Accounting firms are vital partners to business owners who are weathering the financial difficulties prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in accounting practice management software for your business can help you better meet your clients’ needs and adapt to a more digital delivery model.
As Accounting Today notes, “CPAs were critical in helping businesses and their clients quickly navigate massive new legislation and regulations that were changing daily. While doctors and nurses were on the frontlines of the health crisis, CPAs and other accounting and finance professionals were on the frontlines of the financial crisis, protecting our lives and livelihoods.”
Whether you’re the owner of a large practice, or you’re a sole proprietor, here’s a closer look at how technology can help your professional services firm thrive in the months ahead.
Workflow Management Solutions
Accounting practice management software is more indispensable than ever. Busy accountants are keeping track of changing legislation, volatile financials and clients who may need more support than they did previously. Tracking those project details — especially when your team may be partially or entirely remote — can be challenging. A reliable accounting practice workflow management solution can help alleviate some of these obstacles. For example, it can help track your projects, alert you to upcoming client deadlines so you can keep clients compliant on filings; perform monthly accounting updates; and provide support on specific projects, such as applying for grants or preparing for a sale.
Centralized software can help a fully remote team remain connected and keep clients at the center of daily operations through project tracking, assignment workstreams, and client relationship management. Accounting practice workflow management solutions offer an all-in-one platform to help you track project status, identify upcoming deadlines, audit who completed what tasks on a project and assign next steps in your workflow. G2 highlights popular options, including Jetpack Workflow, OfficeTools, and QuickBooks Accountant.
Time Tracking and Billing Solutions
Whether your firm is on retainer or bills by the hour, it’s important to have the tools in place to gather data and get invoices out for timely processing. A billing process that runs smoothly from beginning to end can even help you navigate collection hiccups or challenges with onboarding new clients. Many accounting practice management software tools include these features. Others are designed with integrations to specialized third-party apps that offer time tracking, employee work monitoring, and the ability to send or automate invoices.
It’s also important to think about how you’ll process payment when your clients or your own team may be out of the office. If there is a mail backlog, or you’re trying to phase out paper checks altogether, the ability to receive a wire transfer or process a credit card payment is crucial to receiving payments quickly. Solutions such as FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online, and Wave Accounting all offer these features at different price points.
Service businesses may find their practices increasingly online in today’s new normal. Can you offer remote, digital consultations for customers who are nervous to meet in person? How can you stay connected with your wider customer base when you can’t hold customer events or easily schedule face-to-face meetings? There are two key areas to consider to help you better connect with customers:
- Technologies that can be used for one-on-one meetings. Popular options include Zoom, Skype for Business, and Webex. Scheduling a secure meeting can be as simple as sharing a link that clients can access via a web connection or over the phone by dialing in.
- Strategies to get details out en masse. If you’re not actively sending out newsletters, now may be the time to use software such as Flodesk or MailerLite to start a weekly or monthly customer update to share changing regulations, new trends or even emerging opportunities for government support. It may also be time to consider whether adding social media accounts could provide a simple way for you to stay in touch with customers and communicate any breaking news quickly and efficiently. Maintaining multiple social accounts can be challenging, but tools like Buffer and Hootsuite greatly simplify the process.
Accountants often deal with sensitive documents, so the ability to securely send, receive, and store client information can be of the utmost importance. Digital storage and file sharing solutions such Box and Dropbox can be a more secure way to share files than email and can provide a backed-up, cloud-based storage system in case anything happens to your computer or in-house server. Depending on the level of security needed, it’s also possible to access encrypted, industry-specific solutions such as SmartVault, Encyro or LeapFile.
If you’re taking your service business online, you’ll most likely need a digital accounting practice workflow management plan to attract new customers. Foot traffic past physical signs may have once been a major referral source for your business, but now you’ll need to make strategic investments in your digital presence. Some initial steps to consider:
- Assess your online presence. Now may be the time to update your website. Ensure the information is up to date and that the website looks good on both mobile devices and computer screens.
- Use social media for advertising. Reach new prospects and reengage with customers through social media. Post organic content and potentially give people to the opportunity to share their own stories for closer connections.
- Develop a digital marketing plan. Now may be the time to launch a blog, start exploring online advertising or take part in community groups that offer strategies and support.
Making the shift toward a more digital business often requires investments in technology. Business loans for accounting firms can help you update your employee equipment, onboard the right software solutions or roll out new customer-facing technology solutions to enable easy, remote collaboration.
Setting your business up for success begins with having the right technology. Accounting practice management software can help you support customers effectively and remotely, adapt to the new normal and thrive even as the environment changes.