This is a community post provided by TechnologyAdvice
The world of accounting and finance is filled with nuanced regulations, many moving parts, and multiple chances for error. It is an industry where a variety of expertise is needed to keep the financial side of businesses up and running. Two of the most significant players in this process are CPA firms and the bookkeepers of small companies they may work with.
A lot of information changes hands between bookkeepers and CPA firms, and it is more than possible for wires to become crossed and data not to reach the right party. How is it possible to better the communications between these two groups? While observation of the problems and a sound strategy should occur first, technology has evolved in ways that can help streamline discussions between CPA firms and bookkeepers. Here are five ways tech can ease communications between the two parties.
A lot can happen between transaction recording and accounting analysis. Bookkeepers may forget to include a transaction or invoice, and accountants may not have the ability to post questions or comments directly on documentation to find out where the error occurred. One way to solve this is by having bookkeepers make digital copies of the documents they are working on to share them directly with CPA firms via a cloud storage device.
Using shared drives ensures bookkeepers do not have to move information multiple times. That movement increases the amount of data that could be removed or miswritten. It also allows accountants to work on digital copies instead of paper ones. All bookkeepers have to do is share the drive directly with CPAs. Programs like Microsoft One Drive, Google Docs, and Dropbox can facilitate this process.
Ideally, CPAs and bookkeepers would understandably like to meet face-to-face, but location and time zone differences may not always make this possible. This is where live video communications can come into play. If accountants have a question about a transaction or bookkeepers would like to clarify all the data accountants need, then these interactions can happen quickly with a reliable video communication system.
Most video conferencing apps allow users to share screens, distribute documents, and include other users in video group chats. These systems are perfect for moving past phone calls or email so users can see one another and share documents. Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype For Business are excellent for these tasks.
Project Management and Task Allocation
Since both parties are directly involved in managing financial documents for the same client, whether they realize it or not, they are both a part of a project. Both groups can come together around a project management software to stay up-to-date on where everyone is in the process. Many programs allow users to make a list of tasks so others can assign themselves to each one.
Project management tools enable the bookkeepers to list out each part of their accounting preparation processes so CPAs can see their progression and plan their time accordingly. Bookkeepers can even include tasks for document sharing and distributing information to CPAs. Once firms have this information, they can also list out their own duties. The main perk of software in this category is that it allows everyone to stay organized. With the sharing of multiple documents and tasks, it is easy for parties to mix up deadlines or turn in incorrect information. This is a streamlined way for both parties to stay current on progression and ensure that all parts of the process reach completion. Asana, Trello, and Basecamp all provide document sharing, task management, and deadline management.
You’re probably already familiar with cloud technology as it’s used for shared drives and most software as a service these days--and for good reason. Both bookkeepers and CPA firms should make an effort to pursue technologies that utilize cloud-based storage for security and sharing purposes. Of course, security is of the utmost concern and groups should ensure that whoever they work with has proper security measures in place to protect sensitive employee and company information. However, the cloud also allows offsite workers to participate in preparing information, and is an extra safeguard for data that might be located on local computers.
If something were to happen where an onsite server crashed or projects still needed to be completed even if users are not in the office, then cloud-based technologies ensure that work does not have to take a hit. Work can still reach completion in a timely matter and projects are now safe from a potential technology breakdown.
Video meetings may not always be needed. CPAs may have a quick question about a transaction, or bookkeepers may need brief information on how to organize information for CPAs to consume. However, email may not be ideal since messages can quickly pile up, or a critical email may find itself in the junk folder. Therefore, both parties need a more natural way to communicate in a text-based fashion. Many companies solve this problem with instant messaging apps.
Programs like Slack, HipChat, Skype Instant Messaging, and Google Hangouts allow workers to create chat rooms for groups to discuss various topics. Some of these programs actually integrate with some of the software already mentioned in this article. Instant messaging and chat programs also allow for file sharing. This feature is perfect for CPAs or bookkeepers who need clarification or need to share work. Instant messaging apps also leave a paper trail for anyone who may need to come back and view the messages again.
Again, technology is not a cure-all for everything. CPA firms and bookkeepers should first get together to determine what information is needed, how they will communicate throughout the project, when they will meet to discuss various aspects of data, and the assignment of deadlines and tasks. However, technology can make accomplishing these tasks a lot easier. If both parties intelligently incorporate tech resources into financial planning and the distribution of information, communication can improve. The goal is to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that the correct information reaches the appropriate person. Smart planning and the inclusion of relevant technologies can make this a reality for CPA firms and the bookkeepers they work with.
Chanell Alexander is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She is a freelance writer and digital marketing strategist. She has over seven years of experience in the nonprofit field, and enjoys blending innovative technology solutions with communications.