Recent events have spurred the ‘world’s biggest work-from-home experiment’.
One company that has done this successfully is OA International Holdings. The Managing Director, Alan Chang, has divided his practice into two teams that alternate between working from the office and from home.
While this may seem like a drastic change in the way many companies work, OA International was already well-prepared to execute their business continuity plan. This is because the accounting practice has had a Work Life programme in place for some time, which included an option to work remotely on certain days.
Adopting technology tools such as Zoom, Xero and Zave also helped OA International to promptly roll out their business continuity plan during this period.
“We are in the 21st century and entering the digital economy. I have been an avid supporter of technology and have encouraged my staff to use as much technology as possible. Last year was a good year due to the introduction of government grants; we were able to digitalise all the work processes and have all departments adopt software or cloud-based technology,” says Chang.
The adoption of cloud-based tools also helped them continue working with their accounting clients during this critical period. Clients are able to give them access to their cloud storage solution, where they can share and collaborate on documents remotely and often in real-time.
If you’re adopting flexible and remote work during this critical period, below are some of the key tech tools that can empower your team.
DocuSign lets you and your clients sign contracts electronically, so important business deals aren’t delayed just because you don’t have access to a printer. DocuSign encrypts e-documents and e-signatures as well as creates a unique hash for these. This hash can be used to verify authenticity; it can indicate whether a document does not match the signed one that was originally uploaded.
Aside from e-signatures, DocuSign also offers contract lifecycle management, document integration, and contract negotiation. It’s also accessible by mobile.
Like DocuSign, SignEasy is a cloud-based solution for people to sign and fill out documents. It can be accessed from a computer or mobile device, and signatures made on the platform are also compliant with the ESIGN Act as well as the eIDAS and the European Directive (EC/1999/93).
Adobe Sign (formerly EchoSign) is yet another enterprise e-signing solution with similar features to SignEasy and DocuSign. Adobe Sign offers many integrations, allowing you to e-sign documents online, as well as track them.
Miro’s collaborative whiteboard platform facilitates brainstorming in remote teams. Your team can work asynchronously on zoomable canvases, adding visual elements to help with the ideation process, and creating information hubs to keep all project stakeholders updated.
To seamlessly fit into existing workflows, Miro can be integrated with tools like Dropbox, Slack, Google Suite, JIRA, and more.
Many companies use Google Drive to collaborate on and share files, especially larger ones that e-mail can’t handle. These range from word documents to spreadsheets and presentation slides.
Aside from the platform’s robust permissions settings (you can decide exactly who can access which files and the level of access), Google Drive also provides a myriad of collaboration methods on a project.
For example — say you require client’s feedback on an accounting report. Simply share a PDF through Google Drive. They can then highlight specific sections and leave comments anywhere on the document. Users can be tagged or assigned tasks through comments, and will be notified through email.
You can collaborate in real-time with multiple people, both within your practice and outside of it. Google Drive is free, but you can pay an additional fee for more cloud storage space.
Zoom is a popular HD video conferencing tool that can also be used to host webinars in place of in-person events or meetings.
The free Zoom plan lets you host meetings for up to 40 minutes. Not only can you host video calls — you can also share screens, whiteboard, control screens remotely, and enjoy HD video and audio. Their premium plan allows you to invite up to 100 participants and host meetings for up to 24 hours. This helps you keep important client meetings going even if you, your team, and/or client has implemented alternative work arrangements.
Slack is a communication tool that lets you create chat rooms (channels) organised by topic, send direct messages and documents, and make voice or video calls to anyone within your practice. Some of Slack’s best features are the ability to create bots and search any and all documents that have been shared on the platform.
Slack’s API allows users to create applications and automate processes based on certain triggers. It is highly compatible with many types of applications, frameworks, and services, such as Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Box, Zendesk, Zapier, and many more.
If you only need a basic communication platform, you may feel overwhelmed by how much Slack can do. If you’re looking for a simpler alternative, then check out the next option, Twist.
Effective communication is key to helping your practice staff collaborate better and respond quickly to client needs. But too much instant messaging can actually become overwhelming. Instead of focusing on their tasks, your staff may have to constantly monitor channels just to keep up with the latest information.
One alternative is Twist, which offers a calmer environment than other team communication tools on the market. Rather than instant messages, Twist offers longform discussion threads so that conversations stay focused. This messaging platform also enables you to set time off so that the app won’t send desktop, mobile, or email notifications. This allows you to fully concentrate on a task without disturbances. You can even select which threads you’d like to be notified about.
Dropbox was founded in 2007 as a file-sharing service, but it has since evolved to improve collaboration. For example, you can comment on files added by your clients’ Dropbox Paper enables your team and clients to work on documents together simultaneously. You can also assign tasks and to-do lists.
One convenient feature of Dropbox is the ability to share folders and files with your clients even if they do not have a Dropbox account. This means they can easily access and download folders and documents, without compromising on security.
Xero offers a cloud-based accounting software platform for small and medium-sized businesses. It is one of the most robust accounting platforms on the market. Xero HQ enables your accounting practice to manage multiple clients in one single platform. This means you can assign tasks to your practice staff, and collaborate with your clients in real-time.
Xero’s single unified ledger enables users to work together on the same set of books regardless of their location or device. Some of its features include automatic bank feeds, invoicing, purchase orders, and standard business and management reporting. It also supports multiple tax rates and currencies.
The true distinction of Xero lies in its app ecosystem of over 800+ business apps, ranging from payroll and HR systems to industry-specific software and tools. For example, Xero can be integrated with systems for inventory management, eCommerce, time-tracking, reporting, debtor tracking, and more. With this, a business can effectively establish a cloud-based operations platform that mimics a super-app and serves as a single source of truth for their business health.
Get creative with collaboration tools
Disasters can happen without warning. However, your practice cannot afford to simply halt operations until the crisis ends. The main priority is to keep operations running smoothly, minimise losses, and maintain client services and relationships.
Fortunately, it’s 2020 and we have plenty of digital tools at our disposal. There’s a cloud solution out there for every business function, allowing companies to continue working and collaborating during a crisis.