Staying ahead of the game

The arrival of spreadsheet software changed accountancy forever, letting individual accountants quickly analyse data sets, compare scenarios and forecast results.  Now, the accounting profession is heading for another shake-up, thanks to the arrival of cloud accounting programs.

opzioni binarie saxo bank Because these programs often sit at the heart of businesses’ IT systems, they provide a huge opportunity for forward-looking accountants. The opportunity is to recommend, implement and maximise the benefits of cloud-based business services and technologies that connect to the core cloud-based accounting programs. option broler And the timing is excellent. Employing accountants to churn out tax returns is no longer as attractive a business model as it once was. Today, accounting firms want their staff producing higher-margin services to replace commoditised compliance work. Cloud skills
may hold the answer.

using candlestick charts for binary options Virtual CFO

The title may have been around for a while, but the power of the virtual CFO has risen several notches with the new crop of cloud-based tools.

Cloud-based analytics programs, such as Fathom and Spotlight Reporting, can provide a mind-boggling array of KPIs that an accountant can turn into a commercially valuable report.

Reports include financial and non-financial KPIs, profitability, cash flow, growth, ‘what if?’ scenarios, trends, benchmarking and comparative analysis.

Fathom and Spotlight Reporting also handle franchise management. Both display information as attractive, easy-to-digest visuals. And Fathom, for instance, links tightly with MYOB and Xero.

Accountants typically already have the skills to provide virtual CFO services. These cloud programs now take the process further by allowing the accountant to perform analysis from their office. And they can set up a monthly or quarterly call to evaluate and determine KPIs with their client.

Firms using these tools can charge higher fees for commercial insights and advice, improve their engagement with the business owner and sharpen their business mentoring and advisory approach.

Personal services

Several cloud programs can help create a more personal relationship with clients by extending involvement in their personal finances, especially in regard to SMSF portfolios. Class Super, superMate and Praemium are cloud-based programs built to manage SMSFs at scale. Market leader BGL is soon to release a cloud version, too. And Sharesight manages share portfolios and calculates dividends.

A service for superannuation oversight and wealth management is a natural extension for tax-compliance clients as a way to centralise their finances. A firm with the right client base can offer a bespoke wealth service for high net worth individuals.

HR advice

Accountants who want to position themselves as the single point of contact for a business owner have the opportunity to move into areas such as human resources. Most businesses make up their HR policies as they go along, exposing themselves to significant regulatory risk.

Cloud services such as enableHR and Workforce Guardian provide libraries of advice on occupational health and safety, performance management, employment contracts and avoiding unfair dismissal cases. Both programs use templates and information updates to minimise the depth of HR knowledge needed. Some accounting firms that sell HR-related services have also teamed up with HR specialists who handle specific inquiries from clients about HR issues.

Add-on programs

If the thought of moving into technology is daunting, remember that cloud software is very different to server software. Accountants can provide highly valuable, business-critical advice without any background in programming or fixing servers.

The greatest opportunity is in giving recommendations on how to extend the core accounting program with complementary cloud ‘add-on’ programs. For example, two of the most established cloud accounting platforms, Xero and Saasu, connect to several hundred programs that tackle specific tasks, sometimes for a particular set of industries.

Take the example of Timely, an appointment-making app that has found a strong niche in healthcare services, such as massage and beauty parlours and physical trainers. A customer can make an appointment online for a therapist using Timely. The therapist uses the app to manage bookings, calculate hours for invoices and broadcast text message reminders to customers as their appointment draws near. Timely can also add a point-of-sale app, such as Vend, that turns an iPad into a cash register, creates invoices and automatically imports them into Xero.

Once an accountant has chosen a cloud accounting program, they are in a prime position to recommend supporting cloud programs – like Timely – that are appropriate to the client’s industry, size and budget.

How does an accountant acquire the skills to make these recommendations? At this stage, the best way is by conducting your own experiments with cloud programs or seeking recommendations from other accountants and people in the accounting industry.

LinkedIn groups for the cloud accounting programs (Xero and Saasu are the most active) are often a good place to ask for recommendations. Vendor-independent groups are less common; the Cloud-Powered Businesses LinkedIn Group is one example.

While the penetration of cloud accounting software is still low, accounting software vendors like MYOB and Reckon are moving to the model quickly. Cloud software will be sold as the preferred model for clients, if only because it provides the vendors with ongoing revenue each month.

Accountants are in a powerful position to become the preferred advisers in this space. Conventional IT services companies have historically made their margin on fixing servers; recommending accounting software packages is outside their traditional skill set.

opziomibinarie Assisting clients

Two areas now served by ‘the IT guy’ at SMEs are installation and support. Given how little effort it usually takes to set up cloud programs, accountants can easily move into this space for their clients.

Timely, for example, connects to Xero instantly and for free – it’s a matter of copying passwords between the two programs. An accountant would then need to enter the client’s schedule into Timely, add services and customer types and provide some training in how to use it. The client might need the same assistance for setting up Vend and connecting it to Xero and Timely.

The set-up is often easy enough for clients to do on their own. But an accounting firm could promise faster set-up times, remove trial and error by sharing best practice and improve productivity through high-quality training.

Support is another opportunity. Although cloud programs provide their own support services, they offer limited advice on how their program connects to others. In the Timely example, an accounting firm could provide a single number to call for any issue with the therapist’s cloud software, including questions about changing formatting in the invoices.

Looking ahead

So, what will accounting firms that decide to take on technology advice look like?

One suburban Melbourne firm has probably taken it the furthest. Hansens Accountants has spun off a cloud consulting business that helps accounting firms move from server-based practice management software to Xero’s cloud platform.

Hansens Solutions combined with IT services company HubOne, which is experienced in Microsoft’s cloud technologies, such as Office 365 and SharePoint Online. It also works with Amazon Web Services, the cloud infrastructure business that emerged from the online store.

Branded as HubOne Solutions, the company migrates accounting firms from practice management suites, such as MYOB Accountants Office and Accountants Enterprise and Reckon’s APS suite, to a clutch of cheaper cloud apps.

Xero is used for client accounting, WorkflowMax Practice Manager for scheduling jobs and Microsoft Office 365 for managing documents and email. Xero pitches these programs as a best-of-breed, modern-practice suite that requires no servers to operate, can run on any device through the web browser and is automatically backed up online.

HubOne Solutions has migrated dozens of firms since it launched in June 2012. Although its services could be described as IT consulting, Hansens director Trevor Schoenmaekers says the goal is to help businesses improve how they operate and not to sell IT.

“I’m not into IT,” declares Schoenmaekers. “I’m not developing anything. I don’t know how to network the computer – we don’t have to do that anymore.

“The whole game is moving. It’s about understanding how to use the systems and procedures for running my business.”

One thought on “Staying ahead of the game

  • September 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

    This is an essential direction we are moving into very quickly so it would be great to see some seminars on this topic.

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