Tools for virtual accountants: portals, applications, and file space

By Joanie C. Mann

There are three primary tools that every accountant or bookkeeper needs in order to work most efficiently with clients online. Using the Internet as the network, business professionals everywhere are realizing that the issues of time and distance no longer impact their ability to get work done. In order to make the most of your virtualized working model, consider the value of the following three elements you should have in your online toolkit. 

Portals: Where you and your clients do business.
The client portal is an extremely important resource, as it essentially represents the WAY you and your clients do business together. You provide resources your client needs, such as access to important business applications and/or information, and you now have a way to seamlessly deliver services and information to your client. A big consideration here is whether or not you currently have a Web site positioned to really do business with your clients (brochure site only? or “working website”?). If you’re going to drive your clients to your site regularly, you need to make it attractive, informative, and productive – what we call “sticky.”
Applications: The programs and data you need, run from a place where you and your client (or team members, or outsourcers, etc.) can work in real-time together.
Online applications are the core of the online and outsourced accounting model. If the client runs applications and manages data in a centralized location – then the rest of the organization, the accountant or whomever needs to, may access that application and data in real-time. If the accounting practice or outsourcer IS essentially the business office for the client, the online model allows any level of interaction by the client – from accessing the application and data to simply receiving the resulting information.
File space: Secure storage space for source documents, data files, and other information you need to share.
Secure file space is the workhorse around the outsourcing model, as it provides the means to get source information from the client and provide it securely to those who need to process it (your staff, outsourcers, etc.). For clients not running online, perhaps this is the way you manage the exchange of data files. Applications supporting this requirement include simple file sharing, such as the InsynQ eFileShare service (lots of features, but we still call it simple, because it doesn’t provide a searchable index), to more extensive document management systems.
There is a very important fourth element involved in this model – it’s the outsourcer.
You, as the accounting professional, are really the primary. Sort of like the general contractor. You are the party to whom certain functions or processes have been outsourced by the client. Tax preparation, financial statement preparation, payroll and reports, bookkeeping – whatever. Once the technology model is securely in place, you can now look at your subs – the outsourcers that could possibly support your business and improve your cost of operations. The online model is what makes it really possible for all sizes and types of businesses. It may be an option for yours.
About the author:

Joanie Mann, Executive Vice President of InsynQ, Inc., has over 30 years experience in advanced network integration, information systems management, and business process automation. For the past 13 years the specific focus has been on Internet technologies, the delivery of software as a service, and the development of online services and solutions for small business - with a specific focus on Internet-enabling finance and accounting.

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