The Definitive Guide to the Modern Accounting Firm
A new set of cloud-based tools tools are changing the way accounting firms have traditionally processed tax returns, organised and stored their files and run their practice.
This guide will be regularly updated with the latest cloud software for modern accounting firms. It is divided into sections according to their impact on productivity. If you think a technology is missing or should be rated for a higher or lesser impact, please leave your suggestions in the comments at the bottom of this article.
Each section contains links to relevant articles and recommended Australian advisers for setting up specific cloud programs. Technologies and vendors are listed in alphabetical order within sections.
Jump directly to the section by clicking on it in the Index.
- Online accounting CRITICAL
- Practice management
- Online lodgement VERY HIGH
- Online workpapers
- Reporting and forecasting
- Cloud integration HIGH
- Data entry (receipts and invoices)
- Document storage
- Office suite
- Self-managed superannuation (SMSF)
- Communications MODERATE
- Conversion services
- Direct mailing
- Electronic signatures
1. Online accounting
In the cloud the single ledger has replaced the double ledger, daily automatic bank transactions have eliminated the QIF download, and multi-user online access mean an accountant and business owner can look at the same accounts from their own offices. Slash the time for processing bank returns, creating reports and advising clients by moving clients to online accounting programs.
Micro to small business
Small to mid-size business
2. Practice management
Tools for managing workflow have become easier to use and smarter in the move to the cloud. Access client details or review job progress from your mobile and automatically transfer invoices, purchases and contacts to your online accounting software.
Small to mid-size firms
Small to large firms
Impact: VERY HIGH
3. Online lodgement with the ATO
Cloud services can submit your clients’ tax returns, BAS and payment summaries online in 10 percent of the time. A very easy way to save a lot of time (and therefore money).
4. Online workpapers
Cloud workpapers can be 20 percent faster than using Excel or manual work papers. They also integrate with cloud practice management systems to automatically update job statuses, share client details and completed workpapers.
Small to mid-size firms
5. Reporting and forecasting
Plunging prices for processing a tax return are forcing accountants to provide more valuable services such as regular reporting. These tools quickly create beautiful reports with KPIs and metrics for clients.
6. Cloud integration
One of the best things about cloud software is that it is so easy to share information between systems. This can drastically reduce the double data-entry such as copy and pasting between programs. Cloud software can either connect directly or use cloud integration services to direct traffic between them.
7. Data entry (receipts and invoices)
Many bookkeepers dread the trusty shoebox stuffed with a year’s worth of paper receipts. Inbound invoices can also pile up. Luckily there are several cloud services which will collect your invoices or receipts, digitise the information and import it automatically into a online accounting program.
8. Document storage
Storing documents, spreadsheets and PDFs in the cloud means you never need to drive back to the office to find a file. It also is an easy and secure way to share reports, client documents and other records with people inside and outside the firm.
9. Office suite
You no longer need a desktop to create spreadsheets, documents and presentations. Cloud versions of office applications are very easy to share with colleagues and clients, and you can look them up on your phone or iPad.
More: Office 365 vs Google Apps: buying advice
Self-managed superannuation funds no longer need to be administered from within the office. The cloud lets accountants and their staff update, check and report on funds from home, on holiday or in a client’s office.
Email overload can kill productivity among staff. Instant-messaging tools designed to help employees work together can increase productivity and reduce internal emails. Help-desk apps can also improve your ability to respond quickly to client inquiries.
Three HelpDesk Apps to Replace Your Email
Why You Should Ban Your Internal Emails
12. Conversion services
Firms wanting to move large numbers of clients from desktop software to online accounting software can outsource the work to dedicated online services. The services below are designed and managed by accountant-entrepreneurs.
Convert MYOB to Xero
Convert QuickBooks to Xero
Convert Sage to Xero
- MoveMyBooks.com (UK only)
13. Direct mailing
The email newsletter is a critical medium for keeping up-to-date with clients. Cloud newsletter programs can centralise client contacts collected in your accounting or practice management program and track the interest level of clients in particular offers.
14. Electronic signatures
Faxes and thermal paper should be relegated to memories of the nineties. Clients sign online documents with electronic signatures much faster than paper because it requires no printing, scanning or faxing to complete.
Quoting is a key part of the sales process. Often businesses are great at sending off quotes but not so good at keeping track of whether a customer has accepted it or let it fall to the bottom of a to-do list. These cloud quoting apps show accountants how many quotes they have sent out, where they are in the approval process and their success rate.
Can you name the most important metrics for your practice? The ones that determine how much profit you will make this year? Business owners can use the dashboards below to keep an eye on the crucial KPIs.