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Did you embrace the cloud fully in your practice

I think I might have missed a trick in my reluctance to go all in.

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I think it’s time I moved everything into the cloud, I have been a bit reluctant to move everything across and have been very happy with VT and Moneysoft. Some areas are across with Taxfiler and Accountancy Manager but I think my accountancy software should now go across with payroll as well.

In the last year my client base has fallen by 5% and I think it’s partly due to my slow uptake of the latest technology and cloud capabilities. I’m not picking up much remote work which I think is probably one of the biggest pluses of the cloud over desktop. Yes, I continue to pick up work in my area but would you agree that the cloud opens up a larger playing field of remote clients.

I have clients who still arrive with the carrier bag of receipts but I now feel that I need to discourage this process and implement the cloud immediately for all new clients.

I would be interested to know how practitioners performed after the switch, lessons learned from the process, growth one year after the switch and time saving capabilities from implementing everything to cloud software. Who would you recommend from the many cloud products available. The software has to be user friendly for clients and reasonably priced.  It would be desirable if it included bank feeds, cash flows and forecasting capabilities.

I noticed that bank receipt advertises a lot, is this something that the client would use as well to capture receipts.

Sorry, for the long post, I wouldn’t be surprised if you reach for a glass of Merlot long before the end, no excuse needed. (Half Term and Friday)

Replies (26)

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By James Green
21st Feb 2020 15:20

Before you buy into the brave new world, do you and your clients actually want the cloud?

The joy of self employment is setting your stall out as you want it.

Depending on your geography and age, they’ll be plenty of people for the rest of your career who won’t want cloud based services.

Indeed, having drank the cool aid about 5 years ago, I’d say less than 10% of my clients use cloud based stuff in their business even when we give it to them for free (AutoEntry is free to all clients and QBO [dreadful system] is free to all vat registered clients).

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By Richard Grant
21st Feb 2020 18:40

I don't know about practices but I can tell you as a subcontractor it makes life very good. I work from Southern France at present with practices from the North of England to South London.
Just make sure your clients book keeping is good or if you do it yourself even better otherwise you'll be praying for the carrier bags of receipts again and steer clear of QBO.

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By Martin Schneider
21st Feb 2020 17:00

I am 100% cloud, it was an easy decision and we have been cloud from day 1. There are better softwares out there for some things which are desktop based, that's a fact, but I am writing this from a patio in Los Angeles where I am having a 2 week working holiday.

We are also paperless and conduct online meetings, so clients don't know any different about my location.

Some clients prefer a letter in the post etc, and they aren't our type of client.

Happy to have a chat about what we use etc. It may not simply be "the cloud" which is causing you to lose client base. Let's have a chat.

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Replying to Martin Schneider:
By In a Daze
22nd Feb 2020 13:16

Pretty much the same as you all the software we use is cloud based pretty much paperless apart from the odd client.

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Replying to Martin Schneider:
By gerrysims
24th Feb 2020 14:37

I'm interested in what you use for payroll. I haven't yet trialled a cloud solution I found ideal though some were close.

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Replying to Martin Schneider:
By lionofludesch
24th Feb 2020 14:47

Martin Schneider wrote:
....... but I am writing this from a patio in Los Angeles where I am having a 2 week working holiday.

Not meeting Krissy, are you ?

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By Manchester_man
21st Feb 2020 17:35

I'm 70% in the cloud. With some clients, I did set up cloud software but they never logged into it once, so for these I moved the books onto VT; no point paying for it just to look pretty.

My best clients are the ones who use Xero et al for managing their sales ledger and we manage the purchase ledger and bank tagging. I find this works well.

Not possible with everyone though, I took on a client yesterday who doesn't want to use email as he believes it is unsafe. He wants to be able to provide a folder of invoices and receipts and for us to do the bookkeeping. He's missing out but that's fine.

The only regret I have In relation to the cloud Is that I'm stuck With QBO for a handful of clients and absolutely hate it. Everything takes approximately double the time it takes to do the same thing on Xero.

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Replying to Manchester_man:
By Charlie Carne
27th Feb 2020 14:25

I'd be very interested to know what you think takes so much longer on QBO than Xero. I think that both products are excellent and wouldn't discourage anyone from using either of them but, when accountants I know have made the same comment to me in the past, it turns out that they are either doing it wrong or aren't aware of a simple trick that makes it easy in QBO. Do you have some specific examples?

It always reminds me of the Mac vs PC arguments from a few years ago (and the very funny ads that Apple put out at the time). Mac users users thought that PC's were clunky and that Apple was the cool option that did everything so much better when, in reality, both are great and your choice is subjective. Just substitute Xero and Intuit for Apple and Microsoft and you have the same argument. Incidentally, I use Windows 10 on my PC (but I also have iPads and an iPhone, so go figure!).

As for the original question from Marky, you're half way there, so don't be frightened and come in all the way; the water's warm :)

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By lionofludesch
21st Feb 2020 17:36

I didn't embrace the cloud. I'm still wary of it. I suspect it's the future but it's a future which will come too late for me to take full advantage of it.

Happily, I still have plenty of clients who don't like it either.

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By Mr_awol
21st Feb 2020 17:50

Depends how many clients you have, how many staff you have, what your aspirations are, what type of work you prefer doing, etc.

When I read about what people 'should' be doing about the cloud I often think of a specific A-Webber whom I don't believe posts much (if at all) these days. They were a little dismissive about anyone who showed reluctance to commit fully to the cloud, and were certainly very vocal about how they were a cloud only practice and they would only work in theor prescribed way, etc. It sounded as if they had this huge knowledge of cloud matters (which they may well have done) and their firm was very proactive in migrating 'all' of its clients to the cloud and strictly informing prospects that it was a case of working like that or going elsewhere.

I myself even found myself at one point wondering if my firm was lagging behind - but wondered how we could possibly replicate this model: whilst many clients would embrace it, there would surely be several hundred who wouldn't - let alone the number of staff who would need convincing.

Then all of a sudden one day, the poster in question revealed that they only had about 40 clients and were a one man band. Illusion shattered and I find a lot of these self styled practice gurus come from similar backgrounds. Let's face it - if most of this lot could actually build a successful practice and scale it up with purely the most efficient, highest fee-paying work available (like they tell their audiences to do) they wouldn't be trudging round the country doing seminars for a few grand a pop (or even free, to promote their new book etc). Most of them are great at marketing but don't live in the real world.

Where I operate, we have a vast range of businesses of different sizes and structures. One size wont fit all and actually some of our most profitable work can in many cases come from the types of clients I would be turning my nose up at if I followed some peoples' advice. Ive got some clients who are so small that £300 per annum can be spent in better places then a software subscription. Ive got others who are actually a bit big for the cloud accounting packages, unless you stack a whole load of software addons in there, and actually they are far better served by desktop accounting packages.

In short, don't be too eager to commit to a cloud-only existence. There are still many good clients out there form whom it either isn't necessary or isn't appropriate.

Thanks (5)
Outbooks - UK Accounting and Bookkeeping Outsourcing
By Amit Agarwal
21st Feb 2020 22:03

I run Outbooks and we have Accountants as customers and their clients as end clients. So you could imagine how difficult that makes our work.
We encourage all Accountants to use cloud-based software and have their clients use the software as well.
Getting information 'accurately' and 'on-time' is very critical for our business. And from experience, I can say, that more and more people are adopting cloud day in and day out. And whoever has embraced the cloud is happier than ever!
Change is inevitable and our job is to speed up the adoption of cloud software.

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Replying to Amit Agarwal:
By Manchester_man
21st Feb 2020 22:45

Think you're looking for the adverts section?

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By Samantha20
22nd Feb 2020 09:12

I am an accountant for a small company. We have just started using Xero after using Sage Instant for decades.

The main issue I have with Xero is that there is no easy way to back up all our data like there was with Sage.

What do other Xero users do about this?

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Replying to Samantha20:
By johnt27
27th Feb 2020 10:40

Think you've missed a trick here. There is an easy way - do nothing. Xero data is backed up constantly (after each transaction is posted) and a full overnight secondary backup occurs as well.

If what you want is the reassurance of having another copy of the data checkout backupmybooks. Bear in mind though that Xero doesn't need this hard copy backup because it's in the cloud and you don't have to restore your data when you [***] it up because Xero has some really neat tools to make correcting errors simple!

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Replying to johnt27:
By Samantha20
27th Feb 2020 11:29

The problem is that if you read their Ts and Cs, they accept no responsiblity if the backup fails or is lost.

At least with Sage Instant, you could keep your own backup in several places so that if one was lost, you had other copies.

I don't understand why they can't just let us do our own backup if we want.

Thanks, I will look at backupmybooks.

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22nd Feb 2020 15:30

You will no doubt find that not all clients will want to come on that journey with you. It is pretty obvious that cloud is not the right solution for all clients and I would suggest that there remains a strong market for old school common sense, simplicity.

With that said, I would suggest try converting one section of the client base (not all of them), such as those that are MTD/VAT registered. Move on from there once you have worked up your new processes and systems. Only you can decide if you wish then to go all in with the knowledge that you will lose the more resistant clients, that do not see any value in using the cloud.

As for time saved, if you coming from a point of already have reasonably efficient processes, then any time saving will be minimal if any. That is sales talk from cloud sales people who make false comparisons against people that are still typing bank statements into excel (something most stopped doing years before cloud tech).

The value of cloud is for those clients that value good management information to develop their business, as opposed a simple accounts done and minimum tax bill service.

Good luck, whatever you do

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Flag of the Soviet Union
By thevaliant
23rd Feb 2020 14:00

No, we haven't.

It's C: drive all the way for us.

I know its not right, but the saying, "It's not in the 'cloud', it's just someone else's computer' is broadly right.

We want to know where our data is, and who has access to it, at all times.

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Replying to thevaliant:
By Charlie Carne
27th Feb 2020 14:46

thevaliant wrote:

We want to know where our data is, and who has access to it, at all times.

So you have a tech team reviewing your hard drives, internet access and security 24/7/365 do you? And you know with 100% certainty that the kid in reception logged into your WiFi cannot access the internal network; that, when your staff take a laptop and log onto a client's compromised network, that all your laptop data is safe; that the USB stick that your staff use cannot infect their laptop or compromise data? The cloud providers have people doing this all the time.....even at 3 am on Christmas Day. But, hey, if you are one of the few accounting firms with an IT department that is as good as those at Xero, Intuit, Amazon AWS, etc. then that's great and keep doing what you do.
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Replying to thevaliant:
By lionofludesch
27th Feb 2020 14:54

thevaliant wrote:

We want to know where our data is, and who has access to it, at all times.

So back to paper then. Locked in a safe.

Once you switch on your computer, you sacrifice most of your security.

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By meadowsaw227
24th Feb 2020 11:33

Isn't the cloud something to do with paying third parties loads of money forever to "look" after your clients data !

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Replying to meadowsaw227:
By Duggimon
24th Feb 2020 11:53

Or, to put it another way, the cloud is somewhere you can store your client's data that has better security than Windows Firewall and McAfee antivirus.

If the computer you posted this from is the same one that your clients' data is on, it's effectively already in the cloud.

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By Maslins
24th Feb 2020 11:41

One thought arising from your post, there's two different things:

1) your clients giving you the information you need via cloud.

2) your practice storing its files/doing its work via cloud.

Changing (1) if currently "offline" requires all your clients to change how they do things. Pushing them to do so can be tricky.

Changing (2) is easier, in terms of if you make that decision, you go for it, with only your staff/software suppliers needing to know. Ie it generally shouldn't impact your clients.

Changing (2) may be a bit pointless if your clients don't change too, as you'll still need to be largely office based for them to deliver hard copy files/documents to you.

Virtually all of our clients have been on FreeAgent, pretty much from day one. We still have an in office server, and use a network (but not cloud) version of Taxcalc/VT. This means we do still largely need to be office based, but on the whole that's fine, I think staff would miss the banter/training opportunities if we all permanently worked remotely.

We do occasionally look into what we might need to get in place to enable "working holidays".

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Replying to Maslins:
By lionofludesch
24th Feb 2020 12:05

I can't be bothered with all that, Maslins.

Too much jargon for me.

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Hallerud at Easter
24th Feb 2020 11:53

I certainly never embraced the cloud, my practice more conducted itself behind a curt handshake re its use of Dropbox and Sugar Sync. (Though I am still creating my Dropbox filing system of documents for my main employer, embracing property titles, leases, services, contracts, accounts et al)

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By Marky
25th Feb 2020 15:32

Thanks for all the replies.

It might be best to continue with VT for existing clients and introduce gradually a cloud based accounting package for new clients but with a level of flexibility for clients that just don't want to embrace cloud software.

In some of the replies I noticed that QBO was given short shrift but Xero seemed to have more to offer.

JD mentioned: The value of cloud is for those clients that value good management information to develop their business, as opposed a simple accounts done and minimum tax bill service. (does Xero produce apps, forecasting, budgets etc).

I have registered for a webinar in March with ACCA - End-to-end accounting with Xero Tax and Hubdoc so should have a better understanding what Xero can offer in comparison to VT.

Another reason for exploring the change over is that existing clients who have been on board for five years plus are generally a little older than new start up's and young clients. Are desktop practices missing these opportunities because surely most young clients are all tech savvy, never of the mobiles and want instantaneous access to information so if you asked them to use anything but cloud software it would put most of them off.

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By David Gordon FCCA
27th Feb 2020 15:20

You are an accountant in public practice:
You should apply similar principles to those you would apply to a client, in no particular order:
Is your practice administration, organisation, including filing and back-up, in best order?
If not the first rule of computing applies.
Garbage in=Garbage out.
How many of us have held our heads in despair when client Noddy breathlessly informs us that the salesman has told him, "His chaotic management and accounting system will be miraculously transformed into a paragon of virtue, by the amazing whizzbang Program X."
Is the Broadband in your district sufficiently reliable to support use of the "Cloud"?
It is not in my town.
Have you costed the changeover?
Including Time-costs of familiarisation etc.
Have you costed the increased cost of software?
Some cunning software providers have moved their fee structure for the Cloud, from a fee where we paid an annual fee for XXX clients, to a for the Cloud fee at a per client rate. Some accountants do not care because they just bill the client for software. So it is no longer a practice cost. In my case what was £1,500 per year would transform into £1,500 per month, passed on to the client.
There is still no clear judgment in law as to who owns the data on the Cloud. Think about that if you ever exchange words with a software supplier.
What % of your clients do you think are capable and willing to take advantage of the new Systems?
You might end up working two systems. One for the Cloud savvy clients, and one for the others.

In summary the Cloud is in fact a Humongous Disk Drive or two based somewhere in the back of beyond. Through the wonders of current technology the computer user may connect thereto whereever he or she is without the worry of back-up and allsorts in-house. Including file-sharing with client and so-on.
For the advantage, alone, of constant safe back-up of data, it deserves consideration.
But the continual sweaty drooling anticipation that the "Cloud" is an answer to a maiden accountant's prayer is silly.
Ignore time honoured questions at your peril

Dear Martin Shneider
It is nice to hear that you may afford to choose "My type of client"
For me "My type of client" is one who pays satisfactory fees for time spent with work done, on time, without argument. (As long as the work is not immoral or illegal!)
If the client is willing to pay me to sort out a shoe box of vouchers, it is OK. So long as client understands that tax advice and shoe box sorting are both charged at similar rates. There is an incriminating photo of me helping client to build a shed on his tree nursery.

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