CPA.com Blog

CPA.com

Payroll Fit Kit: Daily Exercises for National Payroll Week

Take deep breaths, shake it out, flex your muscles. It’s time to test the health of payroll and HR strategies — internally for your firm and externally on behalf of your clients.

National Payroll Week, Sept. 5–9, is an annual weeklong event that overlaps with Labor Day. Its purpose: “to celebrate the unique partnership among America’s workers, their companies, the payroll professionals who pay them and critical government programs …,” according to the American Payroll Association.

Of course, for us at the CPA.com and Paychex Partner Program, every week is payroll week. We live and breathe payroll, retirement and HR advice every day. It’s OK if you don’t, and perhaps it’s been a while since you took the time to evaluate overall strategies.

We’ve created a simple program, so you can get back into the swing of things during National Payroll Week.

(And if now is not a good time, no worries. Find the time that works best for you. The important thing is that you get started.)

Here are some exercises for you to complete every day this week, on the road to stronger payroll and HR management and advisory services.

Day 1:

Warm up with your choice of whitepapers on payroll outsourcing or common HR issues.

Day 2:

Set your goals and get inspired with case studies of firms that are seeing fantastic results.

Day 3:

Challenge yourself by reaching out to a client with our sales tools, including the new Client HR Compliance Analysis.

Day 4:

Rest and recover with a video summary of the Paychex Partner Program, and consider what questions you have.

Day 5:

Refine your goals by reaching out to a Paychex representative, who will help you evaluate options and build a custom program.

That’s it! You can do it. We can’t wait to see your results.

If you have any questions in the meantime, call us at 877.264.2615. And happy National Payroll Week!

Susan Tan

CPA, Consult- ant, RoseRyan

How to best manage a finance project with several consulting firms involved

Naturally, at some point, a company will yell out a widespread call for “help!” Faced with a complex project or a tricky transaction, they will need to rely on outside experts and consultants who can get them through it. Companies generally don’t have round-the-clock full-timers who can fill every need that pops up.

The call for assistance may require more than one resource, such as legal expertise, an audit firm or consultants, who can dig into a complex technical accounting matter. When managing multiple firms on a special project, it helps to consciously build good relationships from the get-go. The service providers can mutually benefit and so can you. I noticed this firsthand during a recent engagement with one of RoseRyan’s enterprise clients.

I can’t speak for other service providers, but I have found that teamwork during these projects is truly powerful. It can require a conscious effort to work well together, which in the end can result in better efficiencies and superior results for the client than otherwise may have occurred.

1. Prepare for the unexpected. I was recently working on an ongoing fixed assets project that involved very manual processes. Then everything changed. The client announced a big structural move that put all hands on deck and all milestones on super-crunch mode. Tight deadlines were immediately established. Everything became time sensitive.

When you’re overseeing a big finance project involving multiple people from different firms, whether the team is onsite temporarily or you’re dealing with full-time staff, everyone will look to you—you set the tone. When you’re prepared for potential issues, you’re more likely to be calm when there is a shift in strategy and you can get everyone focused on what they need to do next.

2. Request everyone document new processes. This takes some up-front work but can be a big time saver in the long run. New processes get developed as the team works with managers and other employees, and those new processes should be documented in detail and with illustrations. This was a common practice during the work we were doing and saved us whenever we need to get a new team member up to speed. When everyone has a point of reference, double work can be avoided and so can redundant discussions.

3. Encourage teamwork. When you have a mix of talent from different firms, you’re getting the best of everyone—their particular specialties all at once. You’re also creating a scenario where the people involved may not instinctively act and behave like a team. By letting everyone know you expect them to work closely with each other, keeping everyone and you in the loop, you’ll create a team even if your time together is fairly brief.

Sometimes this can be as simple as setting up a respectful atmosphere and treating everyone like a cohesive unit with multiple people on your status emails as well as regular group meetings. It’s more efficient when everyone is on the same page, and you benefit by getting a coordinated effort by your business partners.

At the beginning of one of the projects we did for this enterprise client, a RoseRyan team member identified a way to automate a process, and she shared that knowledge with the entire team. She could have kept the information to herself and let others on the team try to figure it out for themselves, but that would have slowed things down. The greater good (the end results, efficiencies and project success) should rule the day, not personal agendas or letting one service provider look better than another.

On this project, we heard from the client afterward that we all made a great team. We had “a perfect combination,” according to the client, of experienced consultants from RoseRyan who supported and trained the more junior-level team members from another firm.

The result: The client’s budget stayed on track, we met the deadlines, and the formation of a great team won us great trust all around. We’re team players through and through.

RoseRyan is a finance and accounting consulting firm delivering specialized firepower exactly when and where it’s needed during any stage of the business lifecycle. The firm’s Bay Area dream team of seasoned finance pros has tackled critical assignments for more than 700 clients of all kinds and sizes since 1993, when it was founded by CEO Kathy Ryan. Ryan was recently honored as a 2016 CPA.com Innovative Practitioner of the Year finalist.

As a RoseRyan consultant, Susan Tan, CPA, specializes in general accounting, consolidation, FP&A and financial modeling. She has been with the firm since 2010.

Todd Colvin

Director, Enterprise Data Security, Paychex, Inc.

Happily, a cloudy forecast for cyber security

It's every accountant's nightmare: A hacker breaks into your computer system and steals clients' personal and financial information. Your firewall proved inadequate, your data encryption failed. The security you promised your clients was no security at all.

Cyber security — the protection of computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access — is mandatory in our technology-dependent society. It's not only large companies such as retailers Target and Home Depot, and health insurer Anthem that have suffered grave and embarrassing data losses. Businesses of every size are vulnerable to data theft.

If your accounting firm still hosts data in-house or on a locally hosted server, your sensitive client files are at risk from:

  • Computer viruses, malware and other invasive programs that can erase or corrupt information;
  • Breaches resulting in data theft, which can damage your firm's reputation and bottom line; and
  • Disasters, such as fire, flood, tornadoes and hurricanes, which can wipe out local storage, disrupting business operations on a major scale.

So dire is the threat to the safety of the nation's digital information that President Obama, in February 2016, directed his administration to implement a Cybersecurity National Action Plan to take near-term action and establish long-range tactics to "enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security."

CNBC listed the top five current cybersecurity risks as:

  • Ransomware – malware that restricts access to the computer system that it infects;
  • The Internet of Things – the connection of physical devices, such as home appliances and cars, to the internet;
  • Cyber espionage by foreign governments;
  • Cyber theft of personal and financial information; and
  • Insecure passwords.

Here are a handful of reasons why the so-called "cloud" offers a much safer haven for your company's data than on-site servers. An easy way to think of the concept of the “cloud” is to think of it as your electric provider – it’s always on whenever you need to use it. Not only that, it’s hosted outside of your office and allows 24/7 access to your data from anywhere.

Benefits of cloud service offerings

For businesses of any size, cloud-based safeguards include:

  • Automatic backup;
  • Dedicated firewalls;
  • Fraud protection;
  • Electronic audit trails;
  • Encrypted data storage; and
  • Off-site servers.

For CPA firms, for example, the security benefits of cloud-based accounting application can exceed those provided by locally hosted software. Businesses recognize those benefits and are reacting: As of October 2015, more than half of small to midsized U.S. businesses had adopted cloud-based service offerings.

Other research shows that:

  • 56 percent of companies are still identifying information technology (IT) operations that fit with cloud hosting;
  • Security, IT integration challenges and information governance are the three biggest issues delaying organizations from going to the cloud; and
  • The three departments that fund cloud initiatives outside of IT are marketing, sales and human resources.

Some organizations prefer to take a hybrid approach to data security, using cloud services from several vendors, rather than just one, and using both public and private clouds. A 2015 RightScale survey found that 82 percent of enterprises reported a multicloud strategy, compared with 74 percent in 2014. This can be helpful when trying to avoid the risks that can be association with putting “all your eggs in one basket.”

Cloud services yields significant ROI

Moving data to the cloud is cost-efficient as well as security-wise. Return on investment (ROI) can mean average annual savings of more than 20 percent annually. Cost effectiveness comes in a number of ways:

  • Lower cost – No need for in-house servers or staff to maintain data on site. No more budgeting for in-house technology, such as servers, routers, software and support. With cloud services, you pay a monthly hosting fee and the cost of a dedicated internet connection. A DC Velocity survey found that 50 percent of business cloud users decreased IT expenditures by 25 percent by leveraging this strategy.
  • Ease of use – If you use the software as a service (SaaS) model supplied by online application service providers, you interact with your data via a web browser. (SaaS is any software you run that's not located on site, and makes the most sense for business.) The application, as well as data storage, is securely outsourced.
  • Anytime access to data – Cloud storage with SaaS often allows authorized personnel to securely access the firm's data at any time via computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Vendor-managed upgrades, backups and security – Because the vendor hosts the software, it's responsible for its maintenance, enhancements and reliability. Data-center hosting of your company's information yields the added benefit of at least some disaster recovery. The DC Velocity survey found that 94 percent of respondents stated tangible security benefits from moving their business data to the cloud.
  • IT staff freed for other work – Employees who once supported in-house data storage and reacted to problems can now shift their focus and help your business with expansion, data analysis and other proactive tasks.

Choose a vendor for the long haul

When choosing a contractor for cloud-based services, do your research and make your selection thoughtfully. Ensure the vendor has a sterling reputation, an established presence in the marketplace, financial stability and exemplary customer service. Get in touch with other accounting firms to learn about their experiences with cloud services and particular vendors.

Peruse the details of potential contracts. Ensure you understand what vendors offer regarding data security, data ownership and data access — and data recovery, if the relationship ends.

Data theft and security breaches represent pervasive threats, regardless of the size of a business. That's why, after a systematic appraisal of the risks and benefits involved, it's easy to see why many accounting firms are opting for a cloud-based software solutions to increase ease of access, cost effectiveness and data protection.

Todd Colvin is the director of data and systems security for Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of integrated solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.

Samantha Mansfield

Director of Professional Development & Community, CPA.com

Taking the Lead Through Anticipation

“When rapid change happens you have to anticipate more.” – Joey Havens, CPA

Wise words and so true, but easier said than done if you haven’t practiced the skill of anticipation.

In a recent Digital CPA Webcast, we discussed the importance of developing the competency of anticipation. Not the feeling, we learn that at a very young age, but the action of preparing for the future; we have to filter through all the data and changes happening daily to get to the future facts. Future facts are what Daniel Burrus, futurist, calls hard trends; we know these things will happen, such as increased bandwidth, further automation, faster processing, etc. Instead of getting bogged down with soft trends, which Burrus describes as assumptions, we need to zero in on the hard trends that will impact our future.

Questions Burrus encourages you to consider:

  1. Are you considering relevancy?
  2. Are you thinking big enough?
  3. Are you sharing information or actually communicating? (There is a difference.)
  4. If it can be done it will be done, but if you don’t do it who will?
  5. What if you could tell your clients what will happen? (How much value will that bring?)

As you start anticipating the future and ask yourself these questions, be aware of your mindset. Are you aiming to keep up or leap ahead? Daniel Burrus points out with the powerful skill of anticipation you have the ability to jump head and take the lead.

What future facts do you see?

Richard Shuback

Richard Shuback, LLC

Move your brand to a professional level

These days many CPAs and their firms are looking for solutions that will put their company on the map and help them compete professionally. Naturally branding plays a key role in a firm’s overall perception and credibility.

Over time investments are made in finding the right office space, creating a memorable logo design or even serving clients the perfect cup of coffee.

An area often overlooked within this effort is the firm’s email address. As the firm has moved forward professionally, it can have a hard time letting go of its outdated or irrelevant technology.

This could be for many reasons:

  • It was good enough to use in college – why not now?
  • Too complicated to migrate
  • Not certain what domain to use or even how to get one
  • No one pays attention to it anyway

The reality is that your email address is a reflection of you and your firm. In fact the 2014 GoDaddy Survey found that customers are 9 times more likely to choose a company with a professional email address.

By holding on to a consumer grade email client, many clients may question the firm’s legitimacy. It’s also worth noting that consumer workflow is considerably different than business. Your current email client may not be up for the challenge.

Building your brand requires constant attention -- always identifying new opportunities to promote your firm to both clients and prospects. With email as your core communication vehicle, every message you send should reinforce your dedication to your clients and your practice. Visit www.cpa.com/email to learn about a CPA branded email address.

Pages