Yes we are working from home and I’m incredibly proud of my team! [Part 2]
Part 1 of this blog received a lot of appreciation. Lot of professionals messaged privately and were keen on knowing which tools could be useful for our kind of working environment that is an accounting firm or a practicing professional. So, here in this Part 2, I am trying to share a few options of some of the tools or apps practicing professionals could use.
Before we delve into tools, want to highlight one important aspect, in today’s scenario people often confuse knowledge with tools. It’s in fact the contrary.
In Part 1, we spoke about having following 5 critical tools for any accounting firms to function in the current environment:
1. Strong internal communication and collaboration tool. And it’s not whatsapp.
2. Project management tool or at least a task tracking tool to the bare minimum
3. Secure access to client folders and files
4. Fairly newer gen laptops with stable internet connection
5. Non pirated software to reduce vulnerability
So let me give you a few options for each of these, most of which we have tried:
1. Strong internal communication and collaboration tool: Slack is world leader in this. There’s an Indian version of slack, called flock. We use Microsoft Teams. Google Hangout Chat is also a possible option. A few of the options such as slack, teams, flock etc. allow collaboration outside your organization as well. Like you could invite your clients and their concerned team members also to these communication platforms to collaborate better. I think most of the firms today use whatsapp to communicate with team as well as clients. The biggest disadvantage with it is the lack of privacy and security. So, using a proper internal communication and collaboration tool is strongly recommended.
2. Project management tool or at least a task tracking tool to the bare minimum: Assigning tasks and reviewing status is not simple and straight forward while working in large teams or distributed teams or even remotely, this could mean huge admin work and frustration. So a kind of project management or task tracking tool is essential. There are many options here. MS To Do, ToDoist, Any Do, Omni Focus and many others are to do lists. We used to use Wunderlist. It was an amazing to do list which had client collaboration, assigning tasks, due dates, status updates. It was just perfect. But, it was acquired by Microsoft a few years back and then they stopped developing the app. Instead they diverted all their resources to develop their own app, Microsoft To Do. On the other side of the spectrum of task management is project management. Here the options are Trello, Asana, Jira, Microsoft Planner. Project management apps are far more sophisticated than task managers and provide more features. After our forced exit from wunderlist, we shifted to Trello. Trello is an amazingly simple way to manage projects from practicing professional standpoint too.
3. Secure access to client folders and files: We shifted to cloud sometime in 2012–13, since then we don’t have a server at our office. All client data is on the cloud and is always shared with the respective clients to ensure they are never dependant on us for their data. These folders are shared with the respective team members as and when required. We Microsoft Cloud for our office environment. But I am sure Google Suite, Dropbox etc. offer equal amount of ease of use and security. But I understand many, if not most of the accounting firms are not on cloud and use servers to store and access data. Such firms are struggling the most to access server data while working remotely in the present lockdown situation. I guess they can use VPN to securely access their server to access their files. We haven’t had this situation ever, but I guess if everyone is accessing the same server remotely, 2 factors are important, secured connection and server bandwidth. I recommend using a multi-factor authenticator like Microsoft, Google, Zoho or Duo. It is very critical.
I think the last 2 points, having latest hardware and genuine software are no brainers and do not need much of an explanation.
Last piece of advice, there are enough option available for each of the challenge we discussed above. Some are free, some are paid. Our choices have been dominated by ease of use and beautiful UI/UX. I think each accounting firm or practicing professional needs to understand their requirements and budget and choose what works with them the best.
I hope you will find this information useful. I would be happy to have your views/experiences on this.
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