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Expert Offers Seven Steps to the Cloud

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Nov 3rd 2014
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At the QuickBooks Connect conference in San Jose in October, accounting technology consultants Joe Woodard and Doug Sleeter performed a double act to explain to several hundred accountants why and how they should migrate to cloud applications. As the CEO of Woodard Consulting, Woodard has focused on cloud technology for years. Sleeter—founder of the Sleeter Group that is hosting this month's Solutions 14 conference in Las Vegas—has been developing his migration plan over the past 15 years. They've walked the walk.

Joe Woodard led the charge with why the profession needed to change and Sleeter followed up with a simple, 7-point plan on how to manage the migration. Here's a quick overview of their thoughts—with a link to a short video interview with Sleeter at the end on the cloud's impact on accountancy.

Sleeter Group research found that 85 percent of small businesses want proactive, strategic advice from their accountants, he explained. "They want you to be out there, telling them what their margins are by product, or if there's a crunch coming up in cash flow. They want answers to questions like that. Only 24 percent of businesses say they're receiving this kind of service", said Sleeter.

"We have the tools that most traditional firms don't—access to online tools that allow us to do real-time tracking of business results. That allows you to differentiate yourself among your competitors in the marketplace."

Woodard amplified the same message with the claim that the cloud "has taken data automation to a new level." Freeing data from imprisonment on millions of hard drives and making it accessible to third parties opens the way to much more extensive collaboration with clients.

But the increased automation also posed a major challenge to practitioners, he continued.

Those who make most of all of their money "trading key strokes for dollars" were involved in a noble profession. Unfortunately it's a dying one. "But here's the good news. Now instead you can trade what you know—a lifetime of experiences supporting small business—for even higher dollars and value."

Before handing over to Sleeter for step-by-step instructions, Woodard offered a philosophical reminder not to make cloud accounting the end objective, but a means to a more important end.

"The ultimate goal of accountancy is not accurate, real-time accounting, but contributing to business success", Woodard said. The way accountants do that is by interpreting client data. And with the latest generation of cloud tools at their fingertips",now it's available in real time."

Doug Sleeter's 7 Steps to the Cloud

  1. Create a vision: "People don't want to be managed, they want to be led. That means you need to create a clear vision that's very succinct."
  2. Build a team: To carry off a successful transition to cloud services, you need to select a good team. "If you skip this step you may find you are the only one committed to that change."
  3. Take inventory: Make a complete list of all business processes and measure the costs, including the software, the superstructure, and the support to reflect the total cost of ownership.
  4. Evaluate: Now recheck your assumptions and examine where you are experiencing the pains. Is the desktop working for you? (Maybe it is). Do you have multi-location issues, remote workers or a need for mobile access? And how many of your processes are still manual? When you've assessed the processes that will be automated by different online apps",resist the intoxication of the demo", Sleeter warned. "You need to stress test with realistic data."
  5. Plan: This involves listing every single process, who does the job and how that's going to change. You need to tell everyone in the organization who's going to be affected—and do the training.
  6. Deploy: Do this during the slowest business period. Be "laser focused" on how the new processes are working, paying particular attention to the digital plumbing to ensure that transactions aren't leaking out of the system. After the system has been up and running for a while, measure: Is staff more efficient now that manual processes have gone?
  7. Decommission: Once the new system is shown to be working, you can disconnect and archive the old one. But wait a full business cycle, at least until you've filed a tax return successfully. Sleeter maintains a "Murphy's Law" outlook and likes to "keep a foot on the dock before going all the way on the boat." Keep your old systems running while you do the transition so you can roll back and rethink if it doesn't work.

His final advice to those embarking on the cloud journey is to "stay agile, but be persistent."

Meanwhile, have a look at this video if you want to hear more from Doug Sleeter about the cloud's impact on accountancy:

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