At Sage Pastel we’re paying a lot of attention to accounting over the internet and also to mobility, both of which are a direct benefit of cloud computing, says Steven Cohen, MD, Sage Pastel Accounting.

We recognise that this is the most fundamental shift in how business is going to operate in the future. The move online is certainly one of the greatest changes the accounting profession has faced in 20 years: for all of us CAs out there, it spells the end of the traditional way we are used to interacting with our clients.

Business owners who were early adopters of online accounting packages like our Pastel My Business Online are progressive, forward thinking mavericks. They keep up to date with technology and they’re aware of just how easy cloud computing can make their lives.

They’re attracted to online accounting because it allows them to manage the financial aspects of their business while they’re on the move, which is an essential part of doing business in today’s world. They want everything at their fingertips and they want it now

Move forward with your clients
We must acknowledge that tech-savvy clients want an accountant who is as progressive as they are. And while these are the early adopters, make no mistake: widespread cloud computing is inevitable. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no putting it back.

As the cloud changes the behaviour of business owners and managers, so it will inevitably change the behaviour of accountants too.

By now I’d assume that accountants understand how working online increases their own efficiency (thereby increasing capacity to take on more clients) so I’m not going to labour the advantages of accounting in the cloud. I want to look rather at the macro level changes, the most important being that accountants will be able to offer high value services rather than billing for time spent capturing data.

Online accounting gives accountants more time to move to high value consulting, putting them in a position to empower clients and help them grow their businesses through new added value functionality.

And the more intimately these service providers get to know their client’s businesses, the better positioned they will be to act as a business advisor, providing constructive input relevant to their growth aspirations. I’m talking about providing value added services like management reporting and reviews, and providing tax advice and structuring.

Being able to provide more strategic input earns trust at a higher level, giving the greatest opportunity ever to provide additional services. My word of advice to accountants: if your clients are not asking you about online accounting, you would be crazy not to be introducing it to them. I haven’t even mentioned how much more fun it is than manual accounting.

Connect or die
Connectivity makes everything predictable which allows us to get into the minds of our customers. It follows then that if we’re not connected we’re not as in touch with our customers as we could be which is why online accounting is do or die – you will get left behind if you’re not online.

Never before have so many efficiency tools been so available to you. These practical examples should be more than enough evidence to encourage all accountants to make the shift to a cloud-based application like ours:

* Specifically designed practice management tools give you a real time bird’s-eye view of all your clients along with pertinent information for each one. This includes details such as date of year-end, due date of next VAT submission, notes, alerts and “in product communication” sent by clients via the software.

* Mobility tools allow your clients to log on from wherever they are for fully up-to-date views of their businesses, their customers and suppliers. They can check due and overdue tasks, process quotes and invoices and then e-mail them directly to their clients – all on the go – using tablets or phones.

* Keep track of the various accounting or bookkeeping tasks you perform for each of your clients with the single or recurring task function.

*See an overview of the tasks and notes for each month or each day, receive timely reminders, and track status changes from “Not started” through “In Progress” to “Completed”.

* Access bank accounts with Automatic Bank Feeds, including multi-factor authentication accounts where online banking websites ask for additional one-time authentication on top of user credentials before you can access their Web sites.

* Keep track of spend with enhanced Budget features and a Profit and Loss Report with budget comparisons.

* Print or copy Tax Invoices so that if a client loses or misplaces a Tax Invoice, you can issue a Copy Tax Invoice on which they will be able to claim tax as it meets the requirements for claiming input tax. This is in accordance with SARS rules.

* Keep reporting much neater and less cluttered than ever before.

So yes, online accounting – cloud computing – will change the way we all work. Accountants take note: it will vastly improve the way your practice runs, your interaction with your clients, and the speed and efficiency with which you handle them. What are you waiting for?