Maximizing the Potential of Microsoft 365 For CPA Firms

#TechTipTuesday (1)

Microsoft 365 is full of hidden gems that CPAs can turn into a competitive differentiator.

As firms continue to leverage a mix of in-person and remote workforces in the wake of COVID-19, cloud technologies continue to be a critical solution for firms nationwide. Enter Microsoft 365 — a cloud-based software suite that will assist you in seamlessly transitioning many of your business operations needs to the cloud. Microsoft 365 will improve your firm’s productivity, communication, and collaboration capabilities and support your modern firm when used to its best advantage.

While the world of Microsoft 365 sounds great, it can also seem overwhelming with so many options and functionalities. The purpose of this article is to break down some of the features that are best suited for CPA firms. Which functions will best support your firm? Which functions will improve productivity and accountability? Which features will support the organization within your firm? We’re going to address these questions in this article.

If you are a CPA firm, these are the top 4 features of Microsoft 365 you should consider for your firm: 

  1. Teams
  2. Sharepoint
  3. Bookings
  4. Shared Mailboxes

Now, let’s talk about each of these and why they could improve the technology functionality at your CPA firm.

Teams

Teams is a messaging app for your organization that allows real-time collaboration and communication, online video conference meetings, file, and more. Rest assured, you can even use emojis. 

Advice to CPAs: Ditch Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and use Teams to meet your clients and staff. You can add a dial-in number for $6/month. Also, create Teams channels for key departments to encourage collaboration and cross-sharing of information.

SharePoint

Microsoft 365’s SharePoint is a centralized file and folder cloud-based repository that can replace most in-house file servers. OneDrive, which comes natively with Windows 10, can be connected to SharePoint sites similar to how you would map drives to a local file server. The significant difference is that you can securely access SharePoint from anywhere with an internet connection — even with just a web browser or a mobile phone.

Advice to CPAs: You start with 1 TB of SharePoint storage with Microsoft 365, and more is available at a reasonable price. Migrate your on-premise folder structures and make sure to set permissions to lock down your internal firm folders to crucial staff only. Know that you should not move over file-based multi-user databases, such as Quickbooks, as it can lead to corruption and loss of multi-user functionality. Keep Quickbooks on-premise, use Quickbooks Online, or use a Remote Desktop Server-based platform, such as RightNetworks. Also, if you’re going on-site to a client and want to carry an offline copy, you can sync folders to your offline laptop or other device  with one click seamlessly. Once you’re back online, the folder will automatically sync back to the cloud.

Bookings

If you are familiar with the software product Calendly, Bookings is the Microsoft self-scheduling calendar application that is included with your Microsoft 365 subscription. 

Bookings is an online and mobile app for businesses that rely on scheduled appointments to service their customers. It is perfect for client meeting scheduling and more. With Bookings, you can easily organize your weekly calendar and collaborate with other employees in the process.

Advice to CPAs:  Seriously consider automated scheduling for your client-facing staff members if you haven’t done so already. Save time and reduce friction with your clients by enabling them to self-schedule themselves to your calendar based on your real availability. 

Shared Mailboxes 

The shared mailbox function within Microsoft Office 365 is used when multiple people need access to the same email mailbox. An example of this need would be a company information or support email address, reception desk, or any other function with a mailbox that needs to be shared with multiple people.

How does it work? Users with permission to access the group mailbox can send as, or on behalf of, the shared mailbox email address if the administrator has permitted them to do so. This is particularly helpful if your firm has a “Support” function so that users can reply with help to online inquiries.

Advice to CPAs: Shared mailboxes are FREE. We recommend having a shared mailbox for website inquiries and every client-facing department. Also, if an employee leaves, ask your IT company to convert their email account to a shared mailbox to free up their license and keep their data for later reference.

How do I know if Microsoft 365 is right for my firm with it having so many features and functions? If I’m already using it, how do I know if we’re maximizing its potential? While we hope this article helps determine the latter question, we can definitively tell you this: Microsoft 365 will elevate your firm’s technology and security posture. Microsoft 365 uses multiple high-level encryption technologies, and your data is housed in highly secure data centers. From the start this is a massive boost in security for CPA firms that relied on on-premise servers. One caveat is: your firm must use the off by default, but free, multi-factor technology to ensure only authorized staff can access your data.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re one step ahead of your competitors. Regular and critical analysis of your technology solutions puts you at a competitive advantage. 

Questions about whether Microsoft Office 365 is suitable for your CPA firm? Questions about whether you’re using the best features and functions to support your firm’s productivity? PK Tech is here to help. We support small to medium-sized businesses in the Greater Phoenix Area and beyond. Our growing qualified IT support team provides a suite of managed IT services to clients across countless industries. Get in touch with us here.

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