Any discussion about moving from a desktop to a cloud workflow is no longer focused on what it is as much as what it can do to speed your tax firm’s productivity. Just because you’re using desktop tax software such as Intuit® ProConnect™ Lacerte® or ProSeries® doesn’t mean you can’t work in the cloud.
When your processes are in the cloud, you can improve your client experience. After all, taxpayers are looking for convenience and want information accessible instantly. Think about what the cloud can do for you.
- It saves space. For years, I boxed up all the returns to keep for several years in storage. Now, the only purpose my file cabinets serve is to display office decor.
- It improves accessibility. When you no longer have physical file folders in the office, you can access data anytime, anywhere.
- It enables collaboration. When all of your clients’ tax information is in a client portal, you can improve team collaboration, especially for a team that is remote. You aren’t limited to having workers in a local office.
- It costs less. When everything is in the cloud, you can save money on paper, ink cartridges, copiers and repairs.
Long gone are the days when you call a travel agent to book a flight for our next vacation; the same is true for tax and accounting. Everything is going digital – and if you don’t keep up, you may be left behind.
Put Aside the Doubts
In transitioning your firm to the cloud, you’ll need to overcome four hurdles.
#1: Cloud security. Some clients and employees are comfortable using the cloud instead of having physical documents, while others are uncomfortable with cloud storage, especially when they hear about security breaches at large, well-known companies. However, what you don’t hear is that rather than getting hacked, these companies had security breaches due to human error.
To overcome this hurdle, educate yourself and prepare. Encrypted data, passwords, firewalls, malware and antivirus software can support a paperless environment. Never give out your wireless password to even the occasional client who comes by your office. Be on alert for emails that arrive saying a new client needs several years of tax returns and “click here” to access W-2s.
#2: Personal mindset. This was the largest hurdle for me because I didn’t understand how the cloud worked, and I could not visualize how our firm could manage without a physical file folder for each client.
#3: Fear of losing documents. When you have a physical file folder, all the papers go in that file, but in the craziness of tax season, how can you ensure you have all the documents together when the client emails, faxes and drops off documents over any period of time? The solution is twofold. First, set up a solid process so all documents are saved to the client portal, and second, make sure your portal is backed up.
#4: Getting clients on board. The best way to get your clients in the cloud is to show them the value and benefits. We live in a world that emphasizes convenience and rapid access to information, so it is an incredible advantage for clients to be able to access their information anytime, 24/7. Start slowly, and test the new method with clients who love and appreciate you. They will give you honest feedback and be forgiving as you figure out the ideal process.
I’m sure there are more benefits to moving your practice from desktop to the cloud than just these four, and every practice is different. Evaluate your own processes and determine the best way to make the transition based on your needs, staffing and client acumen. I made the transition several years ago and never looked back!