Written by: Rob Millen, Product Manager (Cloud & Practice Management)
We are constantly being told that “everything is moving to the cloud”, especially in the accounting software arena right now, but what does this actually mean and how should an accountancy firm be preparing for this eventuality?
What is cloud software?
Cloud software, is software accessed online (via the internet), typically using a web browser. Historically, software was always installed directly onto a local PC, laptop or server, but ever since the emergence of the internet, more and more applications have switched to operating purely online.
For the most part, the accounting profession has been slow to embrace this change, with most industries already having made the switch. Bearing in mind the complexities of most accounting software packages, this is perhaps understandable. Some have also attributed blame to the outdated culture and fondness for tradition often found in accounting firms. Perhaps this is why the move to a paperless (or less paper) environment was also a huge challenge for many, with some firms still adverse to digitisation. Another reason would likely be the understandably prudent attitude of (most) accountants, especially when considering the confidential nature of their clients’ data.
With cloud-based bookkeeping packages, such as Xero, now at the forefront of many firm/client relationships, modern practices are scrutinising their own use of technology. Most firms are using portals to communicate with their clients, which will ordinarily be cloud-based. For many, email and calendars are also accessed online. Assignment work (Accounts prep work, Audit work, Tax work) is likely to be the final piece of the jigsaw.
What are the benefits?
Like most significant shifts in working practices, there are benefits associated with making the switch:
1. Staff and clients can work and collaborate in real-time.
2. No installation of software required and updates are automated.
3. Data is stored securely and backed up automatically.
In addition to the above, there are also indirect benefits that can be expected from moving to the cloud. The fluid nature of cloud technology allows for advanced data sharing and software integration possibilities. Furthermore, cloud systems naturally share many characteristics with websites, leading to more intuitive workflows and an improved user experience. With user friendly software and an increase in automation, we can all look forward to unprecedented levels of efficiency when working in the cloud.
So, what next?
With desktop accounting systems likely to be supported for the next few years, most firms are assessing their options for cloud-based solutions, rather than committing to a particular direction of travel or product suite just yet. However, what is perhaps more pressing is the need to prepare conceptually for a cloud-based working environment. The following are examples of the type of questions you may need to find answers to:
1. How will you work onsite with clients that do not offer a stable internet connection?
2. What are your processes for offboarding departing staff when it comes to cloud systems?
3. How and where will your assignment data be archived?
The transition to working in the cloud is likely to be a key topic for a few years. Although some software providers like CaseWare are already offering a portfolio of cloud solutions, for most firms the journey may well be gradual with pilot projects and trials to test the water.
To discuss your options further, or to discover what CaseWare Cloud has to offer, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.