[IMGCAP(1)]While it’s no longer accurate to say that the summer months are rife with downtime, small to midsized accounting firms are likely finding themselves with a bit more flexibility compared to what they experience the first half of the year. (Sorry. Not trying to bring up those horrid spring memories.)

The point is, the summer is a great time to evaluate infrastructure and explore areas of improvement—namely, the cloud.

Somehow, the cloud - and migrating to it - is still a favorite thing to talk about. Yet, for most midsized accounting shops, taking the plunge and implementing it into the practice remains to be done. This happens for any number of understandable reasons. But with busy season behind us, let’s look at a few tips that can help small to mid-sized practices get over the hump and into the cloud—before next busy season rolls around...

Figure out what’s what

The cloud means a lot of things. One of the easiest ways to break things down is to split your potential cloud solutions into internal and client-facing. Internal cloud solutions (like GoogleApps, Basecamp and Dropbox) do wonders for improving company processes, reducing redundancy, and increasing efficiency. On the client-facing side of things, cloud apps can vastly improve relationships. And a deeper client relationship means greater opportunity.

What’s more, there’s a good chance your clients are asking for cloud solutions, even if they don’t know it. As an example, say your client is always on the move, rarely working from a traditional office desk. They’re not sitting down to open up the desktop accounting application once a month, but instead, they’re utilizing cloud accounting software that allows them to manage their business finances from wherever, whenever. They might even be asking you what accounting software they should use to in order to meet their work style. The accounting firm that can answer that question—and provide solutions—is going to come out on top.

Address your hesitations

Accounting firms get hung up on taking the cloud plunge for a variety of reasons: security, access... even the simple subconscious “fear of the unknown” keeps them from taking advantage of cloud solutions. The good news is this: we’re not at the dawn of the cloud. It’s no longer new and mysterious.

Big companies are trusting cloud apps. It’s essentially its own cottage industry within the tech world. And chances are, your clients are already using a piece of cloud-based tech or two. From a security perspective, well-built cloud apps are bank-level (secure 256-bit SSL data encryption).  In terms of access, controls are tight and well-honed. The fact of the matter is that our tried and true excuses for not being ready for the cloud just yet aren’t really valid anymore. The onus is you to take the time to dive in. And if you haven’t figured it out already, the summer’s a great time for that.

Onboarding

Getting cloud buy-in from both your team and your clients is critical. You really can’t have one without the other.

Oftentimes, it’s easiest to start with your team. If you’re adding a cloud accounting software component to your practice, get your team involved early. Don’t just spring it on them. Once you’ve identified the cloud solutions you’re going to implement, take advantage of the onboarding services that those software providers have. From free webinars to a personal customer service rep to robust online help desks, these folks are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure their customers are comfortable and confident when it comes to using their software.

On the flipside, you have your clients. The key here isn’t to force a cloud solution on them. Instead, simply highlight the benefits. If the cloud solution has a beautiful iPad app and you know your client never goes anywhere without her iPad, perhaps you mention that. If another client is all about walking through reports together, mention how you can both be in the cloud app at the same time, seeing what the other is doing. Basically it comes down to identifying your clients’ pain points and how the cloud solution solves them. That “ah-ha!” moment is what it’s all about.

So as we slide into the dog days, stop talking about how you’re going to bring cloud solutions to your practice. It’s time to do. Just imagine next year’s busy season and how you won’t be moaning and groaning about how “being on the cloud would sure make life better.” You’ll already be there.

Jim Secord is the CEO of Kashoo: simple cloud accounting for freelancers, startups, small businesses and accountants & bookkeepers. Learn more at kashoo.com or check out their iPad app.