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The CPA Firm Growth Changer – Leveraging Public Cloud for Working at Home



Originally published May 19, 2020 by Bill Sorenson, VP of Strategy FinTech – CISO, Netgain at www.boomer.com.

COVID-19 impacts to the industry
What a tax season! Last Fall we could never have imagined the situation where we are today or predicted how we would get through it. As we start to take a little breather, understanding that this tax season continues, it is important to see how this year and the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry.

  • Acquisitions on hold within the industry – We have seen many acquisitions be placed on hold. The unknown of the last few months, and the next, no doubt increased the risks in M&A. I think these deals will get done, but how a firm responds during this crisis, may impact the price.
  • Tax work extended – When the decision was made to extend the tax season, most firms continued to work as if there was not an extension. The goal was to keep productivity and production high, where possible, and facilitate your customers providing their data. Workflows changed as offices that used to be drop off points became less so. Seasonal staff was quickly reviewed and some adjustments made. A tax season like no other.
  • IT budgets under pressure – The move to a completely remote workforce impacted IT budgets significantly. Many organizations weren’t prepared for something like this and scrambled to facilitate the move to work at home. For others, that flexibility was already in place and allowed this to be a seamless transition. On a go-forward basis, many, if not all, IT priorities are under review.
  • Remote workforce – The work-at-home model became the new standard and is now mandatory within the industry. The ability to have that flexibility at a moment’s notice is now a significant advantage for the firm. 
  • Cyber security risks expanded – when firms moved their employees home, their cybersecurity attack footprint expanded dramatically. Along with this expanded risk front, there has been a significant focus on penetrating those employees by hackers. Opportunities related to COVID-19, government payments to individuals, and confusion around working from home have increased a firm’s risks significantly.

How cloud-enabled firms weathered the storm
Let’s take a look at how cloud-enabled firms responded to this crisis. Many of these firms have enabled their employees to work from home as part of their firm’s culture.  Over 1,100 accounting professionals, including accountants, bookkeepers, and tax professionals, responded to SmartVault’s State of Accountants Survey, which gauged the impact that COVID-19 is having on the industry.  In looking at firms (62%) who felt they responded successfully, most had implemented cloud technology.

  • A Firm’s Mindset – These organizations have typically had a progressive mindset around innovation and growth.  By dealing with these issues previously, these firms have moved away from a break-fix tactical IT approach to a much more strategic business approach. Goals included aligning IT strategy with the business’s strategy.
  • Moved to the cloud for business reasons – These firms had previously decided to move to the cloud-based on business needs and requirements. These also included increasing their capabilities around business continuity and disaster recovery.
  • The call was made and immediately implemented – When the call came to move all employees to work-at-home status, these firms were able to respond quickly and with little to no productivity impact. The ability of an employee to completely work from home was available to them.
  • Workflow modifications – There were some modifications around workflow to continue to enable getting client documents.  Many offices kept a small staff onsite to allow drop-off, while others moved to a scanning submission. 
  • Little to no production impacts – Most of these firms kept the production estimates as close to plan as possible.  With the extension, there was an impact concerning client calendar changes, but the focus was to get the work done in normal timelines. 

The growth mindset – Are there opportunities during the crisis to enable firms to be proactive in growth?   Key items to consider include a firm’s overall mindset and their ability to learn from what has happened.  By focusing on opportunities to support their clients better, provide additional responses to service needs, and identify ways to impact employees positively, progressive firms are being optimistic.  The realities of issues within the crisis are not being overlooked, but many times it is the mindset of partner leadership that drives the firm forward.

For firms not yet in the cloud, that mindset includes a change in thought process from considering the cloud to adopting the cloud.  Working to implement a solution that provides all the benefits other firms have had is now a key tenant moving forward.  If we look at the Public Cloud option, what does that deliver and why is that an important option to consider? 

What the Public Cloud provides – When deciding your future, the technical platform becomes a key business strategic element, and looking at the Public Cloud makes so much sense.  Your solution can provide:

  • Immediate work-at-home capabilities – When the decision needs to be made, or you want that option to right-size your physical office, all your employees can already work from anywhere.
  • Dramatic increase in cyber security – With 35,000 cyber security experts watching your environment, and an almost ransomware proof solution, protecting your firm from intrusions goes way up.
  • Flexibility to implement innovations – Innovations are coming constantly, and the ability to try them at will allows you the flexibility that no other platform can offer.  Business intelligence, robot process automation, and AI are a click away.
  • Scale on Demand – When you need to quickly scale, during an acquisition or seasonal growth, being able to have that delivered immediately is key.  IT is no longer late to the table.
  • Be your last IT platform – Historically, whether it was different providers, or hardware, or virtualization, you had change points almost every three years.  With the Public Cloud, you can be done and just stay.  You have the flexibility to change support vendors, applications, and even regions around the country, but you won’t need to move again.

How do we take advantage of this? – Key in this process is selecting an IT partner that knows your business and knows the Public Cloud.  Getting real alignment with your provider is key to building a long-term relationship where they can bring value beyond just running IT.  You want to leverage their experience in your applications and within the industry.

It’s time to perform a cloud assessment and plan your move now.  The adoption of the cloud has always been in your future, and taking advantage of the current situation to move forward is key to helping with your digital transformation and supports your firm’s overall growth.  For more information about making the cloud work for your organization, connect with one of our experts at 877-797-4700.