Read the full article at Accounting Today here.
Accounting firms are finding that one of the biggest new value-adds they can offer clients is big data. The variety of tools they can employ to give clients insight into their business health and performance is becoming as expansive as the data they produce.
We talked to three firms about the business intelligence solutions they are using to offer clients help with everything from bank loans to sales performance.
INSIGHTS AS INCENTIVE
Firm: Willis & Jurasek PC
No. of clients served: 15
Commencement date: December 2015
On record: Tom Jurasek, CPA staffer in CFO/controller services
Process: After discovering interactive data dashboard iDashboards at a June conference, Jurasek brought the solution to his firm, where they did the first proof of concept in September with a client, and made it more widely available in December.
That beta client was “tech-savvy, with a great database,” Jurasek explained, making them an ideal tester of iDashboards’ capabilities. The client is also in the manufacturing space, making them a helpful vanguard for the many other clients in that industry that Willis & Jurasek serve in southern Michigan.
As the firm adds more iDashboards users, the set-up becomes more streamlined. “The onboarding for new clients of ours is quicker and quicker, due to prior knowledge, and you can scale the more you do,” Jurasek noted.
Advantages: In January, Willis & Jurasek’s beta client started displaying iDashboards on television screens above the office bullpen where the company’s four salespeople sit. Every 30 seconds, the TVs cycle through five different dashboards displaying metrics like intake and sales, meant to motivate the sales team to improve their performance.
The biggest advantage of iDashboards is real-time information available anytime anywhere, according to Jurasek: “Everyone needs information, but they don’t need to be stuck behind a computer—it’s customizable.”
Challenges: The only downside to all that access are security concerns, with information technology departments reluctant to make iDashboards immediately available across all devices company-wide.
The firm’s beta client, for example, only has access to the solution on-site, but plans to get buy-in from their IT department within the next month. And while “the security risk is less than clicking on a [potential] virus in an e-mail,” Jurasek understands the caution.
Next steps: Once Willis & Jurasek’s beta client does have permission for mobile access, Jurasek anticipates iDashboards’ benefits will only grow.
The firm will continue bringing more clients on iDashboards, especially after tax season when they can “open the floodgates.” Jurasek expects their biggest referral source to be from clients’ peers. The firm will also be introducing the solution into new verticals beyond manufacturing, including professional services and retail.
*While it is understandable that IT departments have concerns about granting access to dashboards across all devices, they should feel confident doing so since iDashboards is as secure as the administrator configures it to be. iDashboards incorporates a named user model requiring a valid username/password to log in to the software. Users are also put into security groups that allow access to only the dashboards to which they have been granted access. Four different user roles can also be assigned to further restrict access to dashboards and administrator functionality. iDashboards is a web-based application and recommends using SSL to encrypt all data between the server and client. In addition, numerous administrative options can be configured to lock down access and functionality as required. For example, preventing users from exporting data from dashboards, preventing users from auto logging in, and setting session timeouts.