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, the iPad tops them all.
I purchased my first iPad about six years ago for about $500. Then, four years ago, I bought a second one. A year ago I picked up my third. 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 desktop computer?” Yes, my work computer is my primary tool. But in terms of enjoyment, the iPad wins hands down.
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.
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.)
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?
A cell phone is an auditor’s Swiss knife. And with all the options, I am continually 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 information concerning how I use various apps.
An Auditor’s Cell Phone
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 photos 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 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 create 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.
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).
I love Evernote! It is my 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 saved 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 knowledge library.
You can use this app to record conversations that are automatically loaded into Evernote.
I also use Dropbox to store some documents. Most apps connect well with Dropbox, and it handles large video or audio files well.
I save all my passwords in 1Password. No more wondering how I’m going to get into my computer with a password I’ve forgotten–again (I know this never happens to you).
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.
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.
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).
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 a 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.
Are you overwhelmed by stacks of paper? Do you find it difficult to locate information you know you have? Well, here’s a scanning system that will help.
I have the privilege of visiting other CPA firms, and we have about 120 people in my company, so I have the opportunity to see plenty of offices. It is my observation that some CPAs are paperless, but many are not.
Picture is from AdobeStock.com
One problem with “paper everywhere” is we can’t find what we need. We have it (somewhere), but we can’t find it. Scanning is the easiest way to capture and organize the paper monster.
To create order, take three steps:
Buy a scanner
Build a scanning structure
Build scanning habits
1. Buy a Scanner
My scanner is a Fujitsu iX500. It sits just to my right in my office (see picture below), so I don’t have to leave my desk to scan.Convenience is key to creating order. Otherwise, you will think, “I’ll scan that later,” which doesn’t happen. Then the paper is littering your desk–and distracting you.
Picture of my office
The iX500 costs less than $425, so it’s not a huge cash outlay. The scanner’s footprint is small (the dimensions are 6.1 x 11.4 x 6.6 inches) and it only weighs six pounds. Also, the scanner comes with software (ScanSnap) that offers you destinations such as these:
ScanSnap File Locations
I often scan to Evernote, my cloud-based library. Another favorite destination: Caseware, our paperless engagement software. These end locations are my digital scan structure.
2. Build a Scanning Structure
So, of course, when you scan, you need final resting places for your documents.
My two primary file locations are:
Evernote for non-engagement documents
Caseware for engagement documents
If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m a raving Evernote lunatic. Why? Here are just a few reasons:
Ease of use (it’s intuitive, making it easy to understand)
Notebooks (you use notebooks to organize your documents)
Tags (you can tag each note with multiple tags, making it easy to find the material)
Feed-ability (I can feed Evernote from my scanner, email, clip-apps, drag and drop, and many other ways)
Find-ability (Evernote even recognizes hand-written notes making it possible to search electronically and find a keyword–even if written)
Accessibility (I can access Evernote from my iPhone, iPad, and desktop)
Cost (about $60 per year; they do offer a free version but with limitations)
Allows storage of a variety of documents (including Excel, Word, PDF, Audible files)
There are other cloud-based storage systems such as OneNote and Dropbox. Pick one and learn it well.
If your firm is not already paperless, consider making the leap. We have used Caseware for years and, personally, I love it. We use this software for storage of the following engagement files:
My firm has built templates for each of these services, so everyone in our firm knows where documents (including scans) belong.
To scan promptly, you need to build habits, so creating a repeatable, mental system is critical to the process.
3. Build Scanning Habits
Build your scanning habits. My system is as follows:
If it takes less than two minutes to scan, scan now
If it takes more than two minutes, I place the paper in a file tray where I will later batch process
Scan all paper by the end of the day
Don’t leave unscanned paper on my desk (it’s a distraction)
Keep a shred box just below my scanner (where I place sensitive paper documents)
For long documents (e.g., CPE workbook), ask an assistant to break down the paper copy, scan it, and email it to me (I don’t use my Fujitsu scanner for heavy-duty scanning. We have a copy machine that will convert large scans to PDF.)
Like any new habit, new scanning actions will–at first–feel awkward and inconvenient. But push through the pain and the actions will become routine.
You may feel like the above will take too much time to implement, especially if you have lots of paper. So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Schedule your scanning plan. Pick two days a week and put one hour a day on your calendar. Then attack. Slay your paper monster. I dare you.
Click the scanner image below to see the Fujitsu scanner on Amazon.
More Evernote Information
For more information about Evernote, check out these posts:
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.
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.)
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.
I use a Fujitsu scanner (model iX500) to scan documents directly to Evernote. (The iX500 costs about $400 from Amazon.)
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.
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?