How Hosting Could be Your Firm’s Remote Work Solutionby
How well your firm navigates a pandemic may rest in part on the systems you have in place for supporting remote workers and working digitally with clients.
As an increasing number of firms have to face the stiff reality that in-office work is simply not a viable solution right now, one solution to the remote-work question is cloud hosting. Many firms already have some aspect of their daily work in a hosted environement, while others have avoided it for their own reasons.
Below is a brief piece about how firms can quickly get hosting set up and addresses a few key issues organizations may have about making the move.
The coronavirus outbreak has rattled the global economy and in the last few days alone, several prominent tech companies including Microsoft, Twitter, and Amazon have urged employees to work from home and place strict limits on employee travel.
Accounting firms and other professional services organizations are relatively fortunate. As information-based businesses, firms can put plans and systems in place that allow them to mitigate the business impact of a pandemic. The first issue that many firms will face is whether or not their staff will be able to do their job remotely and be able to access the systems and applications that they need to stay productive and serve clients.
Cloud hosting has long been used by firms that are looking to outsource their IT infrastructure, employ staff in multiple locations, and allow for flexibility. Now, firms must go remote or risk the health and safety of their staff. If you are looking to move to a hosted environment as soon as possible, consider these best practices:
1. Determine Which Applications Need to be Hosted
Firms are currently using a variety of SaaS and on-premises solutions as the industry transitions to a more cloud-based environment. This biggest factor to consider is where you are storing client documents (i.e., are they hosted locally on a drive?).
When making the transition to a hosted environment, you will need to make sure that all staff will have the ability to access and store the projects that they are working on in a central location. In the throes of tax season, limited access to documents will greatly hinder the firm’s productivity.
Tax software, practice management and documents are essential to keeping your team, productive, billing time and delivering client work. Identify which systems you are using on-premises today and confirm that you are able to get them into your hosted environment.
2. Ensure Security
With staff working from home, the security of sensitive client information must be prioritized. Ensuring that staff have a secure, stable and reliable connection is the first step. Next, arm them with best practices for securing their home Wi-Fi connection, storing client documents, and emailing client deliverables. Staff should still use the same methods of transmitting client information through client portals and secure document transfer.
3. Select the Right Cloud Provider
Choosing a cloud provider can feel overwhelming. What are the differences? How do shared clouds and private clouds differ? In How to Pick a Cloud Hosting Provider, Brian Tankersley advises finding a hosting provider that specifically works with accountants and understands the demanding workload of many accounting applications. Confirm the hosting providers security protocols, use multifactor authentication (MFA), they encrypt data at rest and in transit, and their SLA on uptime and support.
4. Mobilizing Your Remote Workforce
Let's review: Cloud? Check. Data moved? Check. Systems up and running? Check. Now, how do you move your employees remote and ensure that they are able to work seamlessly in a cloud environment? The beauty of a virtual environment is that it feels and appears the same as your desktop.
Staff should be able to be up and running the moment they get home and open their laptop, with all their business essential applications hosted in a virtual environment. The biggest impact on your staff will be the change in the way that they communicate.
They will have to adjust to virtual meetings and adapt to a paperless work environment. There are many tools available for team collaboration such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google Hangouts will allow your team to continue to communicate in a more conversational format rather than just relying on email.
5. Perfect the Client Experience
Accountants are trusted advisors, and close relationships with clients are the cornerstone of their practices. Maintaining and fostering relationships remains top of mind, as many small business clients will look to their accountant for support and advice in difficult times.
Providing a white glove, high-touch client experience virtually is completely possible. Take advantage of virtual meetings so clients can still face time with you and your team.
Client portals are an easy way for clients to send documents and feel safe transferring their personal identifiable information. Make it simple for clients to pay their invoices by using an integrated payment solution.
Right now, it is important to prioritize the health and safety of your staff and clients, and the best way to do that is to practice social distancing. Unfortunately, that makes it much more difficult for tax and accounting professionals to effectively counsel their clients.
But by embracing remote work in a secure cloud environment, your firm can deftly navigate this crisis and any other curve balls that come your way.