Accounting practice management requires a focus on both people issues and technology issues, as well as the continual improvement of traditional accounting processes and the development of new services and specializations. The Rosenberg Survey, covered elsewhere in this issue (“The State of the Profession: Analyzing the Results of the 2019 Practice Management Survey,” page 20), identifies several areas of interest that readers can explore further in the two blogs covered in this month’s column: AccountingDepartment.com and Firm of the Future.
AccountingDepartment.com provides outsourced accounting services with a U.S.-based staff of virtual accountants performing bookkeeping, accounting, and controllership activities. Its website includes an extensive blog, downloadable guides, webinars, and best practice tips for outsourcing. Many of the resources are focused on small business financial accounting and reporting and managerial accounting, which could apply to the management of an accounting practice or advising companies. In addition, although only 6% of respondents to the 2019 Annual Tax Software Survey (November 2019, http://bit.ly/2019atss) reported that they outsourced any tax preparation activities, the Rosenberg Survey indicated an increase in staff turnover among firms of all sizes, which may open the door for more organizations to consider outsourcing.
AccountingDepartment.com’s blog offers small business advice for accounting services on a variety of topics including accounting strategy, accounting methods and metrics, and accounting technology (https://www.accountingdepartment.com/blog). “Accounting in the Age of Automation and AI” explains that while artificial intelligence shows promise to relieve human operators of menial tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-level critical thinking, the technology is still too expensive and not well adapted for small organizations (http://bit.ly/33iINq7). The post provides several questions to ask when investigating new technology, such as how well a tool will evaluate an organization’s transactions, how it makes decisions, and whether it automatically records journal entries. The author concludes by encouraging small business decision makers to be sure that software and other technologies will actually support their accounting needs.
“Security Concerns in Outsourcing Accounting Information” provides several points to consider to protect a company’s data when using outsourced accounting services, such as researching a provider’s security practices (http://bit.ly/37BKaDW). No company is too small to be unattractive to hackers, and in most data breaches, the thieves are looking for personal information such as Social Security numbers and bank account information. “How Blockchain Changes Everything” is a short article that explains blockchain for nonexperts (http://bit.ly/2rnDFUA).
Two posts that may be useful for either CPA firm management or business advisors address key performance indicators (KPI). “The Case for Making KPIs Transparent to the Entire Team” recommends identifying and tracking only those KPIs that provide the most information content for the particular organization, reviewing the KPIs on a regular basis to help managers and employees understand them, and helping employees see the positive aspects of the performance metrics (http://bit.ly/2QT2Mcr). On a related note, “7 KPIs to Use in Your Strategic Planning” lists the KPIs that are most applicable and useful to small businesses, such as the current ratio and inventory turnover (http://bit.ly/35wLNAJ).
AccountingDepartment.com also offers four short guides—essentially checklists—that are downloadable as PDFs with free registration. The “7 Deadly Sins of Bookkeeping” include mixing business and personal expenses and lack of multiple-file backup methods (http://bit.ly/35A4X8Z). “Controller Checklist for Small Businesses” covers the controller services that AccountingDepartment.com offers, but can also serve as a guide for establishing or expanding the controllership function inside an organization (http://bit.ly/2DlFt2R). “How to Prepare Business Financials to Support a Comprehensive Exit Strategy” is a discussion of an activity that is often overlooked or postponed, perhaps because more owners and partners are delaying retirement, as noted by the Rosenberg Survey. It emphasizes several important considerations, including common inaccuracies in financial statements (http://bit.ly/2s9l8eS).
A few webinars are available that would probably apply more to a CPA’s client companies than to accounting firms themselves, but they are worth taking a look (http://bit.ly/2pPNlGZ). “Job Costing: The Nitty & The Gritty” is a 50-minute presentation of real-world business scenarios where job costing can provide useful financial information. Other videos are archived from prior webinars and include basic financial accounting and reporting topics.
The Tips and Accounting Best Practices page generally relates to outsourcing accounting activities and may be of most interest to CPAs who are considering outsourcing or would like to learn more (http://bit.ly/2KSqFwO). For example, “Company Best Practices” covers which procedures can be outsourced, three ways that outsourced accounting can reduce corporate fraud, and several ways to reduce employee theft (http://bit.ly/2XMAa6a), while “Using Outsourced Accounting Records” presents discussions of several factors to consider, including more information on specific services that can be outsourced and data and record security (http://bit.ly/2OhLaW6).
Firm of the Future
Firm of the Future is an Intuit blog covering practice management, accounting software, and technology issues; it features articles and videos prepared by Intuit staff and other contributors, as well as industry news items (https://www.firmofthefuture.com/).
To locate blog content on specific topics, it may be helpful to start with the top menu bar. The client relationships tab includes advising, billing, and client engagement. The efficiency and growth tab covers apps, data and reports, hiring and training staff, and several other topics.
In the Apps section, readers who use Quickbooks may enjoy the monthly “What’s New in Apps” posts, which profile mobile applications that work with that software (http://bit.ly/2XMkTT1). “Top Tech Tasks to Automate” is an informative discussion of how some technologies can make life easier; the author recommends specific mobile applications to answer the phone, schedule appointments, manage email, log into websites, onboard new clients, and make recurring payments and transactions (http://bit.ly/2qAqj7t). Links to the resources are provided, and readers may wish to save them for future reference.
“Understanding Today’s Workforce: Generational Differences and the Technologies They Use” is an insightful look into generational characteristics with regard to technology (http://bit.ly/2XNfivK). While most people won’t fit the categories exactly as described, it is still beneficial to have some idea of what coworkers’ and clients’ mind-sets might be. The article suggests considering technology and communication preferences when adapting staff training resources and when creating and maintaining firm networking and relationships.
“11 Tips to Prevent File Corruption” is a must-read for anyone who has experienced this problem (http://bit.ly/2DgjZoo). Although it emphasizes Intuit products, its general recommendations are still extremely useful and include backing up files, logging off from connections when not using an application or resource, making sure that hardware is updated and free from viruses, and using an uninterruptible power supply. The author also suggests not using wireless Internet with Quickbooks Desktop, and the question arises as to whether this might be a consideration with other types of desktop software.
Many videos are available on the Video Gallery, ranging from one-minute-or-less snippets to 50- and 90-minute webinars (http://bit.ly/2rlmlj5). Examples of the single-topic offerings include “How and When to Ask for a Client Referral” (http://bit.ly/2qNuXPg), “How to Onboard Clients for Success and Efficiency” (http://bit.ly/35xcYvb), and “Embracing New Technology to Help Clients” (http://bit.ly/34fbTrP). An excellent longer video is “Organizational Design of Modern Practices,” a 45-minute webinar originally aired in June 2019 as part of a series on business strategy (http://bit.ly/2OkyvSa). The presenter discusses organization design theory, which is influenced by the professional services offered, the number of employees, and the knowledge base of those employees. Key things to consider include specialization versus simplification, dedicated resources for key functions, creation of redundancies for key roles, continuous evolution of skill sets, and the effect of incentives and motivations on behavior.