Smartphones and tablets have become standard tools utilized within accounting firms and while major accounting applications are adding mobile functionality to their tax, audit and accounting tools, there are a large amount of applications that make CPAs more productive in their day to day office work and when they are on the road. Below are some absolutely awesome applications that have made a significant difference in the accounting profession. CPAs should consider adopting them for their workstation or mobile device during the down time this holiday season so they can take advantage of them in the year ahead.
Collaboration: One of the top tools which will improve team productivity is Microsoft’s Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync and Office Communicator). This application shows availability of team members that are connected to the network (statuses including: available, away, do not disturb) and automatically switches to “busy” when there is an appointment on that user’s Outlook calendar. While often used for instant messaging, Skype also allows for very straight forward audio and video conferencing including the ability to add additional members and external locations with a simple click. A hidden benefit is the ability to share screen images and files so participants all work on the same file. Instead of manually pushing files back and forth, CPAs should learn to collaborate in real time! For voice and video collaboration, many accountants also like the ease of use of Google Hangouts or Apple FaceTime.
Note Capture: Another one of the key CPA digital transformations is to get away from taking physical notes on legal pads and sticky notes and to transition to digital tools that are just as convenient as paper and pen. Applications such as Microsoft’s OneNote and EverNote allow notes to be synchronized between all of an individual’s mobile devices (smartphone, tablet, and workstation) so it is captured on the device that is within reach. The beauty of these tools is that they replicate the best of note taking capabilities with either text or pen-based input, but can also be used for great task and list management, clipping and searching through articles, so all CPAs should start using one of these tools.
Password Management: Security continues to be one of the top concerns of all CPAs and we all know that having unique passwords for every single application which are changed every 90 days is a best practice, but is very hard to comply with. The solution is to get a password application that can create unique completely unintelligible passwords for each application that are stored in a secure wallet so it is easy for the CPA to access but virtually impossible for any hacker to guess. Applications such as LastPass, RoboForm, and Dashlane are designed specifically for storing these passwords and now they are even more secure with two factor authentication and can incorporate physical identification such as Intel’s RealSense and Duo Mobile’s smartphone application.
Getting Around: While we have used Google’s Maps (gMaps) on our mobile devices for years, their acquisition of the Waze application has been needling in as a preferred replacement for directions while driving. Users of the application update the status of accidents, traffic jams, and police radars so you can avoid trouble spots (or slow down) and they have an easy to use Gas button that tells you not only where the closest gas stations are but also the price! Also, when you need a lift or don’t feel like driving, ride sharing applications such as Uber and Lyft will not only save you time, they will save you money over traditional taxi services. At a recent conference in Orlando, the cost of Uber returning to the airport was one-third the cost of the taxi from the airport!
Local Knowledge: Accountants often work in new areas and it helps to know what restaurants, banks, stores, etc. are close by so you can run your errands and quickly get back to work. CPAs should have an application such as Yelp or AroundMe loaded on their workstations to get quick access and reviews to any services and while we favor Yelp’s restaurant reviews, for international travel AroundMe has a larger following. Other great travel applications that CPAs should utilize are TripIt which will scour your emails for any travel related reservations and organize your flights, rental cars, and hotel information in a sequential list.
Other Apps: There are also a number of individual applications that we swear by, with the first being Google Keep for lists. Families utilize it for shopping lists for primary grocery stores, big box retailers, and other family to do lists. All family members can have it on their mobile devices so as soon as you run out of something or need to add a task, you put it on the Keep list and it synchronizes to everyone’s device. Another popular application is MyRader which provides weather maps so you can see if where you are going will be impacted by a storm. Finally, one of the most used (but least favorite) applications is the 7Minute workout which sends daily reminders if you have not gotten any exercise that day, which doesn’t allow excuses to procrastinate!
Whether you need help with organizing your work, your life, or doing just about anything, there is an “app for that.” The break before the next busy season gives us all a chance to rest and look for better ways of doing things, which today can be accessed at your fingertips!
Roman H. Kepczyk is Director of Consulting for Xcentric, LLC and works exclusively with accounting firms to implement today’s leading best practices and technologies.