[IMGCAP(1)]Among all the topics of chatter within the accounting world this year, none seemed to resonate louder than “cloud.” “Get in the cloud!” “Have you gotten up in the cloud yet?” “Is your client data in the cloud?” “My iPad2 is in the cloud right now!” Wait. What?
The point is, 2011 was the year for cloud chatter—lots and lots of chatter—particularly in the accounting crowd. Consequently though, that’s where it stopped for a lot of folks. Thinking about exploring cloud technologies and all the ways they could help professionals in the space led to—you guessed it—more thinking. Perpetual consideration! (Actually, we’ve been referring to it as ACS, or “Accountant Cloud Stagnation.”) Yet clients are clamoring for it.
Well, that’s all going to stop this coming year. 2012 is going to be the year accounting professionals stop talking about the cloud and start taking advantage of it.
First, let’s identify a few reasons why talking hasn’t led to action.
A number of experts point to security concerns, or that accountants don’t “get technology.” (That’s borderline insulting!) Decades of QuickBooks experience in the accounting crowd tells us otherwise; that those aren’t the real reasons.
The real potential reasons? The majority of accountants think that each client is unique, requiring heavy customization of any cloud dashboard that they’re demanding. There’s also this idea that accountants don’t have the time to learn the ropes when it comes to cloud tools.
Similarly, when you’re used to having access to company data whenever you want it, there’s an apprehension about handing control (and your reputation) over to a third-party. Cloud connectivity and data synchronization are suddenly on your management plate, not to mention the new vendor relationships you have to maintain. But again, this reason isn’t terribly well-constructed.
The shift to the cloud also implies a transition to a paperless office. To most, this means scanners, shredders, second monitors, backups, and training your staff on a new workflow.
There may be long-term ROI benefits. All great stuff. But in the short-term, everyone’s anxious about downloads, drivers, support calls and everything else that comes with the migration from folios toward a content management system.
To all that, we say, “Fear not!” Let’s get over these hurdles, and convert our cloud excitement into action. We know that surfacing insights and automating opportunities via cloud dashboards is a fast-track way to migrating the standard client-bookkeeper relationship to a client-wow-this-is-a-business-advisor-I-trust relationship. We know implementing these technologies are going to yield regular and more substantive client-accountant interaction. And we know our clients are screaming for a way to answer their own questions quickly. (Who wouldn’t prefer a cloud solution over a constantly ringing phone?)
With that, here are five actions you can take to dip your toe into cloud technologies. They’ll go a long way in helping you get comfortable with things and more confident in your ability to forge deeper client relationships (which is one of the ultimate goals!):
1. Take advantage of cloud-based backup solutions (i.e., Dropbox) to quell those preliminary “Gasp! Our data’s gone into the cloud!” feelings. Dropbox’s interface and ease-of-use intuitively communicates what the cloud is and how it works.
2. Test remote PC access to save time and money replacing on-site data entry (i.e., GoToMyPC).
3. Save yourself time and hassle by moving clients with expense policies onto a hosted expense report system (i.e., Expensify). This is a great first step as filing a tedious expense report and the pain that goes with it is something virtually everyone can relate to.
4. Start running your clients through a “virus scan” to catch mistakes in their QuickBooks files (i.e., AuditMyBooks). This will help your client’s get comfortable with cloud technologies as well.
5. Explore ways to be more than just the report generator. Web-based turn-key analysis portals that let you and your clients meet in the cloud can provide that “Ah-ha!” moment. Our product, Profitably, is a great example of that (but we’ll let you be the judge!).
So as we approach the end of the year, let’s make it a point to shift our enthusiasm for cloud apps and do something about it. You’re ready. Your clients are ready. And your business is ready. Let’s end Accountant Cloud Stagnation.
Adam Neary is the CEO of Profitably, a web app that helps businesses plan, measure, and execute on what matters: their business. For more, visit Profitably.com or email Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.