Tech Stack
Tech Stack Vertical

Re-evaluating your tech stack

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You got past the April deadlines; now it’s time to review what went well and what didn’t go well with this past busy season. One of the main areas that need to get addressed is your technology stack and workflow so you don’t have to go through the same pain the rest of the year.

Prior to technology taking over tax practices, firms relied on a routing sheet, client folder, calculator, green ledger paper, and, if you’re old enough to remember, a cool green visor. The workflow was simple and straightforward, and data was easy to follow because prior-year and current-year workpapers were on your desk. Fast forward to today, and firms are inundated with software options for customer resource management, project management, e-signature, PDFs, client portals, tax software, trial balance software, and much more. Even our clients’ books provide us data through text message pictures of their W-2s, and clients will provide PDFs, Excel files, QuickBooks® Online Accountant copies, and even remote logins to their servers. A technology-­rich workflow complicated what should be simple. The result? Data becomes difficult to manage.

A tech stack is defined as a set of technologies an organization uses to manage data so they can produce results. But most firms treat their tech stack like they do the newest version of an iPhone. The moment an accounting tech provider promises improved realization based on a case studies, firms immediately adopt the new technology, hoping for instant benefits without knowing any of the risks.

It’s up to you to tame the technology you choose to implement in your firm to drive results. This article will focus on workflow technology as it relates to a tax firm and business returns.

Solving for data

The biggest problem with data is that tax preparers do not have the data readily available to them on demand. Instead, preparers are at the mercy of the timing of when data comes to them. And that data can come in multiple formats through multiple mediums. With data coming in from clients, it’s important to have perpetual connection to that data. A best practice for accountants trying to solve for data is to use QuickBooks Online Accountant.

It’s up to you to tame the technology you choose to implement in your firm to drive results.

For individuals, some best practices include an easy-to­-use client portal where practitioners can automate client data collection of tax documents and file storage.

Data integrations

Automating redundant tasks is another part of cleaning up your tech stack. There are times CRMs and accounting software do not share data, and it can be a pain point in a firm’s workflow when the same information needs to be entered in twice in different systems. For example, if you are preparing a tax return, you are using accounting software, trial balance software, and separate tax software. The data needs to be entered three times in three systems. The issue here is redundancy. The more time a firm spends on formatting or duplicating data in multiple systems, the less time it can spend on what matters most: adding value to the client.

One way to solve for redundancy is using a technology stack that integrates seamlessly with each other. For example, a firm using QuickBooks Online can click one button so that the tax return is pre-populated into Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax for business tax returns. From there, the preparer can go in, finalize the tax return, and tie up any loose ends.

The human element in technology

Each new technology piece you add to your firm adds something else for a staff person to learn. Be sure that when assessing new technology to add to the firm, you have buy-in from your leaders in the direction the firm is heading. Be sure to have conviction and belief that this technology will make everyone’s lives better. Empower younger leaders of the firm to take charge and find technology that would help them do their job more effectively. Listening to your team will provide opportunities for creating a culture of trust and respect.

Does this technology work?

Technology needs a strategy, and the name of the game is addition through subtraction. There are some firms that have more than one tax preparation software and more than one secure program to request a client’s sensitive information. In order to tame technology, it’s important to get rid of technologies that can cause redundancies, while finding technologies that allow for data to be shared across different platforms.

Whether firms adopted a paperless remote model or still doing things with green ledger paper, the question firms fail to ask themselves is “How does this technology add value to my clients?” Most software decisions are made based on the premise that these technologies will make internal processes better for you or your staff. But very rarely is the question asked about how these technologies will make a difference to the clients being served.

What technology will you look into the rest of the year? What technology will you look to turn off?

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