As you’re no doubt aware, online accounting can provide major benefits for both accounting firms and their clients.

But a number of firms are struggling to make the transition. Some are hesitating, not realising the benefits on offer. And others have charged ahead, underestimating just how much work is involved in making the switch.

  1.  Trying to be half pregnant

    These are the firms that talk about making the transition, but never actually fully go through with it.

    One of the biggest time sinks in working with clients is the lack of uniformity. Each client seems to be using a different application (or at the very least a different version), which means the accountants need to either:

    • stay up to date with each application
    • learn about one application, and only deal with those clients who use it.

    What they should do instead is choose an online accounting package such as Xero, and then start convincing their clients to use it instead of their current application. Even if only a third of their clients make the switch, working with those clients will become much more efficient—especially as they will all be using the same version of the application.

    For those clients who don’t make the switch then the use of Xero ledgers (as opposed to their business editions) will allow the accountants to standardise their internal processes. And then they can use reporting tools such as CrunchBoards to demonstrate how making the switch could give their clients real advice in real time with real data.

  2. Trying to have triplets

    Further along the pregnancy scale are those firms who want to have triplets. Now!

    When a firm decides to move to Xero, there’s a lot more involved than just setting up accounts for its clients. As well as the basic accounting there are Tax, CRM and workflow aspects to consider. Staff will need training, and client data will need to be converted and uploaded to the cloud.

    All of this will take time. And if it’s not planned and handled correctly, it can cause major disruptions within the firm.

    The best approach is to make the transition in stages. Start with the accounting side of things, then add the tax and compliance work, and finally work on the CRM and workflow aspects. Although it will take longer it will be far less disruptive. And the staff will be able to learn in bite size chunks, which will build their confidence. (Staff may become stressed if the transition becomes too daunting for them.)

    Of course, firms that don’t have the resources to do these tasks should ask someone who does to help them make the transition.

  3. Trying to have quintuplets

    These firms are not only implementing Xero across their entire practice but also trying to master all the add-ons at the same time. In pregnancy terms they don’t just want a family. They want a football team.

    And the result? A lot of wasted resources trying to understand everything in the ecosystem.

    A much better option would be for them to focus on a couple of key horizontal add-ons that work with all of their clients such as:

    • Receipt Bank
    • A reporting tool like CrunchBoards
    • Chaser, which helps clients improve their debtors/cashflow and working capital position.

    They shouldn’t get too detailed with the “vertical” add-ons that offer specialised industry solutions (e.g. Vend, Deputy, Kounta, CIN7 etc) until they have the basics in place. Even then they need to decide whether to specialise in this area or use a Cloud Integrator such as TradiePad or Rype to help in these specialist areas. (These add-ons are an important part of the eco-system, but require a dedicated approach due to their more specialised nature.)

Making the transition to the cloud can benefit both your firm and your clients. But to minimise any disruptions you need to plan it out and approach it patiently.

With so much information and so many programs and options available, it can become quite overwhelming. But once you make the decision, it’s simply a matter of creating a staged plan and then making it happen—piece by piece.