants, the appropriate parties get an automatic e-mail letting them know that the fi le is available in the portal. In one example, the previous process required e-mailing 120 documents for 2 partners, 3 companies, and 5 banks.
- Eliminated all the issues associated with zip files and firewalls.
- Some older clients like the portal the best.
- Thirty-minute turnaround times to get feedback from clients to e-file. This gives clients the opportunity to review tax returns beforehand.
- One client said it (portal) “was the coolest thing she had ever seen.”
- A banker called for a client’s seven entities tax returns and was able to download them all within five minutes.
- They are able to drill down from the financial statement all the way down to the scanned source document.
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