Accounting Today hosted a seminar titled “4 Ways to Protect Your Firm this Tax Season” on December 8, 2015. The event was sponsored by Wolters Kluwer. In the seminar, moderator Roger Russell and presenters Sandra Wiley (COO & Shareholder at Boomer Consulting, Inc.), Damon Russel (Wolters Kluwer), and L. Quinn Hart (CPA) discuss different ways to protect your firm this tax season.
Your Firm’s Greatest Assets
External resources and internal expertise are your greatest assets because knowledge is power. It’s important to understand how you can use the knowledge you have to better serve your customers. All firms can do tax returns, audits, and bookkeeping. But one of the ways to differentiate your firm is to manage the knowledge your employees have about your customers.
That why it’s important to organize your information and make it easily accessible for your users. Making knowledge easily accessible is easy when you use a document management system like eFileCabinet. Users can quickly find what they’re looking for, even when they’re not on a computer at the office.
Lean Processes and Procedures
Sandra Wiley stated the fact that manual data entry is still used far throughout the profession. Unfortunately, the manual process is error-ridden, which is why firms are increasingly moving their operations to the Cloud. In a survey, almost 80% of firms believe that they are very standardized in their processes. However, in reality, individuals may follow certain processes, but the firm as a whole doesn’t.
The good thing is that processes and procedures can be improved. But in order to do that, your firm first needs to evaluate what these processes look like today.
Improving Processes via Technology Integration
It’s a good idea to look at your firm’s processes at least once a year. During such a review, your firm may decide to integrate your technology instead of using a one-off solution. It may be more work to integrate different technology solutions, but it’s usually more effective than trying to work with a one-size-fits-all option. The upside is that updating your processes can improve your workflows, productivity, growth, and profitability.
Keeping Client Data Safe in the Digital World
The biggest challenge your firm faces is the necessity to keep your client data safe in the digital world. Here are a few things for your firm to think about:
- Data backup
- Mobile backup
- Education of your staff
- Ability to wipe a device if it’s lost
- Using a client portal
- Not sending sensitive information via email
Client Data Security–Challenges and Opportunities
While there are external threats like in the case of the data breaches at Home Depot and Target, you also need to be concerned about internal threats. For example, disgruntled employees could potentially steal information. It’s also possible for clients not to properly log out when they’re accessing information from a mobile device, which may leave their data at risk.
The best thing your organization can do is to use a program that allows you to restrict access for your employees. Additionally, it’s important to be able to audit what’s going on inside of your documents. Your program should also properly protect your client’s logins.
Finally, your organization should have policies on how to deal with data security when working on and completing tax returns for your clients. It’s not enough to know how to prepare a tax return, but it’s important to keep the client’s information safe at the same time.
Top 5 Security Concerns
Security should be a big concern at your firm. In order to keep client information safe, you should follow these security tips:
- Don’t send sensitive information via email
- Require employees and clients to use strong passwords
- Be prepared to deactivate staff access
- Be aware of where your data is stored
- Limit access to only necessary information
While it’s important to take security seriously, it’s not a good idea to try to fix everything at once. After you have reviewed and assessed your processes, you should pick one or two things that your firm should work on first. It’s also a good idea to have someone at your firm who is responsible for security. That person should be involved in updating current processes and procedures.
The Takeaway for Your Firm
You may think that you’re taking security seriously, but you may not see the whole picture. Therefore, it’s a good idea to hire experts to perform a security audit for you because they know what they’re looking for.
Your firm has to protect the knowledge it has accumulated. Not properly protecting the knowledge is putting your clients at risk.
Finally, your company has to designate resources to properly educating your employees about security. Security should be an ongoing priority. This is especially important because employees are bringing their own devices to work.