The vast majority of Accounting firms operating systems are server based rather than ‘cloud’ based. This has not been an issue up until now because the vast majority of team members in a firm have been ‘office bound’ and any access to data was from the desktop in the office. Having everyone bound to a desk is very last century thinking. The world is flat and with cloud based operating systems you can have team members anywhere working real time with no synchronization or terminal server issues.

Take my business for example. My business is a professional services firm like yours. I have a regular office in Brisbane with 11 team members who live locally. On top of that myself and co-director, Colin, go into the office around 1-2 days per week only. The rest of the time we are ‘away’. I have a full time person Darwin, 1 in Vancouver, 3 (soon to be 7) in the Philippines and 1 in India. That’s 5 permanent locations. Both team members in Darwin and Vancouver were relocating from Brisbane and instead of having them leave the company (both are excellent at what they do) we set them up locally and they continued to their job form their new location.

All team members wherever they are only using 1 database, 1 accounting system, 1 project management system, 1 document management system, 1 document creation system and many other cloud based applications to help them to their job. All systems are linked together so we can see real time what is going on. No speed issues, no dropouts (unless the internet goes down) and improved productivity. The management team get an automatic KPI report every morning that is generated by the system. It just turns up and it shows the heartbeat of the business.

We have team meetings with each person on video on the big screen and other than touching them it is like they are with us in the same room. My cloud based system has been up and running for 2 full years and we could never ever go back to a server based system. The old system was just too restrictive for workflow, collaboration and overall efficiency. Remote people seamlessly working together is just one of the advantages. The biggest thing for me as the CEO is the access to management data no matter where I am.

For an Accounting firm the ideal cloud based ‘practice management system’ needs to be able to do the following as a minimum:

  • Everything the current server based system does – tax, accounting etc except for 1 database only!
  • Relevant KPI reporting – Revenue, Profit, WIP management, Debtors, cash balance, average hourly rate (AHR) all hours, AHR on job by job basis, productivity etc
  • Pipeline management – not current workflow but sales pipeline / opportunity management
  • Client relationship management – ability to know what clients are buying what services and the ability to create marketing campaigns to existing or prospective clients
  • Run your firm based on best practice – no charge rates ($1 per hour), hours budgets on jobs not $ budgets, pricing up front etc. Link to your clients who are also on the cloud so you can have the heartbeat of your clients

The bonus ‘wish list’ items like document management, document creation, project collaboration can be sourced through other applications that do not require additional client databases to be created.