Top 10 Technology Tips for Accountants

Here are tips to make your accounting life more productive

Are you looking for technology tips for accountants? Here are ten tips that will make you more productive.

Technology tips for accountants

Ten Technology Tips for Accountants

Here are my top ten technology tips in no certain order (with links to prior blog posts).

  1. Use Skitch to create annotated screenshots.
  2. Use Office 365 to jointly create Word or Excel documents with others.
  3. Use Basecamp to manage projects (such as audits).
  4. Use Scanbot as your phone scanner.
  5. Use a Livescribe pen to take notes with audio.
  6. Use Evernote as your personal digital library.
  7. Travel light as a minimalist auditor.
  8. Use your cell phone in creative ways as an accountant.
  9. Use technology to save your life.
  10. Use technology to make your office work life more efficient.

Those are my ideas. What are yours?

Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account

Evernote accounts can have thousands of notes, but then how to you find particular information?

Are you looking for tips on searching your Evernote account?

Today I was working on a fair value note disclosure and needed to find information about the reconciliation required for level 3 changes. I knew I had, several weeks ago, fed my Evernote account with an example fair value disclosure. So I typed “fair value” “level 3” in my Evernote search box. Presto, there it was, and it took me about ten seconds.

Once you add hundreds and, yes, thousands of notes to your Evernote account, you need to know how to find the needle in the haystack.

Searching your Evernote account

Searching Your Evernote Account

Back in the 60s, when I was a mere child, I could call the operator if I needed help locating someone. While you can’t call Evernote operators, they are just as helpful in finding, not people, but information.

Operators

You can use operators in an Evernote search box to locate particular information. Some of the more commonly used operators are:

1. And
2. Any
3. Tag
4. Notebook
5. Intitle
6. Created

And – Normally you will not type the word “and” as an operator; it’s implied. So if you type: comprehensive income in the search box, Evernote will locate all notes with the words comprehensive and income. If you want to see all notes with the phrase “comprehensive income,” then type: “comprehensive income”–using quotation marks.

Any – Typing the words “any: compilation review” will provide all notes with either the word “compilation” or the word “review.” If a note has the word “compilation” (and not “review”), then it will appear in your search list. If a note has the word “review” (and not “compilation”), then it will also appear in the list.

Tag – By typing “tag:Bank” into the search box, you’re telling Evernote that you want to see all notes tagged “Bank.” (You can tag each note regardless of which notebook it is in; for example, you might have four different notes in four different notebooks, but each tagged “Bank.”)

Notebook – Let’s say you have a notebook titled: Auditing (along with 70 other notebooks). You can type: “notebook:Auditing” in the search box and Evernote will locate your auditing notebook.

Intitle – Typing “intitle:derivative” will yield all notes with the word “derivative” in the title. So if you have one note titled “Mitigating Risk with Derivatives” and another note titled “Derivative Disclosures,” both notes will appear in your search list.

Created – “created:day-1” will provide you with a list of all notes created yesterday and today. You can substitute “day” with “week,” “month,” or “year”. If you want to see all the notes created in the last two weeks, issue a search with “created:week-1.”

Combining Operators

Searching becomes even more powerful when you combine operators.

For example, typing:

Intitle:derivative swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with all notes that have the word “derivative” in the title and the words (1) “swap” and (2) “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Another example, typing:

Notebook:Accounting any:swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with a list of all notes from your accounting notebook that have either the word “swap” or the words “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Finally, typing:

Notebook:Bank tag:Deposits FDIC “Due to Due from”

will provide you with notes from your Bank notebook that have a “Deposits” tag and that contain the words FDIC and “Due to Due from” as a phrase.

Give It a Try

Go ahead, try some of these tips with your Evernote account. You’ll soon be sifting through your notes with ease.

Evernote offers a free version, so if you haven’t tried it, give it a test drive.

You’ll find more information about Evernote in the following posts:

Are You Using Slack for CPA Project Communications?

Slack replaces email as a way to isolate project communications

Do you ever find yourself digging through hundreds of emails to find one message? You know it’s there somewhere, but you can’t put your electronic finger on it. Use Slack to communicate by project–that way, you’ll have all messages (by project, e.g., individual audit engagement) in one place.

Using Slack to Isolate Project Communications

Picture from AdobeSotck.com

What is Slack?

Slack is software designed to allow project teams–e.g., audit team–to send and store messages. Why use Slack rather than traditional email? Messages are stored by channel (by project), making it much easier to see project conversations.

The Slack website says the following:

Most conversations in Slack are organized into public channels which anyone on your team can join. You can also send messages privately, but the true power of Slack comes from having conversations everyone on the team can see. This transparency means it’s quick to find out what’s going on all across the team, and when someone new joins, all the information they need is laid out, ready for them to read up on.

How CPAs Use Slack

How can you as a CPA or auditor use Slack?

Create a channel for each project, and ask all team members to communicate using Slack (rather than email).

In CPA firms, some activities are year-round such as quality control reviews (we perform several hundred a year). Other activities are a true project, such as an audit engagement. Either way, you can use a separate (Slack) channel to communicate and store all related messages.

Using Slack for Quality Control Reviews — An Example

Below you see an example of how Heather, my associate, and I use Slack to communicate about file reviews in our quality control department. By doing so, we can see who is doing what and when. Also, all of the messages are searchable by channel. So, suppose I’m wondering when we reviewed the ABC Bank engagement. I can search the CPR (cold partner review) channel to see who performed the review and when. Notice, in this channel, Heather and I are posting status comments. We do so for the following reasons:

  • To create a history of each review
  • To notify each other that the review has commenced (Slack automatically sends a notification message to those included in a channel)

To select our quality control channel, I click the CPR channel on the left (where all the channels appear). Once I click CPR, I see the most recent messages for this channel.

 

Slack

Made with Stitcher

Audits – Another Example

Think about a typical audit. You have three to five team members, with some individuals coming and going. To maintain continuity, you need a message board that allows all audit team members to see what is going on. That’s what Slack does when you create a channel for a particular audit. Think of it as a message board in the cloud since the designated personnel can see the audit communications with their PC, iPad, or cell phone.

Other Advantages of Slack

Advantages of Slack include the following:

  • Accessibility from all devices, including cell phones and tablets
  • Shareability of documents such as PDFs and spreadsheets
  • Integration with other apps such as Trello and Google Calendar
  • Configurable notifications of messages to team members
  • Private messaging (when needed)
  • Basic plan is free

Give It a Try

The best way to see how Slack works is to try it yourself. You don’t need any training since it’s easy to use. To see more information about Slack, click here.

Eight Ways to Increase Your Efficiency and Productivity as a CPA

Responses to my poll shows that CPAs are more interested in efficiency than making more money

How can you increase your efficiency as a CPA?

Suppose you have a magic wand that allows you to change one thing in your CPA firm. What will it be? The poll response is “Get work done more efficiently.” This response is almost twice as high as “Make more money.”

So how can you be more efficient?

 

Ways to Increase Your Efficiency as a CPA

Here are eight ways to be more efficient:

  1. Hire great employees
  2. Stay on one job and finish it
  3. Work on one project at a time
  4. Take breaks
  5. Close your door
  6. Take CPE before you need it
  7. Maintain a robust research library
  8. Buy top-quality computers, monitors, and scanners

1. Hire Great Employees

Have you noticed that great employees overcome problems, even the thorniest ones? They don’t make excuses. They simply get work done. And these gems get work done in less time. Hiring the right people is your most significant action.

2. Stay on One Job

Starting and stopping. Starting and Stopping. Starting and Stopping. A sure recipe for inefficiency. Plan your employees’ work so that they can stay on one job until complete. Momentum is everything. Reward employees when they meet deadlines (and tell them ahead of time that the “thank you” is coming).

3. Work on One Project at a Time

Too often we try to multitask, but the research shows that we can only perform one action at a time. Clear everything from your desk but the immediate task. Then focus on that one thing. Turn off social media and the phone. Answer emails in batches at predetermined times during the day, but no more than four times a day.

4. Take Breaks

Taking breaks increases your efficiency. This is counterintuitive but true.

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Picture from AdobeStock.com

The human brain is not designed to work endlessly without diversion. Use the Pomodoro technique or some other method, but take periodic short breaks–at least one an hour. If you are a partner, tell your team members that you desire for them to take breaks. Your employees will follow your example.

5. Close Your Door

What does an open door communicate? “Come on in.” What does a cracked door communicate? “You may come in but knock.” What does a closed door communicate? “Please do not come in.” An open door is an invitation to interruptions. 

If you are someone that employees need to visit often, then establish an open door policy for specific times of the day.

6. Take CPE Before You Need It

When you know you will need certain knowledge in the future, take a CPE class so you have the answers before they are needed. You’ve got to take CPE anyway, so why not take classes that provide timely information.

7. Maintain a Robust Research Library

Finding answers quickly is a key to efficiency–and we all have questions. Spend the money to have online access to research material in the areas that you practice. I know this is more difficult for small firms, but without sound answers, we are walking in the dark.

Also, archive your research in the cloud. Doing so will, over time, enable you to build a powerful library of questions and answers. For four years, I have stored my research in Evernote. So when I encounter issues, I often remember that I previously researched the issue. And I know the answer is in my Evernote library.

Joining the Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA) has been helpful to my firm. The CPEA provides timely summaries of new standards, enabling me to digest the constant flood of new standards.

8. Buy Top-Quality Computers, Monitors, and Scanners

How much time do you spend waiting on your computer to respond to your most recent request? Those seconds–and sometimes minutes–are wasted time. Buy computers with as much speed as you can afford. This is not a place to be penny foolish.

Multiple monitors will make you more efficient. (I use four.) Larger monitors will make you even more efficient.

Keep a scanner next to your desk. I use my Scansnap scanner several times a day. Scanning enables me to keep my desk and office more orderly. Also, scanning into a PDF can make the documents searchable if you use optical character recognition (OCR). Once searchable, then just type control f for find and then type in the words you are looking for.

Other Ideas

What about you? What do you do to increase efficiency?

Check out my previous efficiency post.

Getting More Done with My Favorite Accountant’s Device

One tool gives more bang for the buck

Accountants use all types of electronic devices and software: Caseware, Excel, scanners, Powerpoint, Adobe Acrobat, monitors, QuickBooks, iPhones—just to name a few. For me, my iPad tops them all.

Accountant's iPad

I purchased my first iPad about five years ago for about $500.  Then, three years ago I bought my second one. Now, having spent hundreds of hours on iPads, I am smitten. 

You may be thinking, “Charles, you’re a CPA. How do you and why do you spend that much time on an iPad? Don’t you primarily use a work computer?” Yes, my work computer is my primary tool. But in terms of enjoyment, my iPad wins hands down. It is in the evenings that I spend most of my time on my iPad.

Ways I Use My iPad

“How do you use it?” you say. Here are few ways:

  • Create presentations using Keynote
  • Store and retrieve files using Evernote and Dropbox
  • Read the Wall Street Journal
  • Read the Bible 
  • Read my Amazon Kindle books
  • Listen to books with my Audible app
  • Listen to music on Pandora
  • Write blog posts using Scrivener
  • Perform research using Checkpoint 
  • Compute numbers using Digits
  • Store and retrieve passwords using 1Password
  • Check the weather using The Weather Channel app
  • Check my email using Outlook
  • Maintain my to-do list using Todoist
  • Check my Facebook account (including my CPA Scribo Facebook group—you can join)
  • Send and receive text messages using Messages
  • Send and receive sensitive information using Sharefile
  • Maintain a personal journal using Day One
  • Doodle using Paper
  • Watch college football using Sling
  • Create mind maps using iThoughts
  • Create outlines using OmniOutliner
  • Control my home thermostat using Nest
  • Check my bank account
  • Learn new skills using Learning from Linkedin
  • Scan information using Scanbot
  • See where my wife is using Find Friends
  • See how many new blog subscribers I have using GetResponse
  • Check my calendar using Fantastical
  • Watch Netflix movies (I use an Apple TV device when my wife watches with me)

Convenience and Portability

Mostly, I use my iPad at home, while seated on my couch. I get a great deal done while reclining upon my sofa (as I am now). The portability of the device is its primary benefit. It’s large enough to easily read from and small enough that it’s not too heavy.  

Your Favorite Device

So what’s your favorite tool and how do you use it?

How Accountants Can Save Time with Online Meetings

My first online meeting sold me

Are you tired of driving hours to see clients? Do you find it awkward to share information from your laptop? Or maybe you drive two hours to meet with a customer and–after arriving–realize you need additional information (but it’s back at your office). Online meetings solve these problems.

Accountant's Online Meetings

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Pick an Online Meeting Solution

First, you need to choose a video conferencing solution. Some popular alternatives include:

Here is a PC Magazine article that compares many of these products. All of the video conferencing packages offer free versions for testing. After using four different online meeting products, I found they provide similar abilities–the sharing of my computer screen and audio features.

What video conferencing software do I use? Zoom. It is easy to use and reliable. Here’s a summary of plan options, and yes, the free version works well.

The point of this article is not to sell you on a particular online meeting product, but to sell you on the concept. I have spent years of my life (at least it feels that way) driving to and from client’s offices. So when I heard about online meetings, I gave it a try.

My First Online Meeting

My first online meeting sold me. A few years ago I was assisting an attorney with a forensic project. My final report was several hundred pages long. The supporting files (not included in the report) were also voluminous. Rather than making a 4.5-hour trip, I did the following:

  • Opened the draft report on my center computer screen
  • Opened supporting documents on my two side computer screens
  • Shared my screen center computer screen using my online meeting software—the attorney, once he clicked the link in the next bullet, could see the information
  • Sent the attorney an email (with a hyperlink) to join the meeting—my online software automatically creates the email (which can be amended)
  • Called the attorney with my cell phone and went hands-free so I could use my mouse (you can use audio in your online software, I just prefer using my phone)
  • When the attorney answered my call, I told him I had sent him an invitation email, and I walked him through connecting (which took less than two minutes)
  • We reviewed the draft report from my center computer screen
  • When needed, I moved supporting documents from my two side screens to the center display (and then moved them off as needed)—think of this as moving information on and off stage

The meeting lasted one hour. Once done, the attorney said to me, “This is one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended.” 

Saving Four Hours

So rather than taking 5.5 hours (4.5 hours of driving and the 1-hour session), the meeting took 1.5 hours (including setup time). I saved four hours—and I didn’t even have to sit in the attorney’s lobby and wait for him. Also, I didn’t have to stop and refuel my vehicle, and I didn’t have to file an expense report.

Online Conferencing in My Office

Since that first online meeting, I realized that it’s more efficient for me to do the same with my firm personnel. So am I saying I have online meetings with people in my office? Yes. Why? It takes less time—and again, I have access to any file I need. Additionally, we are not crowded around one small computer screen, trying to see everything. (Note: We have 120 people located on three floors.)

Other Thoughts

Though I don’t often do so, you can backup your online meetings. Then if you need to refer back to the session, you can watch the video.

Some people don’t want to be seen. Perhaps they are working from home and are still in their pajamas. If they have their camera on, you will see them, and they will see you. So be mindful of this dynamic. (You can turn your camera off, and they can as well.)

For a more professional look, consider buying a video camera. I use a Logitech device. Why? Laptop cameras (those built into your computer) often project grainy pictures.

Stay Tuned for Video Example

I’ll soon share a video of how I set up and conduct online meetings. So stay tuned.

Do you already use online meeting software? If yes, what solution do you use? What video conferencing suggestions do you offer?

An Auditor’s Cell Phone

How I use my cell phone as an auditor

A cell phone is an auditor’s Swiss knife. And with all the options, I am constantly looking for another way to use mine. So I’m sharing my ideas with the hope that you will likewise share yours. While I use an iPhone, I realize there are plenty of other nifty cell phones; my comments below are directed not at a particular phone but how I use mine as an auditor.

Below you will see a screenshot of my cell phone home screen and then information concerning how I use various apps.

Auditor's Cell Phone

An Auditor’s Cell Phone

 

Camera

I use this iPhone app to capture pictures of documents as I perform internal control walkthroughs. I embed these pictures in my walkthrough documentation. A picture says a thousand words. If the person explaining the accounting system creates pictures on a whiteboard, I take pictures of the drawings.

Sometimes I need a copy of a page from a hardback book (e.g., research); rather than using the copy machine, I take a picture of the page and email it.

Keynote

Keynote is Apple’s version of Powerpoint. I build the Keynote slide deck for presentations and use my phone to present. If you use iCloud, the slide deck you build on your iPad will automatically appear on your iPhone (if your settings are right).

You can also present a Keynote slide deck using your iPad as the presentation device and your iPhone as a remote. Your iPhone moves the slides of the iPad slide deck as you stand at a distance. Both devices (iPad and iPhone) must be on the same wifi for the remote feature to work.

Kindle

I buy most of my books using the one-click option in Amazon. Most books are 50% less in price (or more) than physical books. You can highlight books you read and then create a summary of those highlights (which I then place in my searchable Evernote account–see below); you can copy and paste these highlights to Word or other software.

If I am waiting on a plane, taxi, a friend, a doctor, etc., I have all my books handy for reading. You can even purchase my fraud prevention or SSARS 21 books (shameless advertising, yes I’m guilty).

Evernote

I love Evernote! It is my personal cloud storage, and at $70 per year for the premium version, it provides me with tremendous power. All the research I have performed and stored is available everywhere I go. All the articles I have stored are at my fingertips. (And it is so easy to store information in this application.) At present, I have thousands of screenshots, websites, articles, presentations, conversations, books, pictures, and answered research issues. It’s my personal knowledge library.

You can use this app to record conversations that are automatically loaded into Evernote.

Dropbox

I also use Dropbox to store some documents. There are many apps that connect well with this cloud storage space. I find Dropbox somewhat easier to use than Evernote since it has fewer features. I like the simplicity.

Stitcher

If you listen to podcasts, check out the Stitcher app. You can even hear me talk about accounting issues.

1Password

I store all my passwords in 1Password. No more wondering how I’m going to get into my own computer with a password I’ve forgotten–again (I know this never happens to you).

Messages

I text my audit team members to see how things are going. Messaging is much more efficient than calling if the communication is short. (You can also take a picture of anything with Camera and message the picture. If your audit team member needs to see something on your computer screen, take a picture of it and message the shot to them with comments.)

Don’t want to type the message? Just say it out loud and the app will record your words for sending.

Maps

I use Google maps to get to new audit locations.

Weather

I use the Weather Channel’s app to check the weather before I leave for trips so I can dress appropriately.

Pandora

Mozart or U2 makes my audit day go by much better. If you prefer music without ads, you can pay Pandora $3.99 a month. I love the variety.

Sharefile

Sharefile is my go-to app for sending sensitive client data. With hackers everywhere, I don’t risk sending sensitive client data in emails.

Digits

Looking for a nice easy-to-use calculator. I recommend Digits. You can add numbers, make notations beside particular numbers, and email the calculator tape with a couple of clicks.

Fantastical

My Fantastical calendar app syncs with my Outlook calendar, so regardless of where I am, I can check my appointments and schedule the same. I can also add reminders in Fantastical, so I don’t forget the milk.

ToDoist

Do I keep a to-do list? Yes, in my ToDoist app. This app integrates with Outlook.

Audible

When I am driving I listen to books using Audible. If you’re on the road a lot, this is a great way to redeem your time.

WSJ

I read the Wall Street Journal to keep abreast of current events. This WSJ app provides me access to one of the best newspapers in America (and there aren’t many these days).

Siri

While not an app, I push the button on my iPhone and Siri asks me what I want to do. This is how I make phone calls by simply saying, “call my wife,” for example. I also send texts (or emails) the same way by saying “send text to C.S. Lewis”; then I tell Siri what I want to say–works amazingly well; she even understands my southern accent (and that, my friends, is truly amazing).

What About You?

How do you use your cell phone at work? I would love to hear from you.

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

How to store forms, research, articles, sample financial statements

Do you find yourself overwhelmed with information? Today I show you seven ways to feed Evernote, a cloud-based storage application. You’ll soon be on your way to gaining control over your information overload.

Seven ways to feed Evernote

Evernote as a Solution to Information Overload

Maybe you spend several hours researching interest rate swaps and file the information away, but months later–at the very time you need it–the material vanishes. You spend 20 minutes searching through your computer folders, but you can’t find it.  (Where did you put it? You know you filed it away.) The result: You spend three more hours doing the same research–again. What a waste!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal electronic library? That way, all of your research, sample financial statements, forms, professional articles, expense reports, meeting notes, screenshots, etc. are all in one place–and accessible with search features. Such a place exists. It’s called Evernote. I previously provided an overview of Evernote that you can see here. Once you create your Evernote account, you can do the following.

First Set Up Your Default Evernote Notebook

Before sending information from one of your devices (e.g., smartphone) to Evernote, specify where it should go. My default landing area: To Be Filed notebook. (You will need to create the To Be Filed notebook in your Evernote account.)

Setting Default Folder

Since I send information from a variety of devices, I initially send information to the To Be Filed notebook; later, when I have time, I tag each note (e.g., Fair Value) and then move each to an appropriate notebook (e.g., Accounting).

Tip – If you put an asterisk in front of the folder name (e.g., *To Be Filed), Evernote will present it (the folder) at the top of your folder list. This will make it easier to locate your default folder.

In short, my standard operating procedure: (1) capture on the fly and (2) classify with a block of time (it usually takes me less than five minutes each day to tag and move the new notes).

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

1. Smart Phones

You can use your smartphone to create and send pictures, text files, and voice messages to Evernote.

To download Evernote for an Android phone, click here.

iPhone users should download the Evernote app.

Here’s a screenshot of my iPhone Evernote app.

iPhone evernote

2. Scanners

I use a Fujitsu scanner (model iX500) to scan documents directly to Evernote. (The iX500 costs about $400 from Amazon.)

scanner

3. Web Clippers

Evernote provides web clippers for browsers including Safari, Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox. If you click this web clipper link, Evernote will automatically recognize your browser; then download the clipper software to your browser. While browsing, click the Elephant icon to clip a portion of the web page, the full page, or the full article.

Clippers

4. Hotkeys

Evernote allows you to use hotkeys to capture information from any program (as long as Evernote is running in the background). To activate screen clipping, use the key combination (e.g., for Windows: Win+PrintScreen). See Preferences to change your hotkeys.

So if you are working on an Excel spreadsheet, for example, and would like to capture the information into Evernote, use the hotkey combination and select the portion of the screen you wish to save. The screenshot will go to your default Evernote location.

You can do the same with an email, a Word document, and anything else that appears on your screen.

5. Email Directly to Evernote Account

One of my favorite ways to feed Evernote is to email a document (e.g., Excel, Word, PDF) directly to Evernote; when you set up your Evernote account, you will be provided a private Evernote email address. Set this address up in your email contact list; then you can send any email or document (attached to an email) to your Evernote default notebook.

6. Drag and Drop

With Evernote open, you can create a new note and then drag a document (e.g., Word or Excel file) onto the open note. The material is added to the note. You can add multiple documents to one note.

7. Import Folder

An even easier way to get files into Evernote is to use an “import folder.” After you specify in Evernote where the “import folder” is located on your computer (i.e., a particular Windows folder), you can drop files into the designated folder, and they will automatically feed into your default Evernote notebook. (Note–Import folders are only available in Windows.)

What About You?

How do you feed Evernote? Are there other ways to feed Evernote that I have not mentioned?

Seven Deadly Audit Sins

Sometimes we sink our own ships

Seven deadly audit sins can destroy you.

You just completed an audit project, and you have another significant write-down. Last year’s audit hours came in well over budget, and at the time you thought, “This will not happen again.” But here it is–again.

Here are seven deadly (audit) sins that cause our engagements to fail.

Seven Deadly Audit Sins

Picture is courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

1. We don’t plan.

Rolling over the prior year file does not qualify as planning. Including PPC programs–though I use them myself–is not planning.

What do I mean? The engagement has not been properly scoped. We don’t know what has changed and what is required. Each year, audits have new wrinkles.

Are there any fraud rumors? Has the CFO left without explanation? Have cash balances decreased while profits increased? Does the client have a new accounting program? Can you still obtain the reports you need? Are there any new audit or accounting standards?

Anticipate issues and be ready for them.

2. SALY lives.

Elvis may not be in the house, but SALY is.

Performing the same audit steps is wasteful. Just because we needed the action ten years ago does not mean we need it today. Kill SALY. (No, I don’t mean your staff member; SALY stands for Same As Last Year).

I find that audit files are like closets; we allow old thoughts (clothes) to accumulate without purging. It’s time for a Goodwill visit. Are all of the prior audit procedures relevant to this year’s engagement?

Will better planning require us to think more in the early phases of the engagement? Yes. Is this hard work? Yes. Will it result in less thinking and effort (for the overall project)? Yes.

3. We use weak staff.

Staffing your engagement is the primary key to project success. Excellent staff makes a challenging engagement pan out well. Poor staff causes your engagement time to balloon–lots of motion, but few results.

4. We don’t monitor.

Partners must keep an eye on the project. And I don’t mean just asking, “how’s it going?” Look in the audit file. See what is going on. In-charges will usually tell you what you want to hear. They hope to save the job on the final play, but a Hail Mary pass often results in a lost game.

Charles’ maxim: Monitor that which you desire to improve.

Or as Ronald Reagan once said: Trust but verify.

5. We use outdated technology.

Are you paperless? Using portable scanners and monitors? Are your auditors well versed in Adobe Acrobat? Are you electronically linking your trial balances to Excel documents? Do you use project management software (e.g., Basecamp)? How about conferencing software (e.g., Zoom)? Do you have secure remote access to audit files?

6. Staff (intentionally) hide problems.

Remind your staff that bad news communicated early is always welcome.

Early communication of bad news should be encouraged and rewarded (yes, rewarded, assuming the employee did not cause the problem).

Sometimes leaders unwittingly cause their staff to hide problems; in the past, we may have gone ballistic on them–now they fear the same.

7. No post-reviews.

Once our audit is complete, we should honestly assess the project. Then make a list of inefficiencies or failures for future reference.

If you are a partner, consider a fifteen-minute meeting with staff to go over the list.

Your Ideas

What do you do to keep your audits within budget?

A CPA’s Office Setup: Ways to Enhance Productivity

A peak into my office

Is a CPA’s office setup important? You bet.

Like you, I am constantly looking for ways to be more productive. I buy books, watch videos, and take note of how others work.

I like to see the offices of other CPAs. Here’s mine.

Multiple Monitors

Docking Station – I use a docking station that allows me to push one button to disconnect and place my laptop into a bag for travel. The docking station provides connectivity inputs behind my computer. Rather than disconnecting several wires to “set my computer free,” I push one button.

50″ Monitor (on a swivel hinge) – This monitor is about two feet behind my desk. I dock Outlook on the screen; this allows me to see incoming email at any moment. I also use this screen as a fourth working monitor. For example, when I am reviewing financial statements, I sometimes place the balance sheet on the 50″ screen and a second copy of the financial statements on my lower center monitor. Then as I review the remainder of the statements (e.g., notes), I can glance at the balance sheet.

The 50″ monitor hangs from a swivel hinge. The swivel hinge allows me to tilt the screen in other directions when I am sharing information from my laptop with others in my office. I am using this far more than I thought I would.

Todoist Checklist – I place all my outstanding to-do items in Todoist. Since Todoist integrates with Outlook, I usually have Outlook docked on the 50″ monitor. With just a glance, I can quickly see what I need to complete. With one click, I can add a new to-do item. And the to-do items I add on my laptop show up on my iPad and iPhone Todoist apps (and vice versa)–this integration is why I started using Todoist.

Logitech Camera – I often have online meetings and share information from my computer screen with those I am speaking with (I use Zoom). This Logitech camera creates an excellent picture and sound so those I’m sharing with can see and hear meLogitech C930e 960-000971 USB 2.0 1920 x 1080 Video Webcam

Bose Bluetooth Speaker – Music can make us more productive. And why not have quality sound? You spend such much of your waking day in your office. Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II (Carbon)

iPhone on a Stand – Do you ever lay your phone down and later you can’t find it? (We used just to lose our keys, now it’s the phone and the keys.) This stand provides me with a consistent place for my phone. elago M2 Stand for all iphones, Galaxy and Smartphones (Angled Support for FaceTime), Black

printer shot

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner – When I receive physical paper documents, my usual first step is to scan the paper and place it (the paper) in my shred box. I use this scanner several times a day. I like the scanner (but I have had problems with paper jams). Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner for PC and Mac (PA03656-B005)

Deluxe Shred Box – My deluxe shred box is a box top. I know, sophisticated, huh?

Landline Phone – I keep my phone over on my side table to keep it off my main desktop.

HP Printer – Many CPAs use a central printer for several people but think about the cumulative time you waste walking to the printer. HP LaserJet P2035 Monochrome Printer (CE461A#ABA)

CPA's Office Setup

iPad – This is my favorite device. I use it mainly outside the office, but I place it on the corner of my desk so I can quickly pick it up as I go out.

The Physical Library – I order most publications electronically, but for my physical books, I keep them handy here.

Adjustable Standup Desk – In my attempt to be a (little) more healthy, I bought this standup desk about three years ago. About once a day, I will print and stand while I review a set of financial statements–mainly to get my rear out of the chair. There has been a great deal of press lately about professionals (slowly) killing themselves by sitting too much. This desk does adjust down to the level of my main desktop, and it is mobile, so I use it–when I’m tired of standing–as an extension of my main desktop.

Paper-in Tray – I use a three-level tray for my incoming paper. The top shelf is for newly arrived paper information.

conference space

Corner Meeting Spot –  I use this corner area as a place to meet with partners and staff, especially if they bring paper copies in to discuss.

Coffee Maker – This is probably the most important appliance in my office. No coffee, no Charles.

whiteboard

Whiteboard – If someone needs to draw an idea out, here’s the place. I sometimes take iPhone pictures of the information drawn on the board and then store it in Evernote.

Watercooler – Drinking plenty of water each day will enhance your stamina. As you can tell, I like convenience.

Your Ideas

How would you change my office? What additional ideas would you add to these?

New SSARS 21 Book

My new SSARS 21 book titled Preparation of Financial Statements and Compilation Engagements is now available on Amazon.com. The book provides information about the new preparation of financial statements standard and compilation engagements. The book includes sample engagement letters and financial statements using the preparation and compilation guidance.