If you’re old enough to remember a time when bookkeeping was actually done in a book, you may recall a particular stereotype of the bookkeeper. What comes to mind is typically the image of an older, bespectacled gentleman, hunched over his books, usually in a dimly lit room. Of course, like many stereotypes, that’s somewhat sexist and ageist, and, certainly outdated. Even the first attempts at introducing office automation into accounting didn’t give us a much more accurate impression of the bookkeeper, though.
Needless to say, things have evolved much further than the earliest adding machines. The advent of the PC put powerful computing, formerly only available in huge companies and government institutions, on every desktop. More recently, tremendous increases in Internet connection speeds, and reductions in the cost of storage have produced a new force in almost every type of business, that of cloud computing.
Whereas there was once a movement toward push computing from monolithic mainframes to the desktop, the current trend has been to move it all “to the cloud”. Accounting is no exception. More and more, companies are finding the value in utilizing cloud software for key processes like bookkeeping and accounting, rather than managing it on individual desktops.
Just to be clear, while the name “cloud software” suggests something vague, elusive, or mysterious, the reality is anything but that. We’re simply talking about programs and data that are housed on computers, which can be located anywhere, connected to the Internet. Typically, it takes place in large data centers, which can be accessed, similarly by any computer or device with an Internet connection.
Not surprisingly, cloud software is really changing the face of accounting. Here are a few of the big changes that are already occurring.
Accountants can focus on accounting, not technology
That old bookkeeper I mentioned earlier had one job: to do the books. Not so for his counterparts in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. They had to maintain a desktop computer, keep current software running on it, and keep it all updated as well as virus-free and bug free. If not the accountants themselves, certainly their employer had to maintain all of that, carrying the costs of both money and time. But with cloud software, the “virtual accountant” handles all that, and the client simply has access to constantly updated, best of breed technology.
The books are always available, from everywhere.
When the old guy in the back room went home, in the picture above, bookkeeping wasn’t done until the next time he was back in the office. Even if the books weren’t kept under lock and key, no one else knew what was going on with them, and probably not that many people could work those lumbering old adding machines. But when accounting is done using cloud software, the books can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from any computer or device that has an Internet connection. This is particularly relevant in the modern business world, in which so much work is done after hours, and people carry internet-connected phones and tablets everywhere we go.
There’s more flexibility and mobility for accountants too.
With accounting cloud software, it’s not only the clients who get to be more flexible and mobile. The same is true for the accountant. Not only does an accountant no longer need to be on site at a client’s location, they also don’t even really need to maintain an office that the entire staff works out of. Since the software and data are all housed in the cloud, even the accounting team, now commonly known as “virtual accountants”, can just as well be located anywhere with an Internet connection. Cloud accountants are currently achieving great growth, due in part to the fact that their staff can work remotely just as effectively as they could on site.