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How to select a vendor to evaluate your Accounting Firms’ core workflow and IT infrastructure?

Filed Under (IT infrastructure) by Jag Barpagga on 20-04-2014

In a digital environment, it is essential for accountancy firms to remain on top of the Information Technology needs of their firm. A secure, reliable, robust IT infrastructure and sophisticated workflow process forms the core of every accountancy firm, driving higher client engagement, efficiency and linearity.

Accounting firms too battle IT infrastructure costs much like other small businesses. Costs towards software, licenses, upgrades and hardware are a large part of the IT costs, especially for firms with less than 5 or a maximum of 10 employees. These issues are currently dealt with by – virtual solutions, hosted services or cloud based services. Vendors of these subscription-based, managed services help to off-set the expenses of continued investment in IT infrastructure by delivering services on mobile devices as well as fixed workstations. Maintenance, licensed software packages, backend IT operations as well as software management processes are customized and managed and the nitty-gritties and.

Accountancy firms, in the past year, have found higher degree of efficiency by adopting cloud-assisted services. Cloud services are currently available in different form factors– Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS) – or hybrid solutions are creating massive ROI for early adopters.

Where IT infrastructure becomes the backbone of the service, it is the ‘workflow processes’ which help firms distinguish themselves, from other firms.

Workflows & Management

Accountancy firms DNA is the workflow. It sculpts the success and efficiency factor of the organization.

Typically, workflows, processes need to be customized and require secure, reliable and connected services. Workflows and processes are now available under two broad categories: First stream is the complete end-to-end workflow solutions. Second stream is an assorted selection of workflow tools that professionals can adopt as per their flow requirements.

Why Accounting firms need workflows and IT services vendors?

According to industry analysts, accountancy firms, and businesses from other niches too, have found tangible benefits and financial gains by partnering cloud-based providers.

Services and benefits vendors deliver

The first benefit has been increased productivity, created by the ease of use factor. The anywhere – any device access has been the primary driver in this business. Cloud-based service vendors are able to deliver, along with secure, reliable and consistent service parameters higher productivity. Remote or off-location work scope or connecting with clients is easier, as it is typically in real-time.

Additionally, cost reductions on IT infrastructure – in terms of expensive annual hardware, component upgrades – compliance with IT audit, government regulations as security concerns too is addressed at the vendor level itself, without accountancy firm have to invest and micro-manage features and factors which are not part of standard work flow and are in the realm of IT management.

Multiplicity complications

However, the challenge for accounting firms today is not in finding the right technology to implement for their organization, but to find the right vendor who can deliver and support the platform they require.

‘Multiplicity’ in the availability of service providers or vendors of IT-supported accountancy practices platform, itself has complicated the process of finding the best-fit provider. Therefore, it becomes important that every accountancy firm is able to engage the right provider or vendor.

How to choose the vendor-partner for IT and Workflow

Accountancy firms should begin the process of finding the ideal vendor for their services, by evaluating industry players.

  1. Background Industry Domain Knowledge is essential for accountancy firms to know and understand the technology and the service factor the vendor will deliver. Without basic/advanced information of real-time benefits and long-term benefits it will bring to the business, it will be difficult to find the best-fit vendor.  Lack of preparation on part of accountancy firm would be akin to diving into an attractive swimming pool, without knowing how to swim!
  2. Short-listing vendors is one of the shortest and perhaps the most comprehensive way of reaching your ideal vendor. As one looks at the current popular accountancy-domain vendors and engages with them to find solution matrices which your practice will require, it allows small business owners’ to gain both an overview as well as objective view of the services.

Researching vendor strengths and historic services, though time-consuming and challenging will in reality simplify the decision making process!

Hence, it is essential that vendors who meet the following requirements are shortlisted.

Criteria for shortlisting vendors:

  1. Start-ups and experienced vendors have their advantages and shortcomings. Small business owners will have to evaluate on an individual level, the degree of sophistication their service will require.
  2. Overly differentiated services will require optimized workflow processes, therefore evaluation of the same and end objective clarity is very important, on the part of small business owners.

Accountancy firms will have to look at core business features in Vendors

  • It is important to find out if the vendor provides comprehensive services. Is it only consulting services, or does it offer process development services as well have to be identified.
  • Will the vendor be able to identify issues workflows, regardless of platform or application will have to be established!
  • Additionally, the vendor will have to ensure entire life-cycles for your process software as well as related services by way of SLAs.
  • Ideally include costs of software upgrades, licenses and more on a monthly subscription basis for best-fit model of operations.

Who to Choose?

The sophisticated products which workflow management vendors and IT infrastructure vendors offer for accountancy firms are unlimited. It is therefore, a challenge for a start-up and a legacy accountancy firm to find the right vendors.

Researching the current players in this segment becomes essential, before the actual hiring happens. It should also be accompanied by evaluating user feedback, industry feedback and peer reviews as well.

As per latest consumer research, available at leading publications the vendors currently available for workflow and productivity support providers include these brands or leading software-based solution providers.

  • The following is the current statistics (part of a survey) vendor preference by various professional practitioners for end to end workflow solution providers:
  1. XCM Solutions – 81%
  2. MetaStorm – 5%
  3. Thomson Reuters FirmFlow – 4.5%
  4. CCH Axcess – 4%
  5. OfficeTools Pro – 2.5%
  6. Others – 3%
  • The following is the statistics of workflow tools vendors which practitioners have adopted:
  1. eFileCabinet – 23%
  2. Thomson Reuters Practice CS &
  3.  GoFileRoom – 19.5%
  4. Esker FlyDoc – 13.5%
  5. CCH ProSystem fx Scan and
  6.  fx Document – 12.5%
  7. Intuit Lacerte & ProSeries DMS – 12%
  8. Bill.com – 8.5%
  9. Others combined – 11%

The following is a list of Federal and State Income Tax Compliance:

  1. CCH ProSystem fx Tax (CCH Axcess) – 33%
  2. Drake Tax Software – 13%
  3. Intuit Lacerte Tax – 12%
  4. CCH Small Firm Services TaxWise – 8%
  5. Thomson Reuters UltraTax CS – 7%
  6. Thomson Reuters GoSystem RS – 5%
  7. Thomson Reuters AgileTax – 4%
  8. Intuit ProSeries – 3.6%
  9. CCH Small Firm Services ATX – 3.5%
  10. RCS TaxSlayer Pro

Expert Speak

IT enabled accountancy practices, with the perfect IT infrastructure and workflow vendor can focus on leveraging productivity and efficiency as well as address budgetary costs of operations.

The add-on benefit of reliable service, which is secure and consistent, is a feature which every cloud-based service vendor will incorporate and customize to encourage optimized work efficiency at competitive price points.

Every professional practitioner or accountancy firm with the RIGHT vendor as a partner, for workflow and IT infrastructure, can optimize productivity and negotiate pitfalls, which can otherwise, undermine the core services of the organization.

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