The CPA’s Role in Tailoring Business Software Solutions

Michelle Jenkins, CPA, MBA
Technology is part of every industry now. While there are some professionals who started their careers in technology and moved into accounting, most of us didn’t. Despite that, CPAs often troubleshoot and advise on technology to help clients invest in and maximize their systems while gaining efficiency. There are several tiers of support that align with the CPA’s role, so let’s be clear on how business owners can explore that guidance when they need it. Here are three common areas. Technology Capabilities Guidance A client reached out recently to discuss switching the company’s accounting system in order to perform a certain type of reporting and invoicing. This happens often. CPAs can be a sounding board for software selection, especially those who work within a variety of solutions for their clients. Since CPAs don’t sell solutions, their neutrality provides the advantage of comparing solutions that best fit the client. In this case, we were able to advise the client that their current system could do exactly what they wanted. They just needed training to use it that way. Ultimately, the client avoided spending thousands on a new system. Discussing technology choices with an experienced CPA allows support opportunities for onboarding the new system. Tech sellers typically know the capabilities of their system, but the CPA can provide context for how a specific process or report was handled in the old system and how it can be done in the new system. They can also assist the system implementation team with translating the client’s intent so that the end product will result in client satisfaction. This onboarding support speeds up training time, resulting in staff happiness and faster adoption of the new system. Technology Integration Support Besides understanding the capabilities of certain accounting, workflow, payroll or time and billing solutions, an experienced CPA can also assist your company with knowing what’s missing in the technology stack and how it should integrate. Often, solutions are purchased separately without knowing how they will communicate with each other to save time and streamline reporting. Clients will call us because they purchased a solution, but they want to ditch it because it doesn’t interact well with another system. Sometimes it’s a matter of training, as mentioned earlier, but sometimes the fix requires additional technology solutions that improve integration and reporting. Modifying software that you just bought can be costly, so it is important to discuss your goals and needs prior to development and implementation. Unfortunately, business owners don’t always know what they don’t know, especially when entering a new area of their system or process. CPAs have the ability to pull best practices from their internal networks and own experiences across many different scenarios, which allows for more depth to be provided in potential solutions. This saves the company time and money compared to researching modifications on their own. For example, companies that are new to government contracting must learn the unique rules, regulations and formulas for project budgeting or reporting on expenses. When the software is aligned with those rules and regulations from the start, the company will experience fewer delays and frustrations while also producing more accurate numbers. The company’s bottom line cash flow and top line revenue both benefit from utilizing correctly integrated tools. This approach also increases team productivity while getting the owners timely government reimbursements and contract reporting. Technology Maximizing Once you have the right technology in place and know how to use it, the fun begins. Your accounting team brings certain skills and strengths to the table, and those skills can be maximized with a knowledgeable outsourced CPA relationship. Clients will ask us about best practices and shortcuts and efficiencies to develop within the accounting department. To achieve that, owners should identify where workflow and communication breaks down. Owners should also look at manual processes that take hours to perform. There are often ways to automate processes, which frees up staff time to perform activities that help the company reduce costs and improve profits. When staff are happy with the company’s technology and processes, it also supports retention. Less turnover means consistent workflow, reporting and forecasting. At the end of the day, being asked to make decisions about your accounting or enterprise software when you don’t understand the system or its impact could take you down a path of regret and lost money. You can reduce your risk from the start by reaching out for neutral guidance from a knowledgeable CPA. Michelle Jenkins is a partner in the accounting firm Anglin Reichmann Armstrong. She can be reached at [email protected]

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