How COVID-19 is Forcing Accounting Firms To Go Virtual?
Although we are yet to experience the complete impact of novel coronavirus on accounting firms and other businesses, it is evident that companies across the globe are trying to adjust to the growing need to become digital.
Millions of organizations have already suffered the worst of COVID-19, due to which business models have changed completely. For overcoming this upside-down situation, there is only one route that we can embrace — going virtual.
This article will discuss exactly that. We will explore the ways in which organizations are going virtual and managing accounting operations.
How Accounting Firms Are Going Virtual?
As COVID-19 has shut every employee out of the office, it is upon the accounting teams to ensure the financial wellness of the firm. For this reason, approximately 62% of organizations have already moved to cloud computing-based solutions for improved results.
Let’s see how:
1. Change Management
Change is inevitable, but change is also difficult. Regardless of the benefits offered by a technical change to the organization, it is complicated for employees and other stakeholders. If your employees fail to support your digital efforts or virtual implementations, you can’t extract its benefits in any manner.
Hence, the first step towards going virtual is change management. Accounting firms that are considering moving to the cloud for executing functions (such as audit) need to implement change management before anything else. This will help in aligning business dynamics with a changing environment.
For instance, earlier, it was easier to prepare interim financial statements. However, now, firstly, this requirement is moved online. Secondly, organizations need to justify their transactions and related business’s financial performance explicitly. It also includes delving into multiple situational factors.
Another example can be the stock count. Can you already sense the efforts that your team may have to put in? It was still difficult to achieve stock count physically. Imagine the complexity of virtual count. Either the company may have to postpone it until the lockdown is lifted or obtain backward reconciliation or gain fundamental evidence.
To accomplish all this, change management and stakeholder (Including employees) support is imperative.
2. Document Authentication
While we have already discussed data security in this section, document authentication requires a separate discussion.
Consider this scenario:
The auditor always needs to ensure that the scanned document is, in fact, the actual document. They need to be absolutely sure that these documents are not tampered with. In the lockdown, how is that possible? The physical documents are at some other location, and the auditor is coordinating virtual or digitally.
In this case, document authentication is unquestionably important to avoid any financial glitches. One way to achieve this is real-time scanning, or the auditor can check the documents on a video call.
The accounting firm needs to implement proper collaboration tools to achieve the same.
3. Physical Security
When employees and other company stakeholders have access to the company’s data remotely, they also gain the capability to expose this data through unauthorized access. Simply put, once the data moves outside the safe premises of organizations, it leaves behind its security to a great extent.
Organizations need to take special measures to ensure the safety of this data and even company devices.
In a way, accounting firms that may have already employed an accounting software before COVID-19 may be reaping benefits of it today. For instance, if an organization adopted cloud-based QuickBooks solutions before COVID-19, it is highly likely that they were able to adjust to the ‘New-Normal’ much sooner than other accounting businesses. Don’t you think? They may have already implemented remote architecture which is also secure.
Here’s what accounting firms can do (and are doing) for security:
· Strong passwords including multi-level authentication.
· Encryption of physical devices storing the company’s credentials or data.
· Company-wide implementation of spam trackers and fraud detection systems.
· Security software implementation for safe virtual transactions.
· Use of VPN for secure work from home transactions and workflows.
4. Home Tech Audit
Undoubtedly, even the home devices of your employees can be vulnerable. When employees use these devices for office work, they are indirectly connecting to office tech, which can pose a risk at your data.
What can you do?
Ask your employees to necessarily audit home devices before starting work. In fact, a member of the tech or IT team should guide them through the process.
Train your employees for cybersecurity and work from home settings. It is necessary to understand that when employees were shifted from office to work from home setting, they became more susceptible to cybercrimes. Not only because of the vulnerable devices but also because of personal choices.
It is now easier for employees to explore on Facebook or click random links. This gives cybercriminals a window to exploit the system and extract sensitive information.
Key Contributors To Virtual Accounting Management
There are three major contributors to virtual accounting management. If an accounting firm is successful in implementing these, it is possible to virtually conduct accounting activities.
In the above discussion, you may have noticed that a lot of pointers indicate better communication. For instance, change management.
Essentially, communication is the key. At the onset of COVID-19, one thing that was severely hampered was communication.
Check what you can do for communication:
· Have the right technology to collaborate-for example, QuickBooks software for updated information.
· Check on your customers to get an insight into their issues and bottlenecks. Simply get on a video call and communicate.
· When you are communicating with employees, you need to stay extra careful. You need to ensure that everything you convey is clear and concise. Always prefer a video call over audio because of hand-gestures and expressions matter.
· Strategically help every stakeholder to stay in synchronization. Allow different teams, customers, and business partners to communicate and seamlessly collaborate.
2. Virtual Execution
Of course, virtual execution is related to tech, particularly cloud. When most of your employees used to attend office, it was easier to work with on-premise systems. Now, it is not. You need the cloud to communicate, collaborate, and get work done.
It is of utmost importance to move everything to the cloud and reduce the dependence on in-house infrastructure.
Find a good accounting software and start this migration. It’s better late than never. The sooner accounting firms start accepting this reality, the better they will be able to adjust to the ‘New-Normal.’
3. Opportunity Capture
Most of the accounting firms are under the impression that this is the time to adapt. In reality, this is the time to react and capture every opportunity. You need to improve your crisis management, adapt to new technology rather quickly, and create efficiency-oriented workflows.
In a way, move towards future preparedness.
Accounting firms that are able to grab this opportunity soon will indirectly prepare their workforce for future challenges.
The accounting firms need to take the driver’s seat and lead this change. With COVID-19 practically pushing organizations towards virtual implementation, ensuring proper virtual infrastructure will prepare you not only for the pandemic but also for impending challenges. Hence, check the above tips and start your virtual-digital journey.