We were recently asked for a quote from Dodd & Co (who are our accountants) as to what we felt were the benefits of cloud accounting and how this has assisted us in running our business and up until then we hadn’t really given that part of it much thought. Yes we knew it was quicker, and yes we knew we had automated a number of processes by doing it, but we hadn’t stopped and calculated the actual benefit.
For those who don’t know, we’ve utilised the cloud now for a number of years for different parts of our business but its only in the last couple of years we have fully embraced what the cloud has to offer, with our servers, email servers, accounts and job costing systems now fully cloud based. This has been helped by fibre internet connection to our studio in Carlisle, 4G cellular connections on iPhones and iPads and the availability of secure wifi access on many sites we visit. Most communication in our business is now electronic and we send on average perhaps four letters a week by post.
Our online server and email server allow us to work anywhere from any device and access the office information at anytime as long as we have an internet connection. All of our systems are also cross platform so work on Windows 10, macOS, iOS and android. Distribution of information is now very quick and large files can be shared online with others rather than emailed. Planning and Building Regulation submissions are also done online and we utilise electronic communication for tendering. BIM collaboration is also much easier.
Obviously security and data protection is a major concern and our cloud systems are fully encrypted and access is strongly managed and controlled.
What we hadn’t realised however was the actual benefits. When on site we can now work effectively without having to rush back to the office, with significant savings for clients in time and printing costs. We can monitor projects much more easily and prevent wasted time allowing for more time to be spent working on clients projects.
We now spend less than 2 hours per week managing the business accounts, work in progress and employee time records due to automation of different functions by the cloud platforms and the interaction between them all. Creating invoices in one system, automatically copies it to another. Bank statements from our internet banking get pulled across automatically into our accounts package for easy reconciliation. VAT Returns are calculated through the accounts system and submitted direct to HMRC when ready for submission. Data recognition allows expenses or purchase invoices to be scanned in or PDF copies to be emailed into the system and the data automatically entered into the correct fields for automatic import into the accounts package.
So, whats next? Its a question we always ask ourselves. There are lots of potential directions and we shall continue to review each and decide on which ones are best for us as a practice. Would we go back to the old ways. Absolutely not. Would we recommend the cloud for others. Absolutely. Don’t be afraid to embrace it – the advantages can be substantial.