IT ecosystems are becoming increasingly digitized and virtualized.
How the Finance function or the accounting /bookkeeping firm adapts to this reality determines how much competitive advantage is gained through increased efficiencies. Digitized simply means availability of discrete components offering discrete value assembled together as opposed to a single black box approach to the job. Virtualized means that physical boundaries are transcended in the cloud. Let us look at what this means for the accounting services industry. For this, let us group the components of the IT ecosystem as follows:
a. Finance and Accounting Software
Many in the industry are transferring allegiance to cloud based applications which seem to be the future. The cloud simplifies virtual engagement and opens the door to more efficient workflows and talent engagement. Xero, Netsuite, SaaSu have been around for a while and others are vying for a share in this growing market. Tax practice software still has some more distance to cover for cloud based delivery. Gov reports is yet to prove their mettle while tackling issues in the individual tax filing space and Xero may not be far behind. You may not be able to banish on premise (desktop and local network based) applications just yet. However, for enterprising firms that may still want to go virtual with these, there are solutions provided by virtual servers. These allow you to use Reckon Elite or MYOB versions which are not on the cloud and still have your franchisees or virtual teams engage from other locations.
b. The regular Office Software:
Microsoft Office applications – Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint would top the list. While you have gone cloud and virtual with your domain applications, have you considered this zone at all? If you haven’t you should look up Microsoft Office 365 which allows you the advantages of the cloud without losing your comfort zone with office apps – particularly word, excel and outlook.
c. Managing Collaboration:
Surely you will need no introduction to Dropbox and Google drive as many of us have been using them for a while already for mostly non commercial and personal requirements. Google Business Apps and Xero’s Workflowmax are examples for more involved collaboration environments. However, for firms requiring more complex workflows with virtual teams or franchisees in other locations, suitable options with appropriate customization may need to be carefully identified.
d. Working your way through Servers, PCs, Devices and the Cloud:
We have overseen the reduction of physical servers in our own IT infrastructure from six to two, while increasing the capacity, thanks to virtualization and the cloud. For any firm that has more than 5 professionals and multi location engagement, identifying all the devices involved in your IT ecosystem and optimizing their involvement in workflows is a necessary and meaningful exercise. Like it or not you will be contending with a generation that has a completely different taste for computational devices.
e. Data/Functional Security:
All of the above elements need to be sanitized and monitored to ensure robust data and functional security. Data Access policies and controls need to be clearly set up. Sensitivity levels of various data elements in your system need to be recognized and associated controls need to be verified.
If you are interested in exploring any of the above mentioned aspects relating to your IT environment, please feel free to contact us.