“How many married couples do you know who met over accounting books in a Starbucks?” - David Schweikert
Ah, accounting. What a barrel of laughs, right?
Based on my own experience in the matter, small business accounting has been a painful prospect for way too long. It’s one of those dreadful “necessary evils” that we’ve all run across at one time or another. Some people seem to have natural talent for accounting, keeping track of every last cent coming in and going out of a business. Sadly though, most of us find it to be a real pain in the derriere, myself included. Simply put, for all too many businesses, it’s an exercise in storing, emailing, and looking after often overly complicated spreadsheets and other documents.
In fact, a few years ago I had a bad experience with the accounting side of a company that I worked for, which had some 70 or so worksites. All of the company-wide accounting was handled by emailing back-and-forth and manually updating spreadsheets in what amounted to an email “chain.” It was terrible. On more than one occasion, one department overwrote what my department had entered. On several occasions, this caused major confusion for management. Yet, if anyone suggested we try doing it a different way, the brave soul was promptly silenced by the powers that be.
If your company is still doing accounting the Stone Age way, all I can say is “don’t be that way.” It’s time to take the plunge and move your accounting into the cloud. Believe me, keeping track of anything only gets easier in the cloud. The era of the cloud is here and it brings us innovation, and frees us from the cumbersome tedium of handling documents purely on local storage and via email.
If you’re anything like me, putting your accounting in the cloud may just change the way you think of accounting. In my case, it’s shifted from vary degrees of fear and loathing to bona fide fearlessness. It’s all just numbers, after all.
You may be a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or the only officer (as a freelancer or sole proprietor, for example), but in either case, you are undoubtedly aware of the stresses placed on accounting within a modern organization. Like all other departments, there is a broad push to embrace new technologies, streamline processes, and generally operate the business as lean as you possibly can. This is where a cloud-based accounting solution can be just the kind of shake up your business needs, and it’s one that comes with some groovy benefits.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and take a look at what you stand to gain from accounting in the cloud.
Who belongs in the cloud?
The first thing we should get straight is just who will benefit from putting their accounting in the cloud. The short answer is anyone. But obviously big companies with a full accounting team will probably already be committed to a way of doing things, and as I learned at the job I mentioned before, good luck trying to get them to change their minds. Not that you can’t try.
So this advice is for those noble startups, freelancers, microbusinesses, small businesses, and all of you other renegade, upstart mavericks out there. Accounting can be a bit scary, but as any seasoned accountant will tell you, it’s all just a numbers game, mixed, of course, with a little rock solid record keeping.
But, the cloud is poised to welcome many businesses. In fact, a recent article at IT Business Edge predicts large-scale growth in cloud-computing, and goes as far as to predict that “just about everything data-related will be on the cloud in very short order.” So there’s room for creative thinking when it comes to what, exactly can be put into the cloud.
Here are the top five reasons to make the move to accounting in the cloud:
1. A real solution, minus the bloat
Putting your accounting in the cloud removes the need for dedicated installations of bloated accounting applications. Let’s face it every piece of enterprise software is basically purpose-built to need a routine (paid) upgrade. And that means keeping up with the latest updates, and shelling out money as every new version is reached, not to mention storing “freeze” files and keeping them up to date, too.
Cloud-based accounting solutions are also highly scalable. If you’re a startup and you need to keep track of just a few documents, using digital documents is more practical than even a penda flex folder. As your business grows and you need to generate more documents, you’ll be able to add them to the cloud indefinitely, never running out of disk or file cabinet space as you would in the world of physical storage.
The cloud is shaking up the computing world because it’s also totally flexible. Basically, any type of file can be put into the cloud. This allows you to work with existing software platforms and legacy files that you still need, even as you make the transition to a fully cloud-based accounting method.
2. The cloud is all about collaboration, 24/7
Moving your accounting into the cloud makes collaboration easy. Because multiple users can access accounting documents from anywhere with the cloud, collaboration goes company-wide and worldwide, for that matter.
If your business has operations spanning the globe, taking your accounting into the cloud gives you the advantage of facilitating instantaneous access by any member of your team – wherever they happen to be.
Putting your accounting documents in the cloud also makes them always at-the-ready, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of time zone. Again, considering the rapidly increasing number of businesses with decentralized, scattered teams working from all parts of the world, the ability to access accounting documents on-demand via the cloud becomes a major asset.
3. Safe and sound, up in the clouds
Of course, when we start talking about storing files on a third-party server, trust comes to center stage. So you want to find a cloud-based accounting partner that offers a set of security features that will work for your business.
Whether you’re working with customer invoices, departmental payroll documents, or profit and loss (P&L) statements, security of sensitive information has to be top of mind. You can password protect spreadsheets and other documents, but the added protection of a cloud-based solution keeps your documents totally safe.
Accounting-related data is very often sensitive by nature. One of the most important functions of handling accounting documents is keeping them secure. Putting them in the cloud where user access can be granted, password-protected, and tracked is the ideal answer to security concerns. But this requires you to be somewhat conscientious of where you store your data.
Not all cloud-based providers offer reliable encryption schemes and intuitive file-handling that works well enough for business purposes. This means you’ll want to size up your cloud-based service provider to make sure they have a security approach that is in line with the unique needs of your business, specifically.
4. Understanding more with cloud-based analytics
Remember how I told you the horror story about passing a spreadsheet around between 70 people on a daily basis?
That little operation also often involved the home office making calls to try and figure out who forgot to populate their respective cell in the spreadsheet. The real time analytics offered by accounting in the cloud makes that, thankfully, a thing of the past.
Now, when you send out a document for editing or digital signing via the cloud, you can get instant, real-time updates whenever it is accessed or altered. That makes troubleshooting documents that pass through many hands (so to speak) all the more easy-breezy.
Using a cloud-based accounting solution, you receive an email each time one of your documents is accessed.
5. The cloud is mobile-ready
Your business is, in all likelihood, totally focused on mobile-readiness right now. If you’re like most businesses you are keen to put as many core functions into the cloud as possible. Accounting documents are just as accessible on mobile devices as elsewhere. So this allows you to keep up with and exchange accounting documents from your mobile, at any time, from anywhere.
If you have a team member alter an accounting document in an office in another time zone, you’ll know right away, even if it’s after hours. Compare this to the traditional accounting process. In the not-so-distant past, accounting documents were stored on paper, and more recently in localized computer hard drives. If you weren’t at the office to access them, physically, there was no way to work with them. In the mobile-ready cloud reality, you don’t have to go to the office just to work with your accounting documents.
6. The cloud improves accounting accuracy
Everyone makes mistakes; they’re only harmful if they’re not corrected.
But mistakes are more easily forgiven when you’re working in the cloud. So often, accounting mistakes result from simply having too many people involved in the process. Too many people entering information into a single datasheet, too many people using a calculator to manually tabulate figures, and other “hands-on” accounting can result in errors that go unchecked.
Because digital information is readily auditable, even from afar, you’re more likely to catch a mistake in the cloud, using analytical tools, than if the mistake is setting in a file cabinet or on a hard drive somewhere.
And when it comes time to perform an internal audit, who wouldn’t want to pull up some files in the cloud instead of pulling out some dust-encrusted folders to find some accounting data?
Would your accounting improve in the cloud?
Let’s face it, accounting is a chore.
It’s not even very much fun to think about. But the cloud makes it quite a bit more approachable and a whole lot less intimidating. Your business depends on the accuracy of your accounting. Putting your accounting in the cloud is one way to streamline the whole process. You’ll be able to limit and monitor who has access to your accounting documents and what changes are made to them, all in real time, using the cloud.
Everything’s headed to the cloud, too. Accounting is just one more business process that has safely made the transition. The more business processes head into the cloud, the greater the integration of those systems is sure to be. Eventually, as more and more processes are p it seems. Perhaps more importantly, the cloud presents the chance to analyze accounting data on-the-fly, making auditing easier than ever and improving accounting accuracy, across the board, as a result.
If you’re still accounting the old school way, why not get ahead of competition by putting your company’s accounting in the cloud?
What’s accounting like at your company? Are you using papers and manilla folders still?