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Editor's corner
Editor's corner

Editor's Corner: Security Seriousness and Practical Tips

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Apr 23rd 2015
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One thing I would like to establish as managing editor are regular viewpoints from our editors – myself included, of course. As such, I am officially establishing this Editor's Corner, which you will see at the end of every week.

As I mentioned in my Vision Statement, we are setting out to create a community site with the editors acting as guides, steering if you will, rather than pushing out content. One of the best ways I believe we can do that is by offering our insight on the news and trends that we regularly post or experience in conversations with the accounting profession at large.

To be clear, my personal take every week will play to my experience and knowledge of accounting-related technology, and tech change in general. But ultimately it will – as we want all of our content to be – prove useful to your practice in helping you grow, stay on top of or ahead of change, and of course deal better with your clients.

This week we have some very useful information about technology decisions in the firm, particularly related to security, as well as some helpful information around finance and operations and the word many practitioners love to hate: marketing.

To start off, the AICPA has issued its annual firm technology survey, again in tandem with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. What's noteworthy here, of course, is that securing the IT environment remained a top priority for practitioners who were surveyed.

As keepers of some of the most sensitive client data, having policies, procedures, and proper tools in place to keep that data safe should be job one. If you are truly to remain the trusted advisors, knowing how data comes in and leaves your offices (either physically or digitally) will go a very long way to your success. Not to fear monger, but all it takes is one breach to potentially bring your entire practice down, as data security laws become more strict and expectations that data remains secure continue to rise.

Remember, this isn't to say you need to spend a ton on the latest firewalls or BYOD management devices, or even throw everything to the cloud (though, realistically, some of what you do should probably be there or on its way). What you should make time for, in reference to IT security, is ensuring procedures are in place to keep that data secure, as individuals are often the weakest link in that chain. Clicking on something you shouldn't, for example, is a sure way to open the door to a breach.

We also posted a piece from John O'Rourke of Host Analytics, who explored how enterprise performance management (EPM) can better align finance and operations. Again, another tech-related move your firm or your clients could make to help link strategies to plans and execution, the result being a better alignment between finance and operations.

So what are these EPM tools all about and why should you care? Well, to start with, if you already are working in Excel, then you have much of what you need to get started. See, EPM will help with overall planning from, as O'Rourke points out, “bottom-up plans, not top-down budgets.” And much of that information is in the spreadsheets you and your clients already work in.

If becoming a better advisor to your clients is a priority, it is important to get familiar with the EPM marketplace. You don't have to look to the big guys like Oracle and SAP to do it, either. A great resource is Capterra, which is focused on business management software searches.

Finally, I wanted to take a look at a piece from Lee Frederiksen of Hinge Marketing on how thought leadership marketing can solve many challenges for your firm.

What I want to note here is something he mentions in the article, referencing a Hinge Research Institute study, that I am certain many of you are experiencing already – 71 percent of professional services firms cited attracting and developing new business as a top challenge.

What's more, he noted that, relevant to attracting new business, accounting and financial services buyers seek out providers with a high profile and strong reputation in the marketplace. In short, if you deem yourself or any of your staff as an expert in a particular area, you need to let the business public know.

Trust me, I know writing isn't for everyone and it's a craft we continue to hone throughout our lives. But while referral business from top-level service is still a factor, it bears noting that the world is much larger than your front door. With how business is conducted today, you can and should be garnering new clients from across the country – even outside of it. This happens through sharing your knowledge and expertise via social media, blogs, your own sites, and community site involvement.

If you have best practices, opinions, or successes to share, there is no better way than positioning yourself as a thought leader in that particular area. It may be obvious, but your clients should know that you are on top of the issues and challenges their businesses face. Sharing this knowledge will go a long way to garnering the new business you desire. Think about that, and share your opinions on it with us if you'd like.

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