Accountants have often been early adopters of technology, for example in embracing remote and home working. But the profession’s enthusiasm for new ways of working has to be balanced by the need to protect client confidentiality, creating the need for robust and secure IT infrastructures.
With the economic downturn, more accountants have towards outsourcing for both IT and common practice processes such as accounts production and tax work.
Richard Anning of the ICAEW’s IT Faculty commented on the rise of technology outsourcing: “There is definitely a benefit to outsourcing IT. With the growing capabilities of the internet and Cloud computing, accounting practices are now able to outsource their IT services and software. Outsourcing is cheaper and more flexible, as you can turn it on and off when you need to.”
Choosing the right supplier who understands your company’s needs and ways of working is crucial, Anning explained: “It is definitely an advantage if your supplier understands accounting practices, so they can identify the best systems for your business needs.
“Your IT supplier is an extension of your business and you need to put in place the same controls that you would have with an in-house function. Your company is responsible for clients’ information, even when it is handled externally. You need to make sure your data is adequately secured and that IT suppliers adhere to the principles of good data handling.”
Top 60 firm SRLV made the decision to employ external expertise and the 100-strong firm has outsourced all its IT functions – hardware, software and consultancy – for 10 years.
SRLV managing partner Laurence Finger explained: “The biggest advantage is that our supplier remains up-to-date on technology and can be pro-active, always suggesting systems or hardware that can improve the way we do business. It’s also an added advantage that the company we use has worked in the financial services world and understands how we operate. It saves us time having to explain how we do business.”
The recent annual conference of the MGI accountancy network saw more than 80 national and international firms grapple with the role of leading edge technology in accountancy. The topics covered subjects ranged from mobile technology and remote working, to online accounting systems and virtual client relationships.
A key theme at the conference was data security and how technology can be used to safeguard business. However firms manage IT, they need to work in partnership with their suppliers to maximise efficiencies and minimise risks. The following practical tips can make a big difference to how you achieve this: