As a trusted business advisor, you can take advantage of infrastructure efficiencies that allow you to focus on what you do best – advising your clients. Consider moving to cloud-based solution, and how an integrated bill management system, combined with a solid financial accounting system, may improve efficiencies within your firm. But, how do you do it? What are the benefits? And, how do your clients benefit?
Recently the National Associate of Water Companies (NAWC) outlined how it accomplished noticeable efficiencies by moving to cloud-based solutions. Along with the help from the staff at LarsonAllen, LLP, this water company improved collaboration and workflow efficiencies, while witnessing an increased benefit in the audit trail process, which aided in its annual audits.
You see, the NAWC was spending precious time twice per month dedicating time to meet with their LarsonAllen representative, reviewing, approving, and signing checks. The manual process, for this company of eight, fatigued dedicated and important resources. Once LarsonAllen moved to an integrated solution, the staff at NAWC could review, approve, and schedule online payments via check, ePayment/ACH, or PayPal with more flexibility and efficiency than ever before. And, best of all, the audit trail was built into the workflow solution.
Before the automated solution was put into place, NAWC staff would have to pull documentation and either email or fax it to LarsonAllen. With its cloud-based solution, users store documentation online, and the LarsonAllen staff can find answers on contracts and bills quickly. As a result, NAWC experienced a reduction in discovery hours and were able to provide faster, cleaner, and a more cost-effective audit trail.
Further, there was no more guessing about if or when bills were being paid. Mike Horner,
Director of Administration and Membership at NAWC, says, “Before [our automated solution was in place], I’d be walking the dog or taking a shower and I’d wonder if a certain bill had been paid. Because our [bill-pay solution] is cloud based, I can find the details immediately, on my home computer.”
So, rather than focusing their time on bill payment and management, the staff at NAWC is now more able to focus on their role at hand—educating the public on the safety of private tap water.
Learn more about how you can automate not only your firm’s bill paying processes, but also that of your clients; so they too can focus on what they do best—their business.
Read more case studies on how firms and their clients are implementing cloud-based solutions so they can focus on the business at hand.
In a recent interview, Jason Blumer, from Blumer and Associates, suggests small- to mid-size firms leverage the cloud, or web-based solutions, to help mitigate internal fraud with and for their clients. "Small businesses — those who don't have, or can't afford it — are disproportionately affected by fraud and lack the processes in place to prevent fraud," he said. "Preventing fraud on the front end is far less expensive than detection on the back end."
Establishing prevention procedures: Be aware.Identify key areas where your firm is most vulnerable and know who is accountable for each area. Determine the types of fraud that may occur and how they would likely be concealed. Then establish internal controls to keep these possibilities from becoming realities.
Going paperless. By preventing "lost" bills and invoices, you reduce the risk of manipulation and information theft, while maintaining an audit trail of access.
Enforcing separation of duties & payment control: Clearly define user access to the data, ensuring one single user does not authorize, process, and record financial transactions within the business. For example, an employee who enters bills into the accounting package should not have the ability to authorize payments for those bills. By segmenting role-based controls, you make sure that no one person has access to information and the ability to edit accounting data (vendor addresses, etc.).
Automating work processes: Enable different members of your staff to access client bill workflow, from data entry to verifying amounts to collaborating and providing transparency to the client. By automating payment deadline reminders and an audit trail, you ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Eliminating checks (incoming and outgoing): A single check contains every piece of information needed to access your money. By doing away with paper checks entirely, you protect client and firm account numbers, eliminate risk of lost, stolen or manipulated checks, and can access archived checks securely on Bill.com instead of via email.
Performing more regular internal audits: Automated systems make regular audits much easier, creating an online audit trail with full remittance data, cleared check images and approval confirmations.
What are you doing to help your clients prevent fraud within their small- to mid-sized business?
New Reporting Options Respond to Growth in Cloud Computing
Published February 01, 2011
NEW YORK (Feb. 1, 2011) – Cloud computing providers and healthcare claims processors are among the information system service organizations who will benefit from new CPA reporting options developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
“The AICPA developed these new Service Organization Control reports in response to marketplace demand,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “Service organizations have been vocal about their clients wanting assurance that they have effective controls for all their data – not just financial information. These reporting options will help them build that trust with their clients.”
“As accounting firms and their clients increasingly move to the cloud, greater confidence in data security, confidentiality and privacy is needed,” said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA2Biz, a leading cloud solutions provider and subsidiary of the AICPA. “This is a major evolution from SAS 70 that meets the need in the marketplace and will have a substantial impact on CPAs and their clients.”
The AICPA designed the new, illustrative Service Organization Control (SOC) reports to help companies that outsource tasks or functions to third party information system providers, such as Intacct or Salesforce.com. Data security risks require greater due diligence to avoid internal control breakdowns. Melancon provides an overview of how the guidance and reports were developed in an online video.
The new SOC reports, formerly called SAS 70 reports, provide a framework for CPAs to examine controls and to help senior management understand the related risks of outsourcing to a service provider.
Companies had misused SAS 70 to issue reports on controls related to outsourced non-financial data rather than the correct attest standard which was in place. The SOC reports clarify which standard needs to be used and how it should be implemented to meet specific user needs.
SOC 1 reports are primarily an auditor-to-auditor communication which addresses the controls at a service organization relevant to financial reporting. These reports are restricted use reports and therefore are not designed for promotional purposes.
SOC 2 reports are in response to the rapid growth in cloud computing and data outsourcing, as well as the marketplace need for clarification on how reports on non-financial controls regarding information, such as data security, confidentiality and privacy should be structured.
SOC 3 reports cover the same subject matter as SOC 2, but in a general use, short form format which may be freely distributed.
While the IRS recently announced that the requirement for all tax-preparers to e-file would be phased in over two years—requiring all preparers who anticipate filing over 100 returns over the year to make the transition by January 1, 2011, and for all providers who anticipate filing 11 or more returns to comply by January 1, 2012—it is clear that the IRS is following its Congressional mandate to make the process of tax filing primarily electronic.
For many tax preparers who have already adopted e-filing, this deadline will pass unnoticed, and may even provide a competitive advantage. For other preparers who have put off adopting, or simply have not seen the need for a digital workflow, this is a crucial time to make long-term strategic decisions about technological adoption and cost management.
If your firm is faced with a need to upgrade its workflow in order to maintain current levels of efficiency while complying with the IRS e-filing regulation, the preferable strategy might be to spend as little as possible until the technology begins to truly benefit the practice.
One of the best reasons to start doing business in the cloud now is that cloud-based solutions can accommodate a paperless workflow. In this scenario, administrative support staff may scan incoming documents, which are then identified, labeled, and bookmarked by an automated, cloud-based software platform, where the tax preparer can quickly access the information to save valuable time.
“Smart Scanning” has been around for a while. In a recent study, 70 percent of firms reported that they were scanning tax documents. However, while scanning is the first step to a paperless workflow, cloud-based financial solutions, such as Copanion GruntWorx for tax document automation, and XCM for firm-wide tax workflow, help tax-preparers to leverage this practice, making them more efficient during the busy tax season.
Mandatory e-filing means that all tax preparer workflows will end in the digital space, so consider the ROI implications of using cloud financials to implement a streamlined, paperless process for your entire firm. Some of the questions firms should ask are:
Will adopting a cloud-based workflow solution pay off by increasing productivity; and
Will choosing more user-friendly solutions mitigate training costs?
As James Bourke, CPA.CITP, of WithumSmith+Brown, puts it, “Before deploying new technologies or replacing existing ones you need to ask yourself, ‘How will this deployment make us a better, more profitable firm, and is this technology aligned with our strategic plan?’”
With conventional, non-cloud-based software solutions, firms must consider not only the cost of the licenses, but also increased IT costs and the “planned obsolescence” model of traditional software, requiring additional large expenditures to upgrade.
Cloud financials, by contrast, are priced on a rolling per-user, per-month basis, with ongoing support, training, and upgrades to the platform included in the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Some of the benefits of this model are:
Ease of fitting cloud financials into a tight budget;
Having new users trained as needed ; and
Limiting IT expenditures
How is your firm preparing to meet the e-Filing requirement? Is your firm moving to a paperless tax workflow? Let us know by leaving a comment.