Right Networks once again participated in Scaling New Heights, Joe Woodard’s annual conference. The gathering focuses on the promotion of client accounting and advisory services (CAAS), accounting technologies and strategic directions for the accounting profession. It also offers support for accounting firm clients.
This year’s show was one of the largest yet, with 1,400 people in attendance. I had the privilege of presenting Revolutionizing Your Firm: Making the Move to Cloud Accounting. We discussed the transition firms need to make to better serve their clients and more effectively position themselves in the future.
To begin each session, we explained the reality of today’s legacy IT environment. We talked about why previous experiences and knowledge are holding firms back from adopting the optimal infrastructure to serve today’s clients. Moving to the cloud strengthens a firm’s IT environment and strategy, simplifies workflows and helps firms scale their practices. The cloud also makes firms more secure.
The traditional benefit of building and maintaining your own network was that you could control the IT environment and build a custom network designed to meet your firm’s needs. However, that strategy has become increasingly complex. The need for bulletproof remote access, increased collaboration with clients, enhanced security and integration of leading applications (primarily in the cloud) has become critical to the accounting profession.
These days, it is more difficult to project the future IT needs of a firm. And the evolution of new applications that streamline productivity is ALL happening in the cloud. That’s why the cloud needs to be native to the firm’s infrastructure strategy.
Today’s reality is that leading cloud providers build infrastructures in enterprise-class data facilities that individual firms simply cannot replicate. The physical infrastructure has hardened, with advanced security, redundant power supplies and internet access. Beyond that, the teams that manage these cloud facilities specialize in optimizing performance on the hardware and routers that run the firm’s applications.
Partnering with a cloud provider that focuses specifically on accounting firms takes the strategy a step further. An accounting-focused cloud provider can meet the unique needs of busy season and client data privacy. It also has expertise in the unique accounting applications firms use.
During the transition to become “paperless,” many firms created digital versions of their manual processes. (Think about all the spreadsheets your firm creates to manage a process). This did make the process “digital.” However, the reality is that many advanced cloud applications have automated important process steps rather than rely on humans to update the status. So, they don’t have to hope it’s done properly without error.
At Scaling New Heights, we discussed specific examples of how modern applications have automated processes. One example is how eSignature tools now get both spouses’ signatures automatically without manual follow-up. We shared how leading modern portals are providing reminders to clients to get data to us for tax return production or audit compliance. We also talked about how bookmarking tools and optical character recognition are creating standardized tax source documents and inputting significant portions of data properly. This is saving firms an immense amount of time.
We also discussed how cloud-based providers facilitate payments from our clients and allow us to import those transactions into our accounting and practice management applications. That leads to more timely entry and eliminates errors caused by manually keying in that data. Finally, we shared how the future of CAAS will focus on business information systems connected to accounting applications in the center. We refer to this as the CAAS technology stack, and it can, of course, only exist in the cloud.
One of the most significant benefits of moving to the cloud is that it allows firms to better manage their IT costs. This is like a utility in that you just pay for what you use. Firms can scale and adjust user and application license costs just to cover what they need.
This facilitates mergers and acquisitions because firms in the cloud are more effective at standardizing processes. Scaling also promotes faster IT adoption, allowing access to the latest applications for any user in the firm working from any location.
Today’s cybercriminals have access to the latest technologies to compromise any organization that has monetizable personally identifiable information (PII). To protect against this, we recommend firms go with a cloud provider that offers an enterprise-class security team and enterprise-class applications. Both the apps and the team are well beyond the budget of most internal IT teams and local IT providers.
Accounting-specific cloud providers such as Right Networks also understand the unique collaboration needs of firms with their clients. We also understand targeted threats to our tax infrastructure and the need for adhering to privacy regulations such as HIPAA, SOC2, GDPR and CCPA.
It’s essential that you understand the key differences between building and maintaining your own network vs. moving to a “purpose-built accounting cloud.” This will make it obvious that your firm’s future direction needs to be in the cloud. We closed the session at Scaling New Heights by highlighting the myriad of resources that Right Networks makes available to firms and individuals considering a transition to the cloud.
Now is the time to move your firm to the cloud. Start today.
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