Why Firms Need Cloud Accounting Software in COVID 19

Why Firms Need Cloud Accounting Software in the Age of COVID-19

Could a cloud accounting software help your firm stay productive during the pandemic?

In a survey conducted by Accounting Today’s parent company, Arizent, 62% of leaders said their firm’s productivity declined with more staff working from home. Nevertheless, 82% of firms were “very” or “somewhat” likely to continue allowing employees to work remotely after the pandemic.

COVID-19 has increased safety protocols and shifted client and employee expectations. While few firms will become entirely remote, many will find themselves creating their new version of normal– whether that’s partially remote employees, rotational remote days, or less in-person staff or client meetings.

Firms that refuse to evolve will suffer a competitive disadvantage to those that adapt to the new circumstances and use them as an opportunity to optimize their practice.

With the correct infrastructure, employees working remotely can be equally or even more productive. A cloud-based practice management software is the place to start. Even better if it’s made specifically for accounting firms– like TPS Cloud Axis.

The Benefits of Cloud Accounting Software

Manage Your Practice and Employees Remotely

Manage Your Practice and Employees Remotely

When accounting firms come to us looking for a practice management solution, one of the biggest challenges they cite is the ability to manage employees remotely. It’s one thing to know your employees are being productive when they’re sitting a few desks away from you, but what about when everyone is working virtually?

A cloud-based accounting software allows you to track your time and billing and that of your employees from wherever you might be. Whether that’s your office, your home, or the lake house you rented for the summer with your family.

It’s not just about time and billing, either. A TPS Cloud Axis Pro or Ultimate account offers full practice management abilities.

  • Employee calendar and scheduling
  • Workflow management and report
  • Client outreach and management

There is zero excuse for any of these things to deteriorate simply because you’re not in the office. There is also no sense in rushing back to a potentially unsafe situation when these things are manageable at home. Think about how much less anxiety you would have about getting back to the office if you knew your firm and employees were working just as efficiently at home.

Why Firms Need Cloud Accounting Software Increase Productivity

Increase Employee Productivity

A good accounting software offers tools that help increase productivity and decrease the chance of human error. Employees working from home during the pandemic– many of whom are juggling kids or aging parents– will appreciate having tools that make their jobs a little easier.

Take something as simple as entering time. This should be an easy and efficient process, but depending on the tools you use (or don’t use), it could be a hassle and ultimately inaccurate.

Many firms overlook the power of a strong work code system. Having detailed work codes in place helps your employees quickly enter a detailed description that contains all information needed for processing. This can save hours of time each week and help to avoid issues down the line. Of course, a software like TPS Cloud Axis would allow you to implement such a system.

Time and billing is just one area where an accounting software will help increase employee productivity, WIP/AR Reporting, and mass client mailing are helpful tools that save a lot of cumulative time.

Why Firms Need Cloud Accounting Software Be There For Your Clients Graphic

Be There For Your Clients

Your clients need you now more than ever. With probable loss in revenue, new regulations to navigate, Coronavirus tax relief and extended filings, this might be one of the few times clients actually want to hear from their accountant.

As a business owner, your accountant popping into your email is usually not cause for celebration (no offense). But if you’re informing them of a new policy or tax break that could help their business, their attitude will shift from reluctant to eager real quick.

A good cloud accounting software will simplify and automate keeping in touch with clients. It should maintain a detailed historical log of client industry, region, notes, contact information, and an understanding of who are the decision-makers in a company.

When an opportunity surfaces, it becomes that much easier to mass mail or email relevant clients. Imagine being a struggling general contractor or coffee shop owner and having your accountant reach out with genuinely helpful information. That is going to result in more work for your practice while providing a much needed service to your clients.

Why Firms Need Cloud Accounting Software Create a Remote Friendly Workflow Graphic

Create a Remote-Friendly Workflow

In an office setting, it’s easier to keep tabs on a process that might be less than efficient. If you’re looking for a certain file or want to know the status of a project, you can stop by your colleague’s desk and ask. It might not be the quickest or most efficient way to get the information you need, but the process has always worked well enough for your firm– when they’re all in one place.

With more staff working remotely, it’s easy for the details to slip through the cracks. Do you know where a file is, who is working on it, and how far along the work is– at all times? Probably not. Trying to track down the right person or gauge a project’s completion is an unnecessary waste of time.

A good cloud accounting software will offer workflow capabilities that mimic and improve upon your firm’s existing workflow. Each employee that touches a file can record his or her activity within TPS. Managers are able to monitor from the firm level or the employee level exactly where a file is, what work has been done, and what is left to do before billing.

Some firms use an Excel spreadsheet for Workflow, others use pen and paper, and some simply expect their employees to have that process ingrained. “After X, do Y.” This might be sufficient in a 9-to-5 office setting, but if half or most of your staff are working remotely, you are going to want an established workflow in place to help accelerate processes and reduce mistakes.

Why Firms Need Cloud Accounting Software Reevaluate Your Practice Management Graphic

Reevaluate Your Practice Management

It’s easy for firms to grow without thinking about systems and processes. In the beginning stages of any company, thoughts are more centered on being profitable and attracting clients rather than what the most efficient way to manage everything. It’s easy to get away with when you’re small, but if you’re growing or looking to grow it’s crucial to have a planned infrastructure for how your firm manages and organizes its work.

Rather than seeing COVID as an obstacle to overcome, use it as an opportunity to reassess and optimize your practice. Maybe you can optimize your time and billing, reduce non-chargeable time, create a new workflow that saves time and reduces human error, create a new client outreach process that keeps new work coming through the door.

If all this seems like a headache, you might want to change your perspective and challenge your assumptions. Do you assume transitioning to a cloud-based software will be difficult? You might want to talk with our staff who can show you just how easy it can be.

Do you hesitate at the thought of yourself or employees having to learn a new system? TPS Cloud Axis maintains a Youtube library of 100+ video tutorials– from basic to advanced– and these videos are strategically placed throughout the software, for always-easy access.

Balance Remote Work With In-Office

Balance Remote Work With In-Office

Chances are, you are looking to get your firm back in the office eventually. According to the aforementioned Accounting Today survey, 65% of firms plan to keep offices/locations as is, with only 18% planning to significantly downsize space and locations going forward.

If you’re counting down the days until they return to “normal,” you might question the need for a cloud-based software. Can’t your firm just “ride out” the pandemic and return to the office when it’s over?

There are a few problematic assumptions here:

  • That the pandemic will truly “end” in any time that is reasonable for your firm to stay afloat
  • That there are only two options– 100% in office, or 100% remote.

The reality is, the future of work is probably a mixture of in-person and remote work. Clients and employees alike will have different expectations for safety protocols and office standards. We may head back to the office, but precautions will be taken to limit the risk of spread and the amount of people in one place.

A cloud accounting software will allow you to balance in-office work with remote work. Maybe half of your employees work from home and half come into the office, on a rotating schedule. A situation like this would both limit the amount of people in the office at once, save on cleaning expenses, and even increase employee happiness and, therefore, productivity.

With cloud-based software, employees who are on their WFH day can be just as productive as in the office. Employees can also plan their work week according to what day they will be home vs in the office. They will know that they can still access important tools at home, but save the more client-facing or collaborative tasks in the office.

Adapt and Improve with Cloud Accounting Software

Don’t be the firm that falls behind because you were resistant to change. You don’t need to change everything about how your firm operates. But you need to be realistic about the large-scale changes happening in the world and how that will shift your business and the expectations of your firm and your client.

With a little up-front preparation, you can prepare your firm to be profitable and stable regardless of first wave or second. It can also provide lasting changes that optimize your firm long after the worst of the pandemic has passed.

Check out TPS Cloud Axis for powerful and affordable cloud accounting software. Plans start at $10/month.

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Do you suddenly need to manage a remote team of accountants? You’ve probably realized it’s not quite the same as managing a team in-office.

With the unique challenges that working from home– particularly amidst a pandemic– provides, even the most seasoned managers are struggling to keep tabs on their team and maintain productivity.

If you’re not a fan of remote work, you might be holding out for the pandemic to end and things to get back to “normal”. But as more time goes by, we’re all beginning to realize that “normal” is getting a face-lift. While workers may return to the office, without a vaccine that return is likely to be gradual, partial, or even temporary.

Like it or hate it, remote work isn’t going anywhere. It’s in your and your firm’s best interest to adapt to and optimize the remote work experience– starting with how to manage a remote team of accountants.

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Set Expectations Immediately

Sure, your staff may know what’s typically expected of them. But the pandemic has scrambled processes, shifted priorities, and brought new responsibilities. It’s also likely your staff are dealing with their own personal readjustments– having to homeschool their kids, take care of aging parents, or just figure out their own new routine.

As a result, it’s helpful to take a step back and set expectations for your team. This might require a reconsideration of those expectations– and perhaps even compromises that will enable your team to thrive.

Some areas in which you may want to set expectations:

  • Working hours: Is your team expected to maintain a strict 9-5, or is there flexibility to work earlier/later? What about work breaks such as lunch– should employees communicate when they are “away from computer” for more than a bathroom break?
  • Productivity: How many hours of time are your employees expected to clock each week? Have there been changes to client relationships or contracts that will require more/less hours with that client?
  • Priorities: Are certain items, projects, or clients higher or lower priority as a result of the pandemic? For example, reaching out to clients to inform them of tax relief might be moved to the high-priority list.
  • Communication response time: Is it okay to respond to emails every 2 hours, every hour, or does it need to be under 30 minutes? Many employees perform best when they can focus on work in isolated chunks, and check email only once every hour or so.
  • Communication format: When should your employees set a meeting rather than send an email? When is a phone call or “instant message” appropriate? With so many communication tools, it’s helpful to set standards for when to use one versus another.

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Have the Right Infrastructure

You can’t manage a remote team of accountants without the proper tools in place. In a perfect world, we would have all had a remote-friendly infrastructure established before the pandemic hit. Fortunately, it’s not too late to put those tools in place.

A cloud-based practice management software like TPS Cloud Axis is a good place to start. You can track time and billing, manage client communications, and create and optimize workflow that keeps your team more productive. A good practice management software can also automate redundant tasks, saving your team time on non-chargeable work.

Naturally, these things are important on their own, and it’s likely your firm has some system in place already. But ask yourself– is that system sufficient for these new remote working conditions?

As a manager, you’ll need to keep an extra-close eye on your employees’ productivity and client communications during this time. The right software will provide you with both a high-level and a granular view of your practice.

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Be Proactive about Communication

The social isolation that comes with working remotely can be debilitating or downright depressing. It’s important to have frequent and regular meetings scheduled on both a group and one-on-one basis. This helps people feel like part of a team and keeps them accountable.

  • Regular team/group meetings: Helps staff feel like part of a team and keep them accountable
  • One-on-one meetings: Helps managers check in with employees individually and see how they’re doing and what challenges they may have
  • Larger staff meetings: Share changes happening at the company level, pandemic responses, big client news

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Encourage Employees to Step Up

The pandemic has brought added stress and responsibility for many people. Some of your staff may be struggling with having their school-age children home or helping their aging parents.

There are also those fortunate individuals whose daily lives and responsibilities haven’t changed all that much (other than working remotely, that is). Some of your staff– particularly younger employees or those without children– might actually be in a position to take on new challenges or more responsibility in the firm. They would likely be excited for the opportunity to prove themselves.

This isn’t to say that childless employees should have the work piled on, or that parents should be overlooked for potential promotions or areas of growth. But if you know of an employee who is proactive and enjoys a new challenge, ask if they have the bandwidth to take on another project, or to help manage others. It’s a great way to nurture your employees’ professional development while getting a few tasks off your plate.

When you do get staff stepping up and doing more for the firm– publicly acknowledge and thank them. It could be a quick mention in an all-staff meeting or a monthly internal email for the purpose of thanking staff. This will help to foster a culture of encouragement and inspire others to broaden their own impact at the firm.

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Be Human.

We all know these are challenging times. When we’re worried about our loved ones or stressed about the world as a whole, it’s just more difficult to focus or perform at peak efficiency.

While the pandemic is no excuse to not get your work done, managers should understand that employees are people, too. They have an entire life outside of work that can’t always be paused, particularly if they are juggling new responsibilities or less-than-ideal work conditions.

One thing your employees are sure to appreciate is flexibility. You can still mandate general “working hours” at your firm, but if an employee needs to swap an evening hour to make up for taking 1-2 pm for themselves, there’s no real harm in allowing it.

On a similar note, be sure to respect the boundaries of those employees who do prefer sticking to a 9-to-5 schedule. It’s important to have the ability to disconnect from work entirely, and if your staff feel pressured to reply to an email at 8 p.m. that can lead to burnout in the long run.

Another part of being human is being understanding. Try to have a sense of humor if kids pop up during a conference call, or pets are barking in the background. Your employees are likely to be anxious about these interruptions too but there is often little to be done.

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Find Ways to Connect

Working from home can be incredibly isolating. Video meetings help, but those are work-oriented. They don’t tend to offer the same level of chit-chat and connection that an in-person meeting or event does.

Let’s be honest, there’s no real way to replace the camaraderie that comes with a spontaneous happy hour after work with colleagues. But we can try.

Consider hosting a bi-weekly, virtual “Team Happy Hours.” Try to keep these to small groups of 4-5; this will reduce the social overwhelm and make for easier conversation. If you actually want people to attend, be smart and schedule it at 4:30 PM on a Friday. You might even get the introverts to join.

If you don’t want to center team bonding around drinking, get creative. There is a burgeoning industry around virtual team events and platforms that support team-building activities– you can probably guess why. Here are a few of our favorites:

Virtual Team-Building Activities:

  • Virtual Games: Trivia, murder mysteries, chess tournaments. Some healthy competition can help build common ground for future conversations
  • Weekly Watch nights: Invite your team to join a “group watch” of a movie, TV show, or documentary.
  • Fitness or Health Competitions: Challenge staff to compete against one another for a common goal– weight loss, steps taken, miles walked/ran, etc. Offer a prize to top contenders.
  • Local Scavenger Hunts: Hide a small stuffed animal (bonus if it’s your firm mascot) around local landmarks and offer employees clues to find it (and a prize if they do)

Team-building activities might seem silly, and they are. That’s the whole point. It’s beneficial for employees to be able to connect and talk about things other than work. It brings colleagues closer together and ultimately makes for a stronger team.

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

Be Generous

We know, we know– accounting firms usually aren’t the first to want to spend money. But showing your employees they are valued is an investment that will pay off. Give them the tools they need to work more efficiently. Surprise and delight them with small but thoughtful perks. Over time, this kind of generosity results in happier, harder-worker employees and less turnover.

Many companies are offering their employees “stipends” to help improve their remote working experience. That could be for a computer monitor, an ergonomic desk chair or keyboard, a printer, or other office supplies. This will boost both employee satisfaction and performance, as these items can actually help employees better do their job.

Food gifts are timeless, practical, and typically affordable. You could send your staff healthy snack boxes, decadent gift baskets, or gift cards to local restaurants. (Bonus points if those restaurants are clients.)

Chances are, your employees miss being able to leave the office and grab some tasty takeout for lunch. Providing them with snack boxes, meal delivery, or a gift card to a local restaurant lets them shake things up and can even spark local business relationships.

 

How to Manage a Remote Team of Accountants

In the end, you’re going to need a certain degree of trust in your employees. You can’t casually stroll by their desk to ensure they’re on the job. Fortunately, most employees want to do their jobs well. If you treat them with respect and provide the tools and support they need, they will.

TPS Cloud Axis can help you manage a remote team of accountants. View plans and pricing or schedule a quick 15-minute consultation.

How to Start Freelance Accounting in 2020

How to Start Freelance Accounting in 2020

The rise of the gig economy– inspired by digitally savvy millennials and independent workers looking for flexible hours– has been paving the way for a freelance boom over the past decade. But no one could have predicted that the Coronavirus pandemic would usher us all into a work-from-home world, primed and ready for freelancers of all kinds.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

Choosing the right practice management software for your accounting firm is more important than you may think. Not only will the platform you select integrate all the main functions of your business, it can also boost productivity amongst your team and even provide a competitive edge against your competitors.

Accounting practice management software should consolidate and track your team’s work, timelines, budgets, and allow you to manage your practice from anywhere in the world. Specifically now in the digital age, solid software can truly whip your practice into shape, or, conversely, bog you down and require far more work to upkeep vs. the amount of work you’re putting in for your clients.

Ideally, at the end of the day, you want to choose the right software for YOU, which may be radically different from what was right for your firm a year ago or what is needed by your competitors.

These factors will include things like the size of your practice, budget, portfolio and your clients needs, to name a few. Begin by taking stock of your needs and review the questions below to help you determine what practice management software is the right fit for you.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

What Do You Need?

Identifying your firm’s unique needs is step #1. List out all of the things you need, things you’d like to have but aren’t necessary, and start looking up software options that cover the bases. It’s important to take into account the type of accounting you practice, the size of your team, the specific needs of your clients and even the amount of clients you have. These factors will help you narrow down your options.

TPS Software was designed with small to mid-sized firms in mind. If you have a firm under 100 employees and want a practice management software that has all the accountant-specific tools you‘ll need, this is a great place to start.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

What Do Your Clients Need?

When choosing your new software, you have to realize it’s not only going to affect your business, but your client’s businesses as well. You need to make sure your software will be able to generate reports and deliverables that are easy to understand.

If your client is tech/number-savvy they may want to be more involved in the accounting process and be privy to budgets, timelines, projections, etc as they are in progress. They may also want to collaborate on projects, so you’ll want to be able to give them permissions to certain documents to streamline this process. If this is the case, you’ll need to secure software that gives you cloud and sharing capabilities. Specifically in the COVID-19 work world, it’s likely that your clients aren’t in the same city, or even country, let alone the same office space.

Your new software should make communication with clients easier, not more work. So search for a program that facilitates your relationship with them, because at the end of the day, you’re in the business of helping others, and the best way to do that is by keeping them happy (and helping them save money, of course).

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

What’s Your Work/Management Style?

Are you full time remote? Do you travel often? Do you have any employees or are you going it solo? These are all factors that should be considered when choosing the right software.

If you are remote or move around often, you need to make sure your software is set up for cloud capabilities and is accessible from other countries. Small things like time zones can jam technology up sometimes, so it’s actually an important consideration. You don’t want to miss a deadline just because your app doesn’t automatically update to PST from EST…

When it comes to managing (or not managing) a team, recognize that it requires different capabilities. If you do have employees, you’ll need software that allows you insight to their projects, the ability to track timelines across your organization, and provides a high level view of all the moving parts within your firm. Insight into your team will ensure higher performance and give you a level of insight that you may not even get in person. Keep your team on time and accountable, and you’ll be sure to see results. If you can’t manage your team on a new practice management tool, then it’s not the software for you.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

What’s Your Budget?

As an accountant you must realize staying within budget is important. Practice management softwares can range in price, so be realistic with your budget and goals, and get something that works but won’t break the bank.

Programs like TPS Axis actually run on a monthly subscription basis, giving you flexibility over your account (and even lets you cancel at any time – no strings attached). If you want to dip your toe into a program without fully diving in, ask for a trial basis or consider investing in a month-long subscription to check out how practical it really is for you and your firm.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

Do You Value Employee Input?

If the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ then ask your team what they want out of the practice management software they are destined to use each and every day for the rest of their time with you.

Not only do you want to ensure that your employees are capable of getting the job done efficiently and effectively, you also need to make sure that you are capitalizing on your employee’s time and keeping them happy. Happy workers usually equal good workers. If your team feels heard and valued, not only will they be good at accounting, they will also remain loyal and work their hardest for you and your practice.

In addition, the way your employees will function with the software is imperative. If you’re the only person at the firm who ‘gets it,’ while everyone else is struggling, it’s probably not the right pick for your team.

To be clear: your accounting team should be able to focus on accounting, NOT updating the software checklists every 3 minutes. TPS Software is easy to use, boosts productivity, and offers in-depth features for managing your team, like check-ins on time usage, project progress, and simplified workflow.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

Do You Have a Team?

Are you a one-person show or do you work with a team to get the job done? There is no wrong answer here. Lean and mean or a robust close-knit approach — both have their perks. But if you have a team (or even just heavily involved employees), it’s going to impact the software you choose.

Being able to collaborate on tasks and timelines is a big plus in the digital era. Even more important, is ensuring that everyone involved is able to view each other’s work and understand who has been tasked with what. You don’t need two employees working on the same project, and a team-centric software can help you avoid these common mistakes.

Evaluate how efficient the system is at allowing you all to work together and deliver meaningful results before investing in a new program.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

Don’t Forget About the Nitty-Gritty

As many companies are getting leaner (thank you technology!), you are probably your own accountant, but you may also be your own HR or even IT department. Select a practice management software that allows you to be all of those things without sucking up all your time.

Your software should log hours and billing, making invoicing much easier. Make sure the software has what you need to be an effective leader and hopefully makes your job easier, not harder.

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

How Tech Savvy Are You?

How much do you really share with your clients/team? If the answer is ‘a lot,’ you may want to consider an accounting practice management software that mainstreams uploading and sharing work on a cloud.

If this sounds daunting to you, you may want to take a crash course in tech because, honestly, collaborating and uploading your work online will eventually save you space, time, energy, and can help keep clients happy. At the end of the day, isn’t keeping your clients content the goal?

Tips For Choosing The Right Practice Management Software for Accountants

Do You Even Like the Platform?

At the end of the day, if you are choosing new software you have to like it. Don’t just choose it because it sounds like a great deal or it worked for your buddy’s firm–they may have different needs or a different outlook on technology. Make that ‘need, want, don’t want’ list we mentioned at the beginning of this article and ensure that whatever software you pick ticks all your necessary boxes.

Play the field. Request a demo of the software– most companies offer them at no cost. Go through the demo and select a few trusted staff members to do it as well. Get their honest feedback to help you make your decision. TPS Software has built-in video tutorials for every feature you come across, and support specialists that can guide you should you ever have a question or issue. Companies like TPS will even help you migrate your data into their software, making the transition smoother.

The most important thing a software should provide is high performance and peace of mind to you and your clients. If you find something you think you like, we highly recommend starting on a trial basis or signing up for a subscription service like TPS Software. Give yourself time to get to know the program and truly figure out if it’s the right fit for you.