"A story of how my friend George helped grow his accountancy firm by moving to the cloud"
Last summer, when the end of the tax year was around the corner and towers of tax return files were piling up, my friend George was staring at the sky from the window of his small office.
Normally, at this time of the year, accounts personnel don’t have the luxury or freedom to just look out the window for a few minutes. However, George wasn’t killing time; he was extremely overloaded and was short of resources to get the work done.
The only way he would meet the defined deadline was by hiring more employees, but George couldn’t afford more staff on a permanent basis. He would have to make more room for more machines, license OS and software, and the legalities. He knew that this option would just add to his workload.
Staring at the clouds, a thought passed his mind. “How great would it be to grow my business in the cloud?” Now the cloud he was imagining and the ones he was seeing were two different things. He was actually thinking about cloud computing technology, consisting of a collection of software, hardware, databases, and all the resources George needed at this critical hour. Could this be the answer to all his problems?
Cloud computing was exactly what George was looking for. He hired some work-from-home staff for a predefined period of three months and signed up for cloud-based productivity and collaboration services to connect everyone. Leveraging the strength of technology and manpower, George overcame the massive task assigned to him with precision and in time.
The productivity suite that that George subscribed to was Microsoft Office 365 with SharePoint, Skype for Business, and Intune.
Let’s take a look at how these tools benefited George’s accounting firm.
Microsoft Office 365 Business and its Integration with Cloud tools:
Working without Microsoft Office is an impossible scenario nowadays. George subscribed to the business premium version of Office 365. Along with the regular productivity applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and Publisher, Office 365 Business is integrated with the ‘cloud’. The key features of cloud–computing tools integrated with Office 365 are:
Email (Exchange Online): Emails are an integral part of any organisation, and was an important requirement for George. The Exchange Online platform from Microsoft secures exchange of emails through the cloud. It prevents loss of vital information by securing data transfers and prevents unauthorised access to it. Mailboxes are further secured with anti-malware and anti-spam filters.
File management and Storage (MS SharePoint Online): Staff that were hired for three months were not centrally placed. Hence, a platform for sharing their work (internally within the organisation and externally with clients) was required. MS SharePoint Online fulfilled the requirement. The latest version of SharePoint provides a robust online platform for data sharing. It organises documentation, file details and timelines safely. Users (clients and staff) are allowed restricted access for the security of the data.
Messaging, Voice, and Video Communications (Skype for Business): George’s new employees were geographically dispersed, so secure, real-time communication through voice or video was essential. Skype for business (formerly Lync Online) was a lifesaver. Scheduling meetings with multiple users was easy and they could join a conference call with their PCs or phones.
Other than these cloud technologies, Office 365 also offers the following features:
• Compatibility with Android and Windows Mobile devices
• Safe and secure cloud storage of 1TB that help reduce data loss risks
George’s accounting data was mobile. It was shared, consolidated, and processed through various users. Data security, in such cases, is of paramount importance. So Intune worked well for him. Intune, another Cloud-computing tool from Microsoft, manages this mobility and security of George's data. The key features of Intune are Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Management.
Mobile Device Management (MDM): With many users accessing the same platform, a stout and secure data management device is required. Using Intune, users can enrol their own devices and applications. Data is protected through defined policies and accessibility rights, making it secure.
Mobile Application Management (MAM): This important feature made Intune famous amongst George's employees. Employees demand access to corporate applications, data, and resources. Intune manages the data security of Office mobile applications. Alongside that, it allows viewing of PDF documents, images, and videos as well.
Management of huge databases was another important task for George. This is where Business Intelligence (BI) came into the picture. While Office 365 Business provides 1TB data storage, and Microsoft Intune manages the security and accessibility of the stored data, BI tools are required to generate actionable intelligence from that data.
Business Intelligence helps organisations in the following ways:
- Tax processing data includes past records. BI simplifies the process of data management, by collecting data from old and new records. Using the tool, users can create analysis reports as and when required.
- The in-depth analysis of data accelerates the decision-making process for clients.
- Applications are simplified to be handled by anyone.
- Concepts like data mining, text mining, statistical analysis, and predictive analysis help users provide better results.
On applying the perfect tools for his accounting firm, George managed the human and technical resources optimally.
The greatest strength of hiring cloud resources is the flexibility. On completion of the task, George simply unsubscribed to the extra services. He released all the temporarily hired resources after three months.
The subscription with the ‘cloud’ ended with a positive note of maintaining an association for upcoming projects.
Benchmark Decision for an IT Leader
George’s story resembles those of many IT leaders or business owners who deal with enormous amounts of data and lack permanent resources. Cloud-computing solutions are designed to support systems in similar scenarios.
An array of technical support, coupled with flexibility and accuracy are the key strengths of cloud computing infrastructure. Office 365 Business is reinforced with SharePoint, Exchange Online, and Skype for Business to ensure a secure collaborative platform for all users.
Every leader aims for the sky. Overcoming hurdles smoothly is the key to fulfilling those aims. George followed suit and proved his superior skills. This step proved to be a benchmark for his career and lead to a path of growth.
Have you started exploring Office 365 yet? Do you have a similar case study you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!