After taking a well-earned vacation, summer is the ideal time to update your IT plan. If you work with a managed IT services provider in your accounting firm, you’re probably already in the process of evaluating last year’s results and starting to look ahead.  Here are some tips to keep you on track.

Evaluate Your Current IT Environment

Review what worked and what didn’t over the past year, especially during tax season. Analyze your asset inventory to determine which hardware needs to be refreshed now.  Don’t wait until crunch time, when hours down equals dollars lost.  Best practice is to replace workstations every three years, and other hardware as recommended by your IT services firm.

Look at Next Year’s IT Needs

Take advantage of what you already know is coming, like the retirement of a partner or the anticipated growth of a client, and plan accordingly. Your IT provider should update you on the latest technology trends. 

Think about:

  • New Tools or Service Offerings – These often require specialized IT, particularly in software.
  • Cloud-Based Services — Many of the newest accounting tools, from tax prep to document management, are cloud-based. Any time you hear “cloud”, keep the capacity and quality of your Internet connection in mind. These services work best with robust Internet connections that impact your monthly spend over and above the cost of the tools.
  • Firm Growing or Shrinking – Where do you see your firm 6 months from now? 2 years? Is a merger or acquisition in your future? Acquisitions can be a good way to get new talent as well as a new book of business. On the IT side, make sure your licensing and network is sized correctly for the change.
  • Regulation Compliance – Government regulation and industry compliance initiatives change frequently. Beyond compliance, use your security and encryption policies as selling points. Turn “Yes, we handle data protection compliantly” into “we have taken these measures beyond just compliance to protect our clients’ data.”
  • Software Vendors Changing Policies – For example, we’re seeing more vendors shift their support of accounting packages to only the current version and one version prior. This can impact your costs for your line-of-business application, Microsoft licensing, and hardware.
  • Budgets – Always a factor.

Create the Plan and Implementation Timetable

Let’s put this together. Let’s say you have recently subscribed to a new cloud-based tax application. Expect that you will need to upgrade your Internet and maybe the router and firewall. If the tax program ties into Excel, then you’ll want to understand the support policy. That is, knowing which Excel version the cloud application supports. You’ll also need to understand the rules for dropping support of an older Excel version.

Now let’s really be strategic. This will sneak up on you. Every new cloud-based service increases your dependency on the Internet. Consider not just more (and better quality) bandwidth, but more than one connection. That adds a (small) bit of complexity to the network design. We have found that the extra monthly cost of a backup connection is cost justifiable for many clients as more and more primary applications move to the cloud.

Your plan may go through several revisions as you work through the details. Be as specific as possible to detail what technology is to be implemented, the training required, and set expectations for the degree of disruption that may occur. 

Depending on your firm’s needs and budget requirements, fall is the best time for implementation. Ideally, your new technology should be in place and running smoothly by Thanksgiving.

In your business, the risk of downtime is too expensive to leave to chance. Be as proactive as possible, and work closely with the managed IT services provider for your accounting firm to position yourselves well for next year’s tax season.  

If your business needs help managing IT, contact CRU Solutions.