Reading through some online articles this morning really had me shaking my head a little at the confusion over the concept of a cloud-based practice, and what operating within the cloud ecosystem entails.

The cloud systems we use in our firms are essentially the tools of our trade.  They are tools to be used to streamline processes, and save time and headache through automation.  They should be used to increase the efficiencies in our practices, and also within our client’s businesses.

What these systems are not, are complete solutions for our, or our clients, businesses. NO Business should rely wholly on a fully end-to-end automated product or service, and still expect a high degree of customer satisfaction, or a trusted advisor/client relationship.   

Melanie Power, founder of The Bookkeepers Revolution, and I once had a discussion about the race to Zero.  Some businesses in our industry rely so heavily on automation to carry out the majority of their work that they can provide services at next to no cost to the client – quite often forgetting  that it is the people-to-people connection that clients often value the most.

In the mad rush to keep up with innovation and new tech, businesses are forgetting that people do business with people. The concept of networking and building relationships seems to have fallen by the wayside in the race to build the most automated, profitable business out there, whilst leaving our competitors eating dust.

I am not wholly innocent of the lure of bright, shiny, new Apps- I totally get caught up in the hype, and wonder how I can implement that great new system into my own practice (much to the eye-rolling of my staff).  But, my motivation behind this is that it gives me more time to step up and work on areas I really feel passionate about, both in our industry, and in my own practice. At the same time, I’m aware that I’d be doing myself, my staff AND my clients a great disservice if I ignored the need for personal connections and a strong working relationship (not to mention the potential to overcomplicate things by going app-crazy!).

Our practices do not have to be complicated. They can be run easily and efficiently with simple, straightforward systems that handle the mundane, repetitive, low-stakes tasks that often swallow up time that can be better spent on client relationships and value-added services. In our practice we use a number of systems to streamline our workflows:

KarbonHQ (thoroughly recommend this one) creates transparency and better collaboration through its email and workflow management.  This saves so much time and headache in assigning staff emails and figuring out where a client’s file is up to if a staff member is absent.

Practice Ignition (also highly recommended, crazy if you’re not using this) takes the pain out of generating quotes and proposals for new clients. It also collects our monthly fixed fees and self reconciles to invoices in our Xero account – there’s more time available I can spend collaborating with a client right there!

Xero Tax is crucial to streamlining our compliance work, and as a cloud based, Xero exclusive Bookkeeping and BAS Agency, we wouldn’t be without it. The convenience it provides in its ability to streamline our compliance work, through its integration with the ATO is immeasurable (well, it probably is measurable, but you get my drift).

My point is, Automation (which is essentially what we all seek in using these systems) is simply a way to leverage TIME.  And the time we save with our automated systems can be put to better use in building relationships with our clients and helping them with their businesses, or networking with peers and providing insight and support for others in our industries.

Doing business in the cloud isn’t rocket science (unless it actually is), so I stress – keep it simple. Understand your processes, pick your Apps wisely, and work on how to improve efficiencies so you have more time to spend working with your clients, who are essentially the lifeblood of your business.