The era of the Interconnected Practice has arrived. Accounting firms are divided into specialised functions: accounting, tax, auditing, and secretarial and the isolation of those functions often results in separate silos of customer information within the firm's systems.
Much of the information these firms hold, however, originates from similar work for the same client, sometimes performed by the same personnel. Therefore, each function will maintain its own client database and files bloated with duplicate or unsynchronised data, creating disconnected views of the truth.
Technology has done much to bridge the divide. Systems integration has evolved to the point where seamless communication can exist between both internal and external systems.
Work in progress
However, a consolidated client database is for many firms still a work in progress, and information is not always shared across functions, especially in a seamless, cross-referenced manner. Consequently, management still doesn't have a single source of truth, even though that could result in greater efficiencies and lower costs to the practice and its customers.
Similarly, external stakeholders and clients - the ultimate benefactors of the information - remain alienated, stranded outside the walls of the practice. They receive feedback about the data but don't have direct access to it. From a business perspective, this makes little sense.
This is the social age, where information is shared freely and immediately. The technologies exist to transmit live data to any location in the world. Why should a firm's clients settle for less?
An elegant response
Interconnection is an elegant response to the problem. It embraces both internal systems integration, and the ideal that those outside the practice - even remotely located staff - need ready (but secure) access to shared, dynamic information.
Collected from various sources, data can be centralised and cross-referenced between functions, forming a single information asset. It serves the practice efficiently, informs clients effectively, and is communicable to stakeholders nominated to use it. (Stakeholders include tax authorities, government agencies, banks, shareholders, and other third parties.)
Most importantly, interconnection means that information always flows back into the practice. Certain transactions, such as eFiling or banking, are currently initiated outside the firm's system and have to be manually reconciled. In the interconnected practice, they relay back and forth through the system, forming a complete loop and providing greater clarity.
The Interconnected Practice is revolutionary in accounting, and is already gaining a foothold. In the future, clients will see it as the basis for engaging accounting and auditing firms."
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