Hopefully you’ve got past the tax return deadlines without feeling like you need the rest of the year off – but before you relax, this is the perfect time to review you and your team’s experience and ask questions about the issues you encountered. In particular, you should certainly consider whether your IT systems and providers assisted your processes, or maybe they felt like a hindrance?
Tax year end, you could argue, falls at probably one of the worst times of the calendar year. Not only does it occur straight after the Christmas break (when everyone is inevitably downbeat) but also when the weather tends to be at its seasonal worst. This year’s snow-flurry at the end of January no-doubt put extra pressure on your already hard-pressed team.
Would your team perhaps have benefited from being able to work from home, or at least work more flexibly at weekends and evenings? Did your chosen software platforms perform adequately or were you inundated with niggling issues that drove your team crazy? Perhaps your internet connectivity wasn’t as reliable as you needed, especially when filing to HMRC?
All of these types of headache can lead to unnecessary pressures and, ultimately, low team morale, and yet they are all manageable with the correct strategic approach to developing and managing your IT infrastructure and selecting the right products and tools for your practice to work from.
New on the radar this year was the added complication of GDPR. For most practices, this should be a non-issue – the Information Commissioners Office has always expected businesses to treat any personal data with the upmost respect and securely manage this, but the new regulations introduced a tangible sense of fear to many accountants. This may have had an impact on your processes in relation to transferring personal data between you and your clients.
Again, by utilising technology appropriately, this can be managed and built into your processes with minimal impact to your operations and, if this was a headache for you, perhaps raises the question of why this hadn’t been dealt with and considered much earlier on in the run-up to January 31st?
Many of our clients utilise a system called Hosted Desktop, which provides a number of advantages over a standard On-Premises model for IT, and often helps overcome a large number of the issues we’ve looked at earlier.
Not only does Hosted Desktop provide an always-on approach to IT, which alleviates the issues with working away from the office, it also allows you far more control over the development of your IT systems as a whole. Changing software providers becomes subtly easier, and as the only real requisite to being on a Hosted Desktop system is an internet connection, we recommend this is provided via a business-class service such as dedicated leased line.
Security and management are also far more controllable with Hosted Desktop. Having your applications and data hosted in an extremely secure, UK-based data centre minimises risks across the board – from physical access (reducing risk of theft or damage), to fire and flood (both mitigated using technology and clever placement of equipment). And due to the resilience built into Hosted Desktop, the system has near 100% up-time.
However, Hosted Desktop is not suitable for every firm, and we recognise that there are alternative solutions that can perform well, despite some limitations. Some firms prefer to keep their IT systems in-house, in which case, you need to ensure that your IT service provider is experienced with accountancy firms. In particular, you should check that they understand the critical dates in the accounting calendar and is capable of supporting you whenever you need them – and also that they are experts in the systems that you use – such as Sage, CCH, IRIS etc.
Now that the tax-year end is over and whilst you feel like you should take a deserved break, perhaps it may be a good time to really think about whether your IT systems worked for you, or against you? If you are considering your next strategic IT move, contact Orca and we’d be happy to discuss your requirements and challenges with you.