The current iteration in accounting technology evolution is moving most, if not all, of a firm’s applications to the cloud to improve virtually every aspect of production and, more importantly, firm leaders should step back and assess the benefits.
With more than three decades of experience in the accounting profession, I have seen firsthand the impact that information technology has had on the tools and applications that we utilize, as well as the way we work and manage our firms. Below is a list of seven business reasons for firm owners to consider when comparing workflow processes in a traditional, on-premises environment compared to those moved to cloud-based solutions.
1. Remote Access: Accounting applications in the cloud are by design built for remote access allowing anyone with an Internet-enabled workstation to access the program from their office, their home, or the client’s location, whichever is most convenient to the accountant. Data is accessible at any time without needing to go to the office and in many cases, applications can also be accessed on smartphones or tablets, providing even more mobility and client responsiveness.
2. Data Centralization: Working on a file in the cloud centralizes all data, reducing issues with version control that can happen when files are checked out and worked on locally. This is an issue that has long hounded auditors. Cloud applications allow accountants working at a client site to have their work reviewed remotely by a partner in the office and concurrently make corrections on documents, such as financial statements.
3. Improved Collaboration: With data centralized and accessible remotely, all team members can work concurrently on the same data set in real time versus passing the work back and forth, which can cause differences in interpretation. Utilizing collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack allow for team members to see and work on documents together.
4. Reduced Maintenance: Firms maintaining their own applications usually need to schedule time when everyone is out of the application, which can delay the updates and requires firm personnel to run the updates. This can lead to delays in critical tax software updates that could require some returns to be reprocessed after the update. Cloud providers load the latest software and make it available for all users concurrently (which is not the case of internal applications, some that need to be loaded on individual workstations when the workstation is available).
5. Improved Support: When firms call an application vendor for help, the support person has to figure out the firm’s network environment and versions before offering direction. Cloud-based applications all run on the same platform and version, making it easier and quicker to resolve application support issues.
6. Managed Cost: Firms that maintain their own network infrastructure need to estimate their five-year growth and capacity needs and integrate those estimates into their existing network infrastructure, including managing the design, vendor quotes, installation, and ongoing maintenance. In the event of an acquisition or sudden growth, the process must be repeated. This can be an issue, as most firms do not have the optimum IT resources to ensure they are making the best decisions. Cloud-vendors allow for almost unlimited scalability and manage all of the technical aspects and decisions for a fixed per user fee which makes it easier from both a time- and cost-perspective to manage.
7. Security: Internal IT people do the best they can to ensure the firm’s networks are protected, but seldom have the ongoing training and resources necessary to make it a full-time responsibility, something that in today’s world is required. The majority of cloud vendors have enterprise-class infrastructures with dedicated security teams with 24/7 monitoring, going well beyond the capabilities for any individual firm to implement.
Firm owners need to educate themselves on how digital workflows and cloud technology can improve teamwork and client service. Discussing the seven items above before renewing any software license will allow the firm to focus more clearly on the optimal solutions that cloud provides.
About Roman Kepczyk
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA is Director of Firm Technology Strategy for Right Networks. His primary focus is helping firms throughout North America effectively use information technology and accounting applications by optimizing their tax, audit and administrative production workflows.
He has spent the past twenty-two years consulting exclusively with CPA firms and prior to that, ten years with the CPA firm of Henry & Horne, (Arizona’s largest regional firm) where he was the partner in charge of the firm's Management Advisory Services and Consulting practices. Roman also served as the firm’s Administrative partner where he oversaw Internal Accounting, Marketing, Human Resources, and was responsible for the creation and implementation of the firm's technology plan and budget.
He is current member of AICPA Council, a former member of the AICPA PCPS Executive Committee and a former Chairman of the AICPA's Information Technology Executive Committee. He has served as a member of other AICPA initiatives, including the Special Committee on Enhanced Business Reporting, eBusiness Task Force, IT Best Practices, IT Research, IT Practices Committees, and Group of 100 projects. In addition, he is a former Chairman of the AICPA Top Technologies Task Force.
Roman was named by INSIDE Public Accounting as one of the profession’s Most Recommended Consultants for each of the years from 2005 through 2017, CPA Practice Advisors Top 25 Thought Leaders from 2011 through 2019, and Accounting Today’s Most Influential People in Accounting thirteen times.
Roman is also an Advisory Board Member to the CPA Firm Management Association (formerly the Association for Accounting Administration) and has served on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Society of CPAs.
He also authored “Quantum of Paperless: Partners Guide to CPA Firm Optimization” which outlines 32 key CPA best practices.
On a technical level, Roman is an AICPA Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) and a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (LSS BB). He authored technology chapters for the PPC MAP Handbook, PPC Guide to Paperless Engagements, and sections of the AICPA MAP Handbook. He is also a regular contributor of articles to the AICPA PCPS, CPA Practice Advisor, Thomson Reuters Audit and Accounting publications and the CPA Firm Management Association’s newsletters.