Creating an IT Plan for 2019
by Anthony Mongeluzo, PCS –
November 13, 2018
Accountants are known for reviewing budgets and fiscal planning before a new year begins, but sometimes they forget that a similar rule should apply to their information technology (IT) structure. Pay attention to your IT plan now or risk playing catchup in 2019.
Following are the solid fundamentals that will protect your business, increase your efficiency and protect your clients’ businesses, too:
Set a Budget
You say this to your clients frequently but you should also follow your own advice. Try to determine what you can spend and what is the most profitable approach. Surprisingly, even smart accountants forget to view their IT costs as a profit center, NOT simply as an expense. Besides your knowledge, time is one of your most precious assets. Review with your IT person (or outside IT vendor) what you are doing manually to determine if there is a mechanism to automate it. Ask your staff what task(s) take the most time, which they fervently dislike or what costs the most money.
Conduct an IT Audit
I had a smart CPA from an Ivy League school ask me: “Anthony, you’re always talking about setting my IT budget, but how do I understand what I need to compare with what I have? What’s the formula?”
The answer is familiar to accountants. Have your IT person conduct an audit. A qualified IT person can assess your system’s strengths and weaknesses, and the results will provide an outline of how to proceed.
Call a Meeting
I find it incomprehensible that owners and managers of an accounting practice don’t meet with their IT person on a quarterly basis. The usual contact is a screech from the top when a system goes down or malfunctions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Again, this is similar advice you are probably sharing with your clients. Questions to ask include:
- Are there any new IT or software developments that might be important to the accounting profession?
- Are there any IT best practices for the industry that we’re not following?
Possibly one of the most important elements in this meeting is to connect and discuss strategic moves — an acquisition or opening a new location — with your IT personnel.
Consider Migrating to the Cloud
The year 2019 is the perfect opportunity to consider cloud-based services. You have more protection, and it is more affordable than ever. I know of a one-person accounting firm, and she’s ecstatic over Office 365 and the cloud version of QuickBooks. “I pay one modest fee monthly and don’t have to think about it,” she says. There is a caveat. Microsoft will always download the latest software version, which might not be compatible with your system. Talk to your IT person to ensure they work well together.
Tips and Shortcuts
I have a medium-size client whose IT person meets with all the support staff a few times each year. He takes the time to show them a few simple tips on their computing processes. He’ll also take the time to explain any changes in software updates that might look the same but perform differently. This way, the staff becomes familiar with him and when a problem arises, he isn’t a stranger.
You have arguably the most precious information of each person’s business: their financial records. You must make them secure because failure to do so not only could result in the loss of a client, but possibly a legal issue and potentially bad public relations. For example, you must conduct a threat assessment and penetration against your system to ensure that it’s sound. The downside of avoiding this effort leaves you at high risk if someone penetrates your business. And, no, it doesn’t always happen to someone else.
The physical security and cybersecurity of your systems are paramount. Ensure that the costs for the best protection are part of your 2019 plan.
This article appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.