Authored by: Zobuzwe Ngobese, Marketing and Communications Executive at the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA)
SMPs who leverage the Cloud to improve their efficiencies not only save time. They can also provide their clients with a faster, more convenient service. This will have a positive effect on their brand image, making them the go-to firm that completes critical financial tasks promptly with the least amount of fuss for their users. Below are some steps late adopters can take to turn their clients into raving fans.
Drop the thumb drive
When you use a USB flash drive to copy and transport information between a client and your firm, you face a number of risks. You could lose the drive and its data, or pick up a virus that infects your office systems. Either way, you waste time travelling. Opt for a file sharing service, like Dropbox, that allows you to exchange files with clients instantly and securely over an encrypted connection. They also get checked for viruses along the way.
Services like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive provide a file storage service that can be accessed online anytime from anywhere. When you or your staff need an important document, even during a client meeting or from your home office, you can get to it almost immediately. Since most Cloud storage services also offer file sharing facilities, it's easy to share data with clients as well. This does away with having to return to the office to pick up documents or carry around confidential files that could be lost or damaged.
Promote Cloud accounting
Cloud accounting or ERP systems offer many advantages to both accountants and their clients. Because the software is accessible over the internet, business functions can be performed from remote locations, with the data being stored in a central protected repository at a data center.
For the accountant, it also provides a single source of truth that is essentially immune to on-premises power outages, server crashes or data loss. After being granted a user login with appropriate permissions, you will have access to your client's full financial function without having to leave your office.
Working directly on your client’s system will increase your service delivery speed significantly. It also provides you with deeper insights into their business, allowing you to suggest advisory services that can improve their operations. These include cost analysis, risk analysis and management, capital management, business process improvements, fraud detection, and many others.
So it's important to embrace Cloud accounting and promote it to your clients. Evaluate the many systems available to determine which ones offer the features most appropriate to your target market. You can even become a value-added reseller (VAR) for your chosen systems, taking your business in a whole new direction.
Research integration and automation
Some Cloud-based services provide the ability to integrate seamlessly with other selected products. For example, Microsoft's Office 365 readily integrates with many of their other systems to allow, for example, data to be drawn into a Word document or Excel spreadsheet without copying the information manually. Other products let you to easily automate a sequence of activities. So when it comes time to perform them, you can complete the process with a single click or touch. Do some research to discover which Cloud services offer these features, then learn to use them like a pro, because they could cut the time taken on some tasks by more than half.
Use SARS eFiling and e@syFile
Many accountants don’t yet use SARS’ online services or its mobile and desktop apps to submit tax filings. The amount of time saved with these products as opposed to manual filings is significant, so every accountant should learn them inside out.
Train staff and clients
The time you take to train your staff and clients on essential Cloud services will repay itself over and over with the amount of work you can complete afterwards. Study Cloud security too and pass this information along. Most breaches arise from phishing, that is, your staff or clients get conned into clicking links or opening attachments from unknown sources that lead to trouble. Teach them to ignore that mystery data, no matter how safe it seems, and restrict them from working with known parties only.
Becoming a Cloud SMP
There's no doubt that the Cloud-savvy accountant will develop a more efficient business and grab the lion's share of the market. Subsequently, their brand will be strengthened as their reputation for efficiency proceeds them. Unfortunately, those who ignore the benefits of the Cloud and continue operating offline will see their fortunes fade.
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