Like the rest of the world, accounting professionals are quickly adopting mobile technology. And while accountants are already accustomed to doing things like viewing or managing their bank accounts and paying bills on a mobile device in their personal life, the functionality available in their business lives is far behind. That’s because rolling out mobile accounting for businesses is far more complicated and there are many more issues that need to be considered in order for it to be successful. Bill Price, CFO at the accounts payable and payment automation company MineralTree has identified eight issues that companies looking to implement mobile accounting and bring their teams into the digital age must consider.
1. Define Mobile Accounting
There are a lot of steps to take before implementing a mobile solution into your business process. The first is to really think about your goals and what you’re looking to achieve. Mobile accounting could mean different things to different people and businesses, so the first step in a successful rollout is defining what it means to you and your company. For example, consider who the users will be and what they will be using it for. Think about the different functions you’d want your mobile accounting and financial solution to cover.
There was a time when a company's financial and accounting information could remain under lock and key, always within the four walls of the office. Those times are long gone, and as emerging technologies, including mobile, take hold, it’s critical for a company to have a security plan in place that covers all devices, networks and users. According to a new report from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), securing the IT environment was ranked as the top technology initiative by U.S. and Canadian CPAs.
The first question that always comes to mind is security.
CPAs and finance professionals must tackle increasingly sophisticated threats, ranging from cyberattacks to the loss of mobile devices by developing and implementing security policies and plans that cover all the potential risks. It is critical to implement security measures such as two-factor authentication to ensure that only those you authorize have access to your mobile platform.
3. The Universe of Devices
There are myriad different devices available today, so you have to think about what your team will be using. Different mobile platforms from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Blackberry will impact if or how the devices work with the apps or mobile sites you decide to use. You also have to think about the types of devices that will be used is your team more likely to use smartphones or tablets? If you want to use mobile to approve payments on the go, then smartphones would likely be the device of choice. If you need mobility, but still require a high degree of functionality that could be useful for things like client meetings on the go, tablets could be more useful.
4. BYOD or Company Issued
Sixty-seven percent of adults in the U.S. already own a smartphone and 42 percent own a tablet, according to the Pew Research Center. Those statistics are even higher among younger professionals so the writing is clearly on the wall: Companies have to decide if they’ll embrace a “bring your own device” (BYOD) environment, or insist upon company issued devices. While there are benefits to BYOD, including cost savings and employee satisfaction, there are compliance, security and compatibility issues to be aware of. On the other hand, when a company issues devices, it can ensure that they are compatible with the apps and sites it chooses to use, and can better control the security of those devices. However, providing your team with devices is more costly to implement and manage.
5. Apps vs. Mobile Web
Businesses need to figure out what type of accounting and financial tools their team will be using on mobile devices. Are those tools available only as a downloaded app, or can they be accessed through mobile websites? Some apps only run on iOS and Android devices, so if you go that route you'll need to make sure your team has compatible devices. Services with mobile-friendly sites offer more flexibility because they’ll work in any mobile web browser, but may not be as feature-rich. Weigh the pros and cons against your goals for mobile accounting and the devices your team will be using to choose what’s right for your business.
6. Regular Updates
Technology advancements are being introduced at an increasingly faster pace and older, outdated technology can affect employee productivity and enterprise security. It’s important to keep your accounting technology up-to-date by regularly updating apps and devices. Doing this will help maximize security and improve productivity the whole reason for implementing mobile accounting in the first place.
7. Mobile Privileges
Not everyone on your team will need access to your mobile accounting tools. There are plenty of reasons to set limitations on who has access, but the most important is security, especially since security experts will tell you that information security is mostly a people problem. In fact, many of the major enterprise breaches we’ve seen in the news were caused by careless human error. Allowing mobile access in a highly regulated and risk-averse industry like finance should not be taken lightly. Just as you should control which devices are allowed for mobile accounting, choosing which employees to grant mobile permissions is equally important.
Even though mobile accounting is a young but emerging trend, there are surely compliance issues in the highly regulated financial services industry to which companies must adhere. There will be different regulations depending on the business functions and the type of organization that is “going mobile.” For example, public companies that are held to higher standards for things like security and archiving will have to ensure that the mobile technology they implement adheres to all applicable regulations. And just because mobile accounting is fairly new, don’t assume that regulations already “on the books” won’t apply. Regulations that apply to thing like a lost laptop could certainly apply to a lost phone or tablet too.
For another look at these eight considerations to embracing mobile accounting, see our slide show.
Bill Price is the CFO of MineralTree.
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