Real Stories of Cloud Migration
Let’s face it, moving functions and files to the cloud has become less an issue of “why” and more about “what,” and to a degree “what does it really look like?”
During a recent panel discussion here at the AICPA Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference, CPAs from a variety of firm sizes answered pointed questions about what it was like to migrate to the cloud.
The session lasted for an hour and a half, so rather than repost all of the conversations, I have posted a selection of the questions and responses from the participants. The discussion was hosted by Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting Inc., and featured:
- Ed Ramos, CPA and shareholder at Dwyer, Pemberton & Coulson P.C., a 30-person firm in Tacoma, Washington.
- Jody Padar, owner of New Vision CPA Group, a small firm in Mount Prospect, Illinois.
- Jose Antunes, an accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, an 850-person firm based in New Jersey.
All of the panelists had varied experiences in migrating most or all of their tasks to the cloud and openly shared their views. Here are some of the questions and their responses that we hope you can learn from:
If you could do one thing differently going to the cloud, what would it be?
Ed Ramos: We only just moved all of our functions to the cloud in the past year. The one thing we realized was the amount of bandwidth we actually needed. I’m not an IT person and didn’t really know who to ask, and it turned out the Internet service provider we were paying was not providing [the bandwidth] we needed. Make sure you test to see how much you actually have before, during, and after migration. We also found that any viruses that came into the office came in through email. So, when we started migration, we looked at everyone’s laptops and wiped them clean. We found loads of client files there; that’s a huge security concern. It’s not anymore.
Jody Padar: Sometimes the person leading the change bites off more than they can chew. I would say don’t get bogged down in thinking about the technology. Focus on the fundamental changes cloud migration is going to bring to your firm, and it will go more smoothly.
Jose Antunes: We’re a large firm so for us [and any other large firm] I would advise that instead of going all in, you have to go in stages. Especially at a larger firm, you have to test [cloud applications and migrations] in one office at a time and have someone in that office lead that testing.
Has cloud opened new client service opportunities for your firm?
Jody Padar: Payroll has become easier and less painful to do for clients. It’s done in minutes rather than hours. I’m more efficient so I can price up front for the service rather than the time it once took. We interact with clients more and this is part of it. Our clients pay us three times as much as they used to because we work more efficiently and can advise them more, and that’s what they pay for.
Jose Antunes: Being able to access information immediately eliminates hours of research. Your extra time allows you to be more service-oriented.
Ed Ramos: It’s still relatively new for us, but I like that we leave the experts to take care of the tech and the security. We’re not experts in that, and we don’t have to try to be anymore.
Do you have any tips on vetting service providers?
Jose Antunes: We will actually take the time to visit the data centers that the cloud service providers use. You have to have total partner buy-in; otherwise, it won’t work. You also need to look at the kind of support you will get from that vendor, too.
Jody Padar: We rely on the larger vendors to ensure that any third-party apps that work with them really do work. I will also say we tend to forget about all of the negative touchpoints that not working in a more automated way can bring.
Ed Ramos: We did an assessment of our internal IT systems and we had a technician help with that. We didn’t initially know the questions to ask. I would ask a provider if they have experience working with CPA firms. You have to challenge potential service providers.
What have been the main challenges in moving to the cloud?
Ed Ramos: Managing expectations for the changes that you will go through. There will be issues; keep open communication [with your staff]. We weren’t always prepared for everything, but we got through it.
Jody Padar: Redefining every process when you find a new technology to use. It has to be documented first before you make the move. You also need to know the problems or tasks that you are solving for. I would much rather manage the technology than the people.
Jose Antunes: Training everyone and getting them familiar. What I recommend, depending on firm size, is I assign a champion for each office to oversee that training and learn that product well.
How are you handling integration issues?
Jody Padar: Basically if [third-party apps] integrate, we use them, but if they don’t, we still have apps that don’t connect to anything we do and use them anyway.
Jose Antunes: Same. Integrations are being built every day and it’s easier to build them for cloud than for desktop.
Did you find this panel discussion useful? What questions would you ask about migrating to the cloud?