How can accountants effectively utilise the cloud?

It’s probably no surprise that most work environments use some sort of cloud functionality these days. For accountancy firms, the ability to work using cloud accounting software and cloud storage capabilities has done a lot to ease the burden of secure data access and transfer.

Accountants send and receive high volumes of accounts information on a daily basis. Sending reams of paper or easily-lost USB sticks could become a logistical nightmare when clients aren’t based nearby. 

Thanks to the cloud, accountancy firms are now able to help clients maintain their bookkeeping records digitally, by using cloud accounting software easily accessed by both parties. 

Double-bonus efficiency points if the software also supports the upload of supporting documents, such as photographing receipts and attaching them to a particular transaction. It’s certainly more effective than having a carrier bag of haphazard paperwork land on the desk.

Cloud connectivity around the world 

Small Business UK found that a vast 88% of UK businesses have embraced cloud computing, one of the most popular reasons being better international communication. The beauty of the cloud is, after all, its accessibility to all, regardless of distance.

Clients are no longer restricted to using a locally based accountant and can shop around much further afield for the accountancy firm most suitable to their needs. It also means that both the accountant and the client can hit the road without losing access to information as they travel. 

More seamless collaboration and information sharing 

One of the challenges of the accountant/client relationship is the accuracy of information. Sending a USB stick in the post is one (not very secure) way to transmit bookkeeping data, though there’s a chance of it being out of date by the time it arrives. Plus, it makes it much more of a challenge to query a transaction if the accountant has the only copy of the information.

Now accountants can work on documents simultaneously with the client, bookkeeper and admin team, and in real-time. 

Less risk of error

Misunderstanding what financial information is required, or even simple data entry mistakes, both have the potential to cause a lot of damage. A critical business decision based on inaccurate accounts records can quickly turn into an expensive exercise, and that’s before HMRC issues penalties for error-strewn records.

Unfortunately, each time data is handled it becomes vulnerable to error, which is amplified if the information was wrong in the first place. The cloud helps accountants to overcome this by adopting software where data only needs to be entered once. 

Often this doesn’t even need a manual input, instead pulling data from other sources, such as the client’s bank account, and then matching it automatically to documents within the software, like invoices. Most software is also designed to spot potential mistakes and flag them for review.

Making the workforce more flexible

Recruiting the most talented people for the job can be somewhat competitive, so offering remote or flexible working can certainly give an employer the edge. It goes a long way towards enhancing employee wellbeing and job-satisfaction – both essential for retaining talent once you have it. But a flexible workforce isn’t just beneficial for staff.

A cloud-based workforce is more agile, and therefore better equipped to spend time working where clients need them to be. This might entail site visits, audits, efficiency reviews, or even accompanying them to meetings with potential partners or investors. 

Extra strong security measures

Accountants are privy to some of a business’ most sensitive information. Supplier details, investor data or sales performance – they see it all. As such, there’s a tremendous obligation to keep information safe.

Using cloud computing means that documents and data can be stored securely in one central location, and protected behind layers of encryption and passwords. 

More sustainability, less clutter, better recall

Record keeping is a major part of an accountant’s responsibilities, with accounts figures usually needing to be retained for several years. Multiply an accountant’s client list by all of the documents which need storing, and it quickly adds up to a huge amount of space which, inevitably, translates as having to pay for more square footage or hired storage.

Fortunately, the cloud means less money and fewer trees sacrificed in the name of record retention. Files saved digitally take up less physical space than a tangible print out and are much simpler to recall for viewing if they’re needed again. And if that isn’t enough, there’s also the fact that digital records are harder to misplace, and considerably more hygienic in a physical workplace.

Transition to the cloud

• Do your market research and invest in some reputable virus and malware protection. If you have the resource available, it would be worth asking the advice of an IT expert on this. 

• Get your staff some training in cybersecurity awareness and spotting any potential issues.

• Train staff in how to use any cloud-based software and be transparent about its benefits to help engage the workforce in new processes.

• Implement it in stages – maybe by department or specific processes – so it’s a gradual process and not a shock to the system (technically and culturally).

• Be aware of your budget – don’t get carried away by the novelty of something new. 

Pandle is a refreshingly simple cloud-based bookkeeping software.

Elizabeth Hughes

Elizabeth Hughes is a business and finance writer for Pandle, the refreshingly simple cloud bookkeeping software.

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