By Christopher Stark, President & CEO, Cetrom
The pandemic remains and will likely remain a daily fixture of life for the near future. Some CPA firms have adapted to the COVID-19 “New Normal” better than others; the firms that integrated and adopted new technology into daily operations have survived and set themselves up for a more seamless transition into 2021.
Those CPA firms that resisted investing in cloud technology and failed to sufficiently upgrade their Information Technology ecosystems likely struggled and will have a more difficult 2021. That doesn’t have to be the case, however.
It’s not too late for CPA firms lagging behind the cloud curve to get up to speed before the 2021 tax season arrives. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to take the leap into the cloud accounting landscape — this is the CPA industry’s “New Normal” and it’s time to come to terms with this reality.
Here are four key areas to focus on when trying to play catch-up in the Age of Remote Work and Cloud Computing:
Move past denial into acceptance
Remote work is here to stay. Remote work also has proven productive and effective.
If you asked CPA executives about the 100% remote work approach pre-pandemic, you would have likely been met by a great deal of skepticism. If you polled staff if they could work from home for months on end and stay engaged, they might have said that it would never work.
Remote workflow outcomes have proven otherwise. The reason many experts say the way we work has fundamentally and irrevocably changed for good is this: It is more efficient, and it works. CPA firms that adopted new technologies and empowered instead of resisted remote work stayed productive and high functioning. The ramifications of this shift are still unfolding and will do so for years to come, but some benefits to companies and employees have become crystal clear.
Remote workflow benefits have been generated by remote tech solutions, the cloud and enhanced cybersecurity measures; CPA firms that have invested in solutions that empower remote work collaboration and information sharing have seen the biggest benefits, while those lagging behind have not.
It’s time to accept the reality that remote work IT ecosystems that work best in the cloud are here to stay. Once you move through denial to acceptance, taking that first step to cloud integration and adoption is easy.
Invest in the reliability and scope of remote work capabilities
Providing your employees with a headset, a camera and a laptop to work from home just isn’t enough for CPA firms to address the complex needs of remote working and virtual meetings.
CPA firm leadership needs to proactively invest in IT infrastructure, software, technology and network performance to empower seamless work-from-anywhere capabilities. Accessing and working on documents, fostering remote collaboration, conducting virtual meetings and ensuring data privacy and data security are all empowered and made better by the cloud. That is just a fact.
Without proactively updating systems to utilize the cloud, CPA firms cannot operate in today’s telework and ever-changing, cyber-threat world effectively. Staff with poor internet connectivity will have difficulty meeting with their colleagues and clients; difficulty accessing key documents from home will disrupt productivity; manual cybersecurity measures using outdated technology and software will make your CPA firm even more vulnerable to a security breach.
While you might be behind other CPA firms at the moment, there’s no better time to invest time and treasure into the cloud. The risk is too great to continue to ignore.
Tech isn’t a panacea: Develop a business continuity plan
If 2020 has taught CPA firms anything it is this: Anything can happen, anytime, and your IT staff and infrastructure need to be prepared for the worst, always. Creating a business continuity plan, refining it over time, and being able to apply new learnings to rapid deployment are all critical to keeping operations running during a crisis.
Ultimately, a business continuity plan focuses on mitigating all different kinds of risk. In order to mitigate as much risk as possible, your firm needs to actively and unendingly be in risk assessment mode. COVID-19 likely exacerbated risks you already were aware of and probably unearthed new risks that you’d never even considered. Again, react, assess and then integrate what you learned — and are learning during the pandemic — into your plan. And remember, business continuity planning is not a “set it and forget it” exercise; it is a never-ending process of continual improvement that keeps CPA firms prepared for the unexpected. The minute these plans become stagnant is when your risk is highest.
Don’t go it alone: Find a cloud solution partner
Managed service providers and cloud service firms like Cetrom can help your firm navigate upgrading your IT infrastructure so your data is safe, remote work is easy, and performance is enhanced now and into the future.
Our team members not only are experts at migration, integration, security, maintenance and support, but also deeply understand the needs of CPA firms, their employees, and particularly any IT staff on hand. Make sure you choose a provider who has extensive experience with your unique applications and IT challenges.
It’s critical for CPA firms playing catch-up to do so quickly; the best way to achieve a fast, efficient upgrade to cloud accounting is to take the leap philosophically and then partner with a cloud services company that knows your industry best.