5 Top tips for accountants to get the best from their IT systems
If you’re reading this article, I must first congratulate you on surviving the madness of January tax-season. I know from our accountancy clients how stressful the first month of the year is and my hope is that your IT services supported you through it – rather than adding to the mayhem.
With the tax returns safely filed away, I’m now urging all accountants to reflect on how their IT systems have performed and how they could improve the prospects for a smoother January 2020. Here are my top tips for accountants when reviewing their IT.
1. Is your software up to date?
This is crucial. As you know, in April 2020 Making Tax Digital will come into effect and online reporting to HMRC will be in full swing. It’s not a choice, it’s a must-have. So, are both yours and your client’s systems ready?
Start with an audit – nothing fancy, just a quick checklist.
Make a list of your clients, add a column for their VAT registration status and current turnover (we need to prioritise those who are VAT registered and over the turnover threshold for VAT). Next add a column for their current software and if it is MTD ready. You can find a list of compatible software here.
Now look for those who are not ready and get on the phone. Talk to you clients about preparing and get them trained on new software as soon as possible.
Beyond MTD, it’s important that you run a check on all your software. Everything from MS Office to cloud services. Everything should be up to date. Aside from having the most up to date tools at your disposal you need to be sure all security patches are in place, you don’t want to risk any data breaches when handling sensitive information.
Before we move on, check in on how your software updates are handled. Do you do this yourself, or do your in-house IT team take care of this? We know how often software is updated and if your updates are currently run during working hours, give us a call. We can help you streamline this process out of hours for minimal disruption and maximum productivity.
2. How are you managing your data exchange?
As an accountant you are privy to some very sensitive data and I’m not just talking about client earnings. You hold everything an unscrupulous individual needs to hijack someone’s identify and wreak havoc on their life – sound serious? It is.
The days of simply firing up an email, attaching a person’s PAYE, year end accounts and tax returns and hitting send are over. You see it’s not just your end of the email communication you need to be mindful of, but the receiving end too. If your client is picking up their emails in an internet café with zero security on their device their emails could easily be intercepted.
So how secure is your data exchange? If you’re still sending emails, please do give my team a call. They can point you in the right direction for a simple system that will revolutionise your security and elevate your service level.
So not all communications need to be securely exchanged – after all there’s lots of discussion that takes place on email as it’s fast and efficient. It’s essential however that sensitive emails are encrypted – meaning only the rightful recipient can read them.
This is straightforward to set up and we’ll gladly guide you through the process, both for your team and educational material for your clients and email recipients.
The noise around GDPR might be quieter now, but it’s still a serious issue for all businesses. Don’t be caught short by believing ‘all the fuss’ is over.
Have you completed all your GDPR assessments? Are you confident your systems and processes will stand up to scrutiny?
Only the most serious of offenses have led to legal proceedings so far, but don’t be caught off guard. The ICO have focussed on educating businesses in the first year of GDPR, but we fully expect prosecutions to increase in 2019.
4. Are you working as efficiently as you can?
Did you know it’s possible to speed up your system with some simple, yet very effective optimisation?
The multitude of systems employed by accountants can be mind boggling, and most people simply accept the way the system works – be that sluggish and unresponsive, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Accounting by its very nature requires some grunt work – at least for the computer systems that is. Churning through data can take time, but with a few tweaks in your setup processing can be sped up.
Setting up accountancy packages optimally is a specialist skill and something our team are highly proficient at. So, if you like the idea of being more productive and reclaiming a few hours in your working week, give a call and ask us how.
5. Save a tree, or not
I’m a big fan of paperless systems – the benefits for the environment are obvious. However, I appreciate that some tasks do require a print out. Checking figures on screen is not always as easy as marking them off on paper.
So, I have two parts to this top tip:
- Are you doing everything you can on screen?
You might need a larger screen, or multiple screens setup to aid you in your everyday tasks. Who knows – you might save a tree and the cost of the printing!
Words from the wise … I have several clients who, having had a second or third monitor installed have exclaimed ‘I wish I’d done this years ago – everything is so much easier!’
- If you really do have to print it out, make sure
A single centralised and reliable printer may be cheaper to operate and faster to run.
Don’t be misled by the perceived ‘efficiency’ of a personal printer on your desk. The time it takes to churn out those 200 pages is far greater than the time taken to walk across the office and pick your document up. Oh, and don’t get me started on the cost of the ink cartridges and the time wasted on changing them!
So how do your systems and processes add up? Are you setting yourself up for a productive 2019 and easier January next year?
If you feel there’s room for improvement in your IT services, give my team a call. We work with many accountants and we’ll be glad to share our knowledge on how we’ve helped them to improve the reliability of their IT and bring about efficiencies in their everyday tasks. Give us a call on
0845 437 9555 .