Stepping into the cloud

Simon_FosterTNBy now you’ve undoubtedly heard of ‘the cloud’ and 'cloud computing'. But if you've not yet figured out how it can be used to the benefit of your business, read on as IT expert Simon Foster gives you the lowdown.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard of ‘the cloud’ and 'cloud computing'. But if you've not yet figured out how it can be used to the benefit of your business, read on as IT expert Simon Foster gives you the lowdown.

Now that everyone’s talking about cloud computing, you might even have a vague notion of it being something you ‘should’ do for, or in, your business. You might even have Googled it - which incidentally, may not have helped terribly much as there’s lots of heavy IT geek-speak about it on the internet. And as a self-confessed IT geek, on behalf of our industry, I sincerely apologise for the confusion.

The research I mentioned in my previous blog showed that at least 50 per cent of business owners were unsure of how to go about implementing ‘cloud’ in their business. So, if that’s you, rest assured, you’re not alone. And there’s no need to ‘go it alone’ either. However, if you need help, it might come from the place you least expect – your accountant.Simon_FosterLG

Whilst the rest of us have been beavering away building our businesses, the accounting profession have quietly integrated cloud across their businesses at meteoric speed and have started rolling out top-notch cloud services to their clients. According to local research done by MSI Global Alliance, accountants are business owners’ most trusted advisers and they’re uniquely placed to help you take those first steps to the cloud if you haven’t done so already.

In fact, you may even have started your business transition to cloud without even realising it. If you (or your accountant or book-keeper) use Xero, SaaSu, MYOB on-line or Shoeboxed for your accounts, you’ve already begun operating your business in the cloud and you’ve probably experienced first-hand how much easier these cloud services can make your business life.

If you haven’t, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. In a nutshell, cloud provides a small or micro business with the technological and process clout of a much larger business without the previously huge investment. So from an accounting perspective, you’ll likely put in far less time, effort and energy not only because of the sheer processing power of the technology but because of the linkages that it enables across online platforms – ie: your accounting program, your banking files, your customer record management programs, etc.

How so? Well, reconciliation likely takes less time because of data-recognition and data-matching capabilities across several linked platforms. Because you prepare your invoices in your chosen cloud program and it’s linked to your bank statements, which means it’s instantly up to date any time you check, the invoice data is matched against receivables in your bank account. Now if you only have two invoices a month, you can probably retain those in your head. However, if you have 10, 20 or 100 a week or month, then that can be a little hard to remember. And that’s where you lose time checking against what you’ve issued and trying to match up, looking at what’s outstanding, etc.

When you use something like Xero or SaaSu, it sees an invoice you’ve generated for $1,752 and a payment for $1,752 in your bank account and puts two and two together – literally. The data entry of all of your receipts that used to take hours now takes significantly less time to shove them into a Shoeboxed envelope to have them scanned, stored and uploaded as a searchable record and downloadable to CSV file – categorised to an appropriate ATO category.

Engaging with the cloud in this way can also help you get more from your working relationship with your accountant. A recent piece of NZ research (done by Banklink) showed that many SME owners can’t maximise the relationship with their accountants due to incorrect or late data.

Having a non-cloud accounting system is likely to mean that you’ll spend valuable time (and, let’s face it, money too) clarifying issues with your accountant when you meet or speak rather than on how you might best move your business forward. And that’s where your accountant can really come into their own.

The best accountant is the one that not only helps you meet your tax obligations, but helps you navigate the best path for your business. Being able to access up-to-date information when required enables them to do exactly that. And what business owner couldn’t do with some wise, fact-based advice.

So if you haven’t investigated cloud accounting as yet, talk to another business owner who has and then run straight to your accountant/book-keeper to get started. You’ll be amazed at how much time, effort and energy it will save you each week/month/quarter/pay period.

Next time we’ll investigate some of the other cloud services you might consider using in your business around marketing and new business.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is the SME Convenor for the Australian Computer Society, a self-confessed IT geek and the Managing Director of Shoeboxed Australia.

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