Client ac­count­ing ser­vices in 2018

Three firms share how CAS is help­ing them help clients

Accounting Today - - Technology - By Ranica Arrowsmith See CAS on 34

Client ac­count­ing ser­vices has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a boom in re­cent years, but the ser­vice is not a new con­cept. Firms have been pro­vid­ing what was of­ten sim­ply called “out­sourced ac­count­ing” to their clients for as long as ac­count­ing has been a pro­fes­sion. How­ever, the ad­vent of on­line ac­count­ing soft­ware and the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy that en­abled out­sourced ac­count­ing to evolve into what to­day is a much more ro­bust of­fer­ing than sim­ple book­keep­ing and data en­try. The firms fea­tured here share their ex­pe­ri­ences.

True col­lab­o­ra­tion

Firm: By the Book / The Koenig Group Staff: Three (in the CAS depart­ment) Prod­uct: Ac­coun­tantsworld Com­mence­ment date: 2010 On the record: Part­ner Jim Sosin­ski, CPA

On CAS: Jim Sosin­ski founded his firm, By the Book, as a one-stop-shop for client ac­count­ing in 2006. Sosin­ski de­fines client ac­count­ing ser­vices as the “out­sourc­ing of the to­tal book­keep­ing and ac­count­ing func­tion of your busi­ness,” and he sees his firm as the “quar­ter­back of your busi­ness’s back of­fice.” While he started “for­mally” pro­vid­ing CAS to clients in 2006, he said that in prac­tice, he’d been pro­vid­ing those ser­vices for 15 years prior.

Last year, By the Book was merged into The Koenig Group, a larger ac­count­ing firm based in Clark, N.J. Sosin­ski, who is now part­ner-in-charge of tech­nol­ogy and im­ple­ment­ing work­flows and pro­cesses, said that this has granted him more re­sources, both hu­man and fi­nan­cial, to serve his clients bet­ter.

Se­lec­tion: By the Book made the switch to Ac­coun­tantsworld in 2010. “I was stri­dent in look­ing for a so­lu­tion that would re­ally help me col­lab­o­rate with clients,” Sosin­ski said. “When I went out look­ing for truly col­lab­o­ra­tive soft­ware, Ac­coun­tantsworld was it.”

Be­fore Sosin­ski started his search, he sat down and wrote a wish­list of all the fea­tures he wanted in his new soft­ware. To his sur­prise, Ac­coun­tantsworld matched his wish­list “95 per­cent right out of the box.” That list in­cluded that it had to be cloud-based, of­fer true ac­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion, and would al­low him to set con­trols and pref­er­ences ac­cord­ing to each client. “Most so­lu­tions work the op­po­site way, where you have to make the client fit the pa­ram­e­ters of the soft­ware,” he said.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion: Sosin­ski de­scribed the im­ple­men­ta­tion as “not that easy,” but only be­cause the prod­uct he was mi­grat­ing from didn’t make trans­fer­ring data very easy. “There wasn’t a lot of data I was able to ex­port,” he said, “but that was 2010.” To­day, Ac­coun­tantsworld has a fully in­te­grated im­port­ing sys­tem that Sosin­ski said he’s seen other firms use ef­fec­tively to ex­port data from another ac­count­ing soft­ware sys­tem.

Sosin­ski con­ducted the im­ple­men­ta­tion him­self, with in­struc­tion from Ac­coun­tantsworld. “I plan for change,” he said. “[The ac­count­ing in­dus­try] is al­ways chang­ing. By plan­ning for it strate­gi­cally, you can mit­i­gate that change.”

High­lights: “With Ac­coun­tantsworld, the ac­coun­tant is in con­trol,” Sosin­ski said. “We con­trol the en­gage­ment, which is what we’re trained to do — this is our pro­fes­sion — ver­sus the client con­trol­ling it and invit­ing us in when­ever they want.”

Sosin­ski also said that Ac­coun­tantsWorld con­tin­u­ally adds “ro­bust tools” — elec­tronic bill pay, the ap­proval process, and bank feed in­te­gra­tion are some of the tools he likes. Sosin­ski ad­di­tion­ally noted the in­te­gra­tions with var­i­ous time-and-billing soft­ware plat­forms, which al­low his clients to en­ter their hours them­selves ver­sus hav­ing the firm man­u­ally do it.

“Ac­coun­tantsworld of­fers ro­bust cus­tomiz­abil­ity to do ex­actly what clients need,” he ex­plained. “We sit there and de­fine with the client, ‘How are you do­ing things?’ We can iden­tify their pain points and pro­vide so­lu­tions that elim­i­nate that pain.”

Chal­lenges: “I wouldn’t call them chal­lenges, but as with any sys­tem, as you use it, you’ll come up with ideas of how things could run bet­ter or for new so­lu­tions,” Sosin­ski said. “I’m con­sid­ered more of a power user to Ac­coun­tantsWorld. I have di­rect email and phone ac­cess to key per­son­nel there, and nine out of 10 times, my sug­ges­tions are em­braced and in­sti­tuted.”

Firm growth: Ac­cord­ing to Sosin­ski, the area in which CAS is re­ally go­ing to ex­pand is an­a­lyt­ics and, con­se­quently, ad­vi­sory. He re­called a young client of his, a den­tist who just opened his own prac­tice. While the client isn’t in­ter­ested in know­ing the de­tails of the full set of ser­vices Sosin­ski pro­vides, he loves get­ting a full data re­port that Ac­coun­tantsworld pro­vides Sosin­ski, so he can un­der­stand a fuller pic­ture of how his busi­ness is op­er­at­ing, rather than just trans­ac­tion by trans­ac­tion. “His gen­er­a­tion does ev­ery­thing on­line, and on their smart­phones,” Sosin­ski said. “They have lit­tle in­ter­est in the whole sys­tem of ac­count­ing I pro­vide. But Ac­coun­tantsworld al­lows me to cap­ture ev­ery­thing elec­tron­i­cally, and the client doesn’t have to give me any­thing once the soft­ware is set up.”

The shift to ad­vi­sory Firm: Staff: Prod­uct:

JCCS CPAS 120 (firmwide) Quick­books Desk­top and On­line (In­tuit) On record: Client ad­vi­sor II Erin Vuke­lich

On CAS: “Un­til just a few years ago, client ac­count­ing ser­vices was strictly out­sourced data en­try — en­ter­ing checks, de­posits, ex­penses, trans­fers,” Erin Vuke­lich of JCCS said. “There’s been a shift in the last cou­ple of years where we’re mov­ing away from strictly ac­count­ing and mov­ing to more of an ad­vi­sory role. When I think of CAS now, I think of not only data en­try but also look­ing at num­bers and com­mu­ni­cat­ing that to clients.”

Se­lec­tion: Founded in 1946, JCCS has been us­ing Quick­books soft­ware for as long as it’s been avail­able, Vuke­lich said. The firm was us­ing Quick­books Desk­top when Quick­books On­line hit the scene, but in its first years, QBO wasn’t as full a so­lu­tion as the firm needed for its clients.

How­ever, “As years have pro­gressed and QBO has im­proved, we’re see­ing more clients mov­ing to it and clients new to us were al­ready on it,” Vuke­lich said. To­day, JCCS is in the process of mov­ing al­most all of its clients over to QBO, ex­cept for the few clients that still need Qbd-spe­cific fea­tures such as in­ven­tory man­age­ment.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion: Vuke­lich has been with the firm for eight years, so wasn’t around when JCCS first started us­ing Quick­books. How­ever, dur­ing this time of mi­grat­ing over to QBO, Vuke­lich said the firm has been “work­ing very closely with the In­tuit sup­port team.”

“They’ve been fan­tas­tic about help­ing us iden­tify good clients that are easy switches so we can get the im­ple­men­ta­tion process fig­ured out,” Vuke­lich said. “This process helps us fig­ure out what’s go­ing to work best for our clients and the pot­holes to stay away from.”

Much of the mi­gra­tion of data has been set up to be au­to­matic, and In­tuit will send a three-per­son team to the firm over the course of a month to help with the process. The most time-con­sum­ing part, Vuke­lich noted, is train­ing clients.

High­lights: “The abil­ity to build in efficiencies and au­toma­tion” is the top ad­van­tage Vuke­lich en­joys from QBO. “Rec­on­cil­ing books takes a shorter time than it used to. Now we can link to bank sys­tems, point-of-sale sys­tems, and we don’t even have to en­ter in sales data. It used to be much more man­ual.”

“What used to take 15 hours to do now takes five,” Vuke­lich said. “What can you do with 10 hours — go out and sell more? Spend time with your fam­ily? Or maybe the client wants to de­velop a new part of their busi­ness they haven’t fo­cused on yet.”

Chal­lenges: As noted above, train­ing

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