Parkinson's Law of Data
A former partner would often remind me of Parkinson’s Law of Data – basically, things expand to the amount of space available. Whether you are talking electronic files, stacks of paper on your desk or your collection of classic metal lunchboxes – the more room you have, the stuff mysteriously seems to take over.
Data in a CPA firm is no different. Even though we have retention schedules, people don’t like to get rid of stuff because there is a fear that they may need it someday. CPA’s can have good reason to keep stuff, more valid than some of the logic used by featured guests on the TV show Hoarders. Good intentions can get you in trouble though. If you have a retention schedule that says you keep things for 7 years, you need to follow it…..consistently.
CPA firms are consistently upgrading to storage area networks (SANs) from a multitude of vendors. If they are not careful on the front end setup, they will fall victim to Parkinson’s Law. Once the SAN is set up, the data needs purged at regularly scheduled intervals. In conjunction with a SAN, a tool to de-duplicate files is a must. You will be amazed how many files on your network are duplicated after running this type of tool over your file systems! Removing these (and putting policy and procedure in place to prevent it from happening in the future) will save you technology dollars on maintenance and data backups. Those are the tangible savings, what is intangible here is reducing the likelihood of users opening up the wrong version of a file because there are just too many copies out there.
Getting these old files off the network is not really an IT job, it is for the accounting staff. They know the files and the related clients. Getting them to actually go through and clean these files up is a challenge. Not only is this process time consuming, it is non-chargeable. While it is not the most exciting job, IT must press to get this task accomplished. They will thank IT later…..hopefully.
Really, we should not have to do this at all. Bill Gates said in 1981 that “640K of memory should be enough for anybody.” He never worked in a CPA firm.
Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members. He is also in charge of talent management and retention at his firm. A background of IT and Human Resources helps Jim bridge the gap of technology complexities with end users who just want their computer to work so they can be chargeable. Being a very cheap (frugal sounds better) person himself, he is always looking for ways to save dollars at his firm. He is Director of Education for the Association for Accounting Administration and past Technology Committee member of the Ohio Society of CPA's. He often leads industry CPE events on the topics of Information Technology, CPA firm practice management and human resources/recruiting. Find out more about Jim on LinkedIn.