Which Technology Tools Will Maximize Your Bottom Line During the Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate at which accounting firms need to integrate technology into their daily practice. However, the number of available tools can seem overwhelming. Expert Ian Khan discusses areas to focus on and programs to try in his latest article.
“We live in unprecedented times” is a phrase that I've probably heard at least 100 times in the last three months. It's definitely a different world from what we know, and a few months ago, we wouldn't have even a clue about how dramatically work would change in the following months.
As the world gets accustomed to a new way of working (which, for many, includes exclusively working from home), accounting professionals must also use the right tools in order to maximize productivity and efficiency. This article will cover the essentials of business prosperity amidst the current transitionary phase of remote work and whether or not work from home will be a norm or not continuing forward.
Basic Office Productivity
In order to successfully complete basic office tasks, you need word processing programs and spreadsheets. A big staple for accountants has been Microsoft Office, which has now changed into Office 365. Another great option, despite its limited functionality, is Google Sheets.
Collaboration can mean multiple things, depending on what you do for work. In a typical collaborative environment, you would share information with colleagues and coworkers and complete tasks either as a team or to some connection one. In fact, the collaborative economy has grown dramatically over the past few months. As people work from home, connect to their workplaces remotely, and continue to do what they do, the need for a good productivity platform has risen. Productivity can be further divided into multiple categories, such as project management, document sharing, content creation and communication.
Here are some of the top platforms that you can use to change the state of your work:
For Document Sharing: Cloud-based document sharing platforms, like Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud, are very common. Since mishandled sensitive information impacts your business no matter what you do, you won’t find much agreement among users when it comes to selecting a “best” platform. Some advocates propose utilizing enterprise-level document management systems, while others swear by Google Drive. Some of the options for the former include solutions by Open Text, Laserfiche, DocuWare, OnBase and ITGlue. If you are part of a large organization that has a healthy technology budget, then these may be an option for you. As a solopreneur or an individual practice, it may help to have a data management policy.
For Project Management: Project management is an essential function for firms. Whether you’re completing daily tasks or working on a long-term undertaking, every project needs management. Traditional methods include using desktop software or Excel sheets; however, there are better ways that are faster, more nimble, and more applicable to all needs. My favorite project management platforms are Trello, Base Camp and Asana. All three of these differ from one another in how they help you organize tasks and manage priorities. Asana, for instance, is well suited for project management and also manage is tasks and lists, but it’s complex to learn how to use. Trello, on the other hand, is much easier to work with and is more visual. I’ve chosen to use these three because they all performed really well when I have to collaborate with other people or teams for tasks, updates, sharing assets and more. Recently, platforms like Slack (which I’ll discuss a bit further on) have changed the way collaboration works within an organization. Give a few of these a try and see which one suits you best. All of them come with free trials that you can use until you feel satisfied.
For Task List Management: On an everyday basis, there are hundreds of tasks you probably need to track. My favorite app for tracking and creating lists is Google Keep. This is a very simple, straightforward and lightweight app, and it even allows you to share your lists with others. I highly recommend it.
For Communication: Many people argue that over the last three months, we've had an explosion of Zoom calls, leading to Zoom fatigue. I really believe this. In fact, one of my association’s executives said to me recently that their members had received more calls than they should have and were burnt out.
One of the things that has come out of the pandemic is the acceleration of technology adoption. We now have businesses who are using video conferencing multiple times a day and departments that are solely using video communication instead of in-person meetings. There are many options for video communication, and they do not have to be overwhelming. Quite simply, if you do not want to be on video, switch off the camera and just use the audio as you would in a phone conference call back in the pre-pandemic days.
Some of my favorite video communication tools include Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams. They all have a different user experience, and depending on your personal desires and preferences, you may prefer one over the other. All of them, however, are efficient and will get the job done.
For individual entrepreneurs and sole practices, the pandemic has brought about a lot of inconvenience. In many cases, customer traffic has been reduced, impacting the bottom line. Fortunately, there are numerous virtual options available to help you continue to reach current and prospective clients. Here are some ideas that might help.
Slack: I mentioned this collaborative tool earlier. As an accounting expert, you can create a community where your clients can come together, learn new things, interact with each other and ask questions. All you need to do is set up the app and create a personalized version for your specific community .
Pay-per-Click Advertising: Almost two decades ago, Google revolutionized the web search industry by launching a paid advertising program where businesses could advertise their services and products on Google and the results would be displayed alongside organic search results. Today, Google Microsoft is another leading search engine that runs pay-per-click programs, helping countless businesses reach their target audiences. If you are not already using a pay-per-click strategy, it is time to leverage the power of the Internet and target your prospective customers and clients through this advanced method. Typically, an agency specializing in pay-per-click advertising can help set up and manage this for you .
Social Media: Still not convinced social media is anything more than a tool to keep up with family and friends? You should know that more than 1.5 billion people are using Facebook as of today. This does not only include young people and teenagers. Businesses, industry leaders and organizations are utilizing Facebook as a way of communicating to their clients. In addition to Facebook, other platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, form a significant part of the global social media world that is connecting billions of people with each other. As an accounting firm, you can clearly and easily communicate your value proposition to your clients through social media in a very mature way, provided you have the right strategy and guidance to do so. Social media can help you position your business, create a brand following, engage with your customers and clients, and provide tremendous value to the communities you serve. Start talking to an agency or an expert who can help you set this up.
As we get more comfortable with a post-pandemic world, we must not forget that many of the things we are experiencing today have actually been working well for many years now. Our collective failure to fully utilize these technology avenues is something that only we can blame ourselves for. Today, with the rise in ecommerce, a subscription economy, search engine marketing and a plethora of options to connect and engage with people and create value, it is up to us how we decide to do this. There has never been a better time to jump on board technologies that can help you amplify your work and accelerate your business by saving you money and ensuring efficiency .
Start talking to friends and colleagues who are using any of the things we have talked about. The first step of the journey is learning more, and implementation will follow. Feel free to send me a shout at [email protected] for further recommendations if needed.
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Ian Khan is a CNN featured Technology Futurist, 3 times TEDx Speaker, Director of highly acclaimed documentary “Blockchain City", Bestselling author of “7 Axioms of Value Creation”, and contributor to multiple industry publications including Forbes, McGraw Hill, Business.com, AccountingWeb, and Entrepreneur.com. Founder of the Futuracy group,...