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Optimize Your Use of Cloud Accounting Software

Cloud Accounting Roundtable

Cloud accounting software has freed CPAs from many of the constrictions of 20 years ago. A CPA can now work from multiple locations and get more in-depth input from clients in a way that is convenient for them. This is all the more reason why such software should be selected carefully. CPA Magazine invited industry thought leaders to a roundtable discussion to get their views on recent developments in cloud accounting software, what mistakes and/or opportunities CPAs should be aware and tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?

KURT KUNSELMAN CEO of AccountingSuite

What is a recent development and/or useful feature in cloud accounting software?
Adding collaboration tools such as chat with your accountant or chatting with other users within the cloud service with the ability to create tasks. Cloud accounting is about collaboration. The more tools that are added, such as chat with others in your account, the more efficient we all become and it redefines the purpose of cloud accounting “software” - which is really a service. Chat capabilities that also allow for creating tasks will become industry standard and will also redefine daily workflows within tax, client accounting services and overall company operations. This not only creates the efficiencies with accountants and other users, but, keep in mind, it includes third-party users that are part of your account such as contractors and third-party fulfillment partners.

What is something tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?
The ability to export a clean and useful file that groups all information from a cash basis chart of accounts into the correct categories for the schedule that is needed for Sole Prop, C Corp, S Corp, B Corp, and Non Profits. In addition, the tax professional should look for a solution that has built in controls for best practices and allows their clients to scale their business. The old saying “garbage in/garbage out” applies to tax professionals as well. They need to be assured that the cloud accounting software is just not letting clients create bad data. As our technology solutions become more sophisticated, we can automate best processes and prevent users from entering data where it’s not supposed to be in the first place. We are not there yet, but soon in the future we should be as we move to hands-free accounting.

DR. CHANDRA BHANSALI Co-founder and CEO of AccountantsWorld

What is a recent development and/or useful feature in cloud accounting software?
Automation is key in cloud-based accounting software. The ability to automatically update accounting data with payments made and received is an incredibly useful feature for both accountants and their clients alike. Automation reduces the effort and time it takes to follow-up with clients to receive and aggregate information. It enhances accuracy of data by using the ability to identify similar transactions and to route them to the right account automatically. Therefore, it cuts down a significant amount of time and cost in preparing the books. Such features enable accountants to now serve more clients within their existing resources. Obviously, it increases revenue and profitability.

What is something tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?
Most accountants agree the more their clients are involved in data entry, the more mistakes they’ll be left cleaning up. Cloud-based accounting software that allows accountants to provide limited access to their clients when necessary is the ideal choice. This collaborative cloud-computing model will help reduce the need to comb through multiple platforms to aggregate data, increasing a firm’s efficiency, productivity and profitability.

CECE MORKEN Executive Vice President and General Manager, ProConnect Group at Intuit

What is a recent development and/or useful feature in cloud accounting software?
There are two very useful features that will save accountants a significant amount of time and reduce the number of tools they need to use. The first is the integration with tax. During tax season, accounting professionals spend about five hours per client cleaning up their books to prepare them for a tax return. The time-saving integration simplifies workflow by creating a seamless, end-to-end experience that translates a client’s books into a tax return. The second useful feature is practice management. A cloud-based solution designed to be the one place for accountants to effortlessly and seamlessly manage workflow, client communications and daily operations. The feature will leverage data and user behavior patterns to automate overhead and identify work that needs to get done, eliminating the need for accountants to discover and enter tasks manually.

What is something tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?
Tax professionals, like all accounting professionals, should do their homework before choosing a cloud accounting software. Firms should choose a solution that makes working and collaborating easier for their clients and their staff. An integrated solution across bookkeeping, accounting, and tax reduces data entry errors, saves time across the workflow, and makes communication easier and more secure. By connecting your client files directly to your cloud accounting solution, you also can view your client files in real-time, which saves time during year-end clean up and gives you the ability to proactively make a difference with your clients.

TERESA MACKINTOSH CEO of Trintech

What is a recent development and/or useful feature in cloud accounting software?
One of the latest advancements in cloud accounting software space is Risk Intelligent Robotic Process Automation. Risk Intelligent Robotic Process Automation allows your organization to live and thrive in a risk-based world. One where the robots know the tolerances that are allowed according to your organization’s policies and automatically runs activities, only notifying a person when there is an issue to be resolved. With Risk Intelligent RPA, an effective controls framework underpins the whole process and, by unifying all key control components together, it creates a detailed audit trail for compliance initiatives. To drive further efficiencies, Risk Intelligent RPA can be utilized to lower costs and reduce errors and enables your highly qualified employees to focus their time on developing valuable strategic insights for your business. This technology not only provides additional value to the business by increasing efficiency and effectiveness, but it also encourages the type of high-value work most likely to attract and retain high-quality people.

What is something tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?
As the office of finance continues to be faced with increasing regulation, ensuring the integrity of your period-end numbers is more of a challenge than ever before. When selecting a cloud-based accounting software, we recommend investing in a solution with an effective compliance framework that supports all of your Record to Report processes from the time a transaction occurs all the way through regulatory and financial reporting. Now, with compliance as a foundational principal of the entire financial close cycle, you can be confident that your reports are both accurate and compliant with all applicable regulations.

SATYAN PENMETSA Chief Technology Officer of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting

What is a recent development and/or useful feature in cloud accounting software?
Cloud accounting software offers a number of useful features that benefit users with greater mobility, flexibility and convenience. Anywhere, anytime access to information so that firms can increase client response times, and having a central database to make it faster and easier to access files and fulfill client requests – are advantages that an on-premise solution cannot provide. Cloud-based solutions typically lend themselves to service offerings that customers can subscribe to as their business or clients demand. And today, clients are demanding more responsive service, including the ability to access self-serve features whenever they want. With cloud accounting software, clients with busy schedules have the advantage of not needing to meet in person to handle paperwork or sign forms. Accounting staff can work from home or create non-traditional work hours since employees can stay connected to the office at all times of day and from all locations where they have internet access.

What is something tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?
When selecting cloud accounting software, professionals should make sure to find the right partner to work with to make a successful move to the cloud. The partner should be able to support them should they choose to take pieces of their workflow and move it to the cloud – enabling them to make the process changes needed for cloud adoption in phases – or migrate completely. Additionally, it’s important for professionals to outline their current and future goals for moving to the cloud. They should consider a cloud accounting software provider that will not only serve their needs, but partner with them along the way to ensure their goals are met from initial implementation to future growth.

KERI GOHMAN President of Xero Americas

What is a recent development and/or useful feature in cloud accounting software?
Machine learning and automation are key developments in cloud technology that allow accountants to focus more on the advisory services instead of data entry. The innovative machine learning automation systems will transform the accounting practices of small businesses and their accounting partners, saving valuable time and money. Accounting software is getting smarter, automatically performing analysis which previously required human intervention. Consider tasks like bank reconciliation: systems can learn how to completely automate this job, freeing up your time to provide a deeper level of service to help your small business customers thrive. As machine learning and AI have an increasing role in the profession, it will make accountants more proficient, more productive, capable of taking on and handling more clients, while also delivering more value through insight, rather than through long hours of tallying up figures. Machine learning cannot match human insights; rather, it complements brain power to benefit all involved.

What is something tax professionals should look out for when selecting cloud accounting software?
With the evolution of cloud technology, the way people prepare for tax season has changed, making the process easier and more streamlined. Clients and accountants alike have increasing control of their data and can use it to make better business decisions and meet tax obligations with ease. When a tax professional is selecting cloud accounting software, aim for mobility, affordability, simplicity of use and connectivity to other applications. Cloud technology can automate things that a business would typically have to do manually, such as reconcile their books, manage cash flow and integrate with other services and applications - make sure the software you select does this seamlessly.