Firms that use integrated technology have reported being able to serve more clients, requiring fewer staff, or needing less time to complete a return. The accounting profession has long recognized that technology can have positive effects on the bottom line of accounting firms. However, some so-called “integrated” technology is actually not as integrated as many people believe.
Point-to-point integration relies on syncing multiple databases, which means firms still have multiple sources of data. These multiple data sources increase the likelihood of duplicate, inconsistent and out-of-date information.
On the other hand, having a single database for client and staff data can provide efficiencies throughout your firm. With a common database, data is more accessible and you can more easily add new functionality. In addition, your total cost of ownership will also be lower.
A common database solves a number of problems in a firm, including:
Redundant data entry
Point-to-point integration usually involves entering the same information into different applications. Conversely, a system with a common database stores client and staff data in a central location. Multiple modules access the same data instead of maintaining their own versions of the data. This way, staff doesn’t need to enter information multiple times, and the information in the system is more accurate.
Immobile work environment
Traditionally integrated systems typically require firms to install all software on the same servers, usually in the office. That means staff needs to perform most of the work in the office as well. Centralized data in a common database is more easily accessible from anywhere, so firms can more easily offer mobile and flexible work arrangements.
Because point-to-point software typically needs to be installed on the same server, integrating with third parties is difficult or impossible. Since common data is more accessible, third-party integrations are straightforward and reliable. More open systems give firms more choices for adding functionality to the system.
Fragmented view of the firm
When data is spread throughout many different systems, it’s difficult to get a complete picture of your client relationships. Transitioning to a client-centric model is difficult because you don’t have a client-centric system. When data is centralized in a common database, you can provide the kind of service your clients expect because their information is at the center of your entire system.
High cost of ownership
Point-to-point integration often requires a firm to continue investing more and unpredictable amounts of money into the system with each passing year. Consulting costs to fix integration problems or maintain out of date software and expensive infrastructure costs like bigger and faster servers can wreak havoc on a firm’s budget. On the other hand, a system with a common database, based in the cloud, boasts a steady and predictable cost of ownership.
Firms with truly integrated solutions have fewer struggles with data entry, fewer client communication issues, and better client service. See the infographic.