This past Tuesday, November 17th, I presented the 12th Annual Rosenberg Roundtables IT Workshop.

The program, hosted by Art Kuesel (Kuesel Consulting) and Marc Rosenberg (The Rosenberg Associates), was held virtually for the first time due to COVID-19–allowing firms from as far away as Alaska to participate.

Tuesday’s schedule consisted of four one-hour sessions (plus a facilitated Q&A) including:

  1. The “Next Normal” of Accounting Firm Production
  2. Path to Client Accounting and Advisory Services
  3. IT/Infrastructure Update and Recommendations
  4. Today’s Security Concerns, Firm Requirements, and Remediation

Keep reading to learn my key takeaways from each session.

 

1. The “Next Normal” of Accounting Firm Production

Virtual meetings and social distancing will continue to be the protocol through April 15th, 2021. This will impact office layouts, scheduling, and safety requirements for staff and clients who will physically be in the office.

However, the opportunity to transition clients to digital engagement letters, organizers, and delivery of source documents has never been better. And firms that begin promoting those digital processes now will benefit in the upcoming busy season.

 

2. Path to Client Accounting and Advisory Services

Integration of business information, particularly around accounting products, has created a significant opportunity for firms to evolve their accounting services to integrate advisory practices.

This will require proactively training firm personnel on how to provide advisory services as well as building and utilizing a firm “technology stack” that will support this advisory practice.

Most firm tech stacks are built around the accounting products that the firm’s clients utilize, and integrate capabilities such as:

  • Payables management
  • Payroll
  • Time-keeping
  • Expense tracking
  • Reporting of information in a visual/graphical format

Personnel must have a thorough understanding of what their firm’s decided tech stack is capable of to properly sell advisory services to clients.

Learn how easy it is to build a client accounting and advisory services tech stack.

 

3. IT/Infrastructure Update and Recommendations

The trend to move applications from on-premise servers to cloud hosting providers (such as Right Networks) was already happening before the pandemic.

Because cloud solutions can quickly ramp up to meet remote work requirements, COVID-19 expedited the technology’s widespread adoption.

This had a positive impact on technology planning and budgeting as a proven solution could be delivered at a fixed monthly fee per user instead of trying to project capacities and users.

The trend towards standardizing on laptops and multiple monitors also continues in response to COVID-19–as it appears that remote work is here to stay.

 

4. Today’s Security Concerns, Firm Requirements, and Remediation

During this session, we covered the IRS Security Six requirements, including the need for firms to have a written information security plan in place “appropriate to that firm’s circumstance.”

Many firms that manage their own networks do not have the security knowledge and personnel to optimally secure today’s accounting practice.

And because hacker groups are increasingly targeting firms, I suggest outsourcing security monitoring, intrusion detection, and prevention to cloud hosting providers that include this as part of their service.

To remediate any potential vulnerabilities, firms should walk through our CPA Cybersecurity Checklist with their IT team (or IT provider) to understand their current security status.

Firm personnel are often their firm’s largest exposure to threats, so it is critical to mandate all users participate in ongoing security training and threat education as well.

 

Take advantage of the “next normal.”

While many of us are concerned about the “new normal” right now, the reality is that technological change and innovation are accelerating and will create a string of “new normals” that firms will have to adapt to in the future. (Hence, the reference to the “next normal.”)

Debrief, share, and document the lessons your firm learned after each busy season or large engagement to help better pursue whatever’s up next. Each season and every meeting will then become an accelerant to your firm’s success.

Encourage firm members to develop an agile mindset that’s ready to learn, unlearn, and adapt to new market opportunities.

Those that do so the most effectively will be at a competitive advantage in the future–and better prepared for whatever life throws at us next.

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