Accounting professionals have always viewed much of their work as being seasonal, waxing and waning with the turn of the months. From monthlies and quarterlies to the annual tax return, accountants’ work is focused as much on when as it is how much work must be completed. This regularity in the timing of the work has created somewhat of a false barrier to efficiency, largely because many professionals wait for the workload to appear, and it always appears at the last minute. Instead, we suggest leveraging technology to create new working models with clients to alleviate workload compression and deliver improved service and insight in real time, when it really matters.
Accounting is no longer considered to be a final resting place for financial and performance information. Accounting isn’t passive; it is an active participant in developing and managing data as it flows through a business. Professionals who continue to perform write-up and other time-consuming “re-accounting” tasks will often find that their approach removes them from the truly interesting part of the job. Instead, when the professional participates with their clients’ businesses and information on a regular basis, the accounting data can be adjusted so it is treated properly from the start. Better data provides for more informed decision making, and this is the real benefit the accountant can deliver.
The key for every accounting professional is the technology and how it might be applied to decompress the workload and even things out. Structuring standard processes for client intake, implementing workflow tools to closely manage data and deliverables, and improving the speed and quality of internal communications are all areas where tech can make the work more consistent and manageable. Much focus can be placed on the technologies a modern accounting firm would apply to its own workflows and data handling processes, yet there is often little consideration for how the accounting professional might maximize efficiency as well as effectiveness in working with the client data at the source.
Most fundamentally, accountants typically work in places where the client or data is not. Business is done at the business location, and that’s usually not where the public accountant is. Even in large enterprise, the work gets done and data created by others than those in finance, so it is up to finance to find the way to gain access to the data and ensure its proper treatment throughout the system. This is among the reasons for the emergence of remote access solutions and services. Through remote access the professional can access the information of the client businesses, performing data entry or adjustments directly into the client’s accounting system and avoid lengthy reviews and write-ups later.
While remote access solutions may work for some, the time-sharing approach that leaves the client waiting while the accountant does the work does little to maximize the efficiency of either party. Instead, an online working model that allows the client and the accounting professional to work independently yet collaboratively addresses the needs of both.
Online working models in no way require web-based or online applications as the sole foundation. For many operations, online or web-based versions of accounting and line-of-business applications lack the cohesion and functionality that more robust desktop and network applications can provide. Where some businesses have limited functional requirements that a simpler online app may meet, others continue to rely on the maturity and proven functionality of desktop solutions. For these businesses, the adoption of virtual IT platforms brings the “online” working model, system agility and managed service potential that are at the center of web-app popularity.
Once the accounting professional has access to the clients’ systems as well as the data they produce, the accountant can take a more proactive approach to correction and adjustment, as well as gaining a basis for providing insight and advice. The after-the-fact approach to accounting is the essential flaw in attempting to decompress the workload of an accounting practice. As long as the tabulation and treatment of business data remains a job to be completed at the end of the period, there will always be urgency in completing the task and the value of the work product is unlikely to increase.
However, through the intelligent application of technology – online application services and virtual computing platforms – accounting professionals can not only help their clients embrace transformative efforts to improve business and performance, but the accountant can relieve workload compression while delivering even greater value on a continuous basis.