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New Beginnings still require Process Management

A few weeks ago on Twitter, I said I would be announcing some big news and well here it comes. After seeing my friend Kim Hogan’s blog View from My Shoes I made a decision to follow in her footsteps and join the team at XCM Solutions

I have been at Fuoco Group LLP for many years and for the past year working with Fuoco Technology providing clients with technology solutions and overseeing the accounting firm’s internal technology needs. For a good part of that time XCM Solutions has been a valued software partner of the firm. With their help, Fuoco Group has increased efficiencies in tax preparation work and defining workflows. While I will have very fond memories of my time at Fuoco Group and relationships that will last a life time, I am excited about the new adventure.

I have always been a proponent of XCM within the firm as well as to the public while speaking about paperless processes and workflow. I have been asked many times in the past 8 years if I work for them, well now I do.

XCM Solutions is the industry leader with their workflow solution. While it is an automated workflow product most commonly identified with the tax process, it can be used for all workflow processes in an accounting firm as well as other businesses that have defined repeatable processes. While making the transition, I have seen that there is a definite need for the ability to track processes. When any person leaves a company there are things that need to be addressed from HR to IT. Commonly the tasks involved are done by multiple people and there is a need to have everything documented in each process. This also occurs on the other side, commonly known as onboarding. You need to get an employee set up on the network, provide HR materials, handle getting them set up in office space and training. All of these tasks are part of a process that should be documented. I know that XCM can do that for you and am willing to help.

I look forward to this new and exciting part of my life and will continue to share my insights on technology for accounting firms as well as small businesses served by those firms.


Automated Workflow – What to look for

I recently wrote a post on what I believe drives business. That driver is workflow. As stated in that post there seems to be a lot of flavors of workflow and just as many definitions of what workflow is.

I saw evidence of this in a recent article written by my friend, Seth Fineberg from Accounting Today. The article was various case studies highlighting workflow products used by accounting firms across the country. Click here to read that article.

With a lot of uncertainty as to what workflow is and the need for businesses to adopt automated workflow, I wrote a white paper as a Buyer’s Guide to automated workflow selection. Please click the link to download the white paper and feel free to comment and provide other suggestions. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!


What drives your business?

What drives your business? Is it revenue, employees, customers or is it your vision & passion? While all of these have merit and could be your answer, my answer is workflow. I say workflow because no matter what business you may endeavor to be in, there is a flow to your work. Whether you are a manufacturer, a retailer or a professional services firm there are processes to get your work done.

The best and most successful businesses have definable and repeatable processes. What makes McDonald’s a worldwide success? No matter what McDonald’s you go into in the world, you are getting the same meal. They have processes for frying French fries, making burgers, opening & closing the restaurant and even down to how the lights get turned on. A company like Disney has processes to control the users experience in their theme parks. As a parent that has been to Disney World numerous times, it is always amazing how you have to pass through the themed stores as you exit a ride.

These two entities defined their processes and make them repeatable for their employees which have lead to success. All of these processes are part of the workflow.

Over the past few years I have seen the term workflow thrown out as one of the new buzzwords. Similar to other buzzwords like cloud computing, there are many different flavors of workflow. Many software designers claim their products contain workflow. Many do, but that is within the task they are designed for. A lot of them also claim that the workflow is automated. I have heard from many colleagues that this automation is supposed to assist with recurring tasks (remember definable & repeatable) but that many software makers have trouble with this. I would consider this to be the one thing that any workflow should have!

Workflow being the driving force behind successful businesses has lead me to consider what should be in a good automated workflow solution. Being an accountant, checklists are common in a lot of what I do. I have written a white paper (in conjunction with AICPA’s CPA2Biz) that contains checklists that one should consider when searching for an automated workflow solution. Please check back here as it will be released soon!


Disaster recovery – can you plan for everything?

Seems the only time I spend writing is during natural disasters. As the Eastern seaboard, especially those in south Jersey were hit with Hurricane Sandy, I was reminded by a friend in Florida that said the worst part of a hurricane is the aftermath. The flooding, loss of electricity and shortage of food & gasoline can push people to the limit.

I also got to thinking about disaster recovery for business. A couple of the businesses I am involved with Fuoco Group LLP and FuocoTech have pretty good disaster recovery plans in place. We have all of the standard procedures down and have a plan in place, but will the plan always work? Can you plan for everything? If you have backups of data, are they offsite? Will you need electricity to be able to run the devices to get the data loaded? Will personnel be able to get to your locations to be able to upload backups to any offsite servers?

These are many questions that one would need to answer and are only the tip of the iceberg. A few years ago I prepared a presentation (Find it on SlideShare Here) on disaster recovery that I thought was pretty comprehensive but as the past few years and the unforeseen circumstances around natural disasters have shown me, we cannot always plan on EVERYTHING!


No “I” in Team

You have probably heard the phrase “There is no ‘I’ in Team” but there IS in Irene. I was thinking of this phrase as my 9 year old daughter, Jayne, was asking me about the impending hurricane to the NYC area and the Eye of a hurricane. She wanted to know what the eye was and what would happen if the eye came close to our house. As I tried to explain that the eye of a hurricane is actually a very peaceful and calm center of one of Mother Nature’s most powerful forces, it reminded me of how calmness is needed in the midst of emergencies and disasters.

Back in December, I had a post about a snow storm in the area and how my accounting firm used technology to not only keep our employees apprised of any office closing but also how our infrastructure would allow them to also work remotely. Hurricane Irene presents another chapter in how we plan for disaster and the calmness one is able to attain or not depending on your disaster recovery plans.

One of the first and vital things needed in a disaster recovery plan is the need to have your data backed up. There are many ways to back up data from tape, to hard disc imaging and online back ups. Depending on the amount of data one has, the budget you are willing to put forth and the team’s willingness to trust others with ones data will help determine how you will back up your data. There are many entities out there that provide online back ups, but one I would recommend located in the NYC area is BUMI formerly known as BackUp My Info. They provide automated back up for small to medium sized businesses to their servers located in secure data centers. Data centers that are designed to withstand Mother Nature and have back up generators providing power.

One might ask ‘That is great I have my back up data but what happens if the servers I have my original data on are destroyed in a disaster?’ Well, you’re screwed in the short term unless you have planned. If your company is large enough, you may have the ability to have on loan backup servers or be able to purchase servers in an expedited manner. Chances are that is not the case and you will be down for multiple days while servers are obtained, software installed and data restored.

However, all of this is more of the traditional way of disaster recovery. Many companies have decided to take a more proactive approach to disaster recovery by utilizing the cloud. Backing up data to the cloud is great, but you still need to restore it. Utilizing SaaS, Software as a Service, is another way that more and more companies are finding as the best method not only for disaster recovery, but in running smooth, efficient, scalable businesses. By using software that resides in the cloud, businesses take the need to back up data, have equipment standing by for the ready and the worry out of the equation. One simply needs power and internet access to continue running their business. Cloud computing is what you hear everywhere and when you have companies like Apple introducing iCloud this fall you know cloud computing is here for the masses. The AICPA’s entity CPA2Biz has made a large push for CPA’s to utilize cloud based products with such products as XCM Solutions, Bill.com, Intacct and Copanion to name a few.

There may not be an I in team, but your team needs to keep an eye on disaster recovery and cloud solutions to stay one step ahead.

Tell me how you plan for disaster recovery and if you have no plan ask me how to design your plan as there is no “one size fits all”


New website for Accounting Profession

I recently found a website that I felt compelled to share with you. I had started hearing about it through my various social media outlets, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I have to admit at first I did not give it much thought as I initially heard it was a LinkedIn type of site for the accounting profession and between keeping up with my accounting friends through social media and the organizations I belong to, I thought why one more?

Well, iShade is much more than just a site for finding friends. Located at iShade.com, this site has many useful tools. The free site asks you to join and you provide personal & professional information for people to know more about you. Set up similar to a LinkedIn group page, you can post questions and comments on various subjects and find answers from your peers.

The “Dashboard” provides you new alerts and news, has a calendar of upcoming events and even the daily Dilbert comic. The site also has a section for continuing education. Still in it’s early stages there is a calendar of educational seminars that can be found by city. With most classes being offered in St. Louis currently, I was told they will be nationwide very soon.

I highly recommend that you join, search the site and find all the resources available (my personal favorite is the list of bloggers – yours truly included) and start sharing and finding answers.

Joe Manzelli

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