Tag Archives for " Hardware "

Accountant's iPad
Nov 02

Getting More Done with My Favorite Accountant’s Device

By Charles Hall | Technology

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.

Accountant's iPad

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. 

Ways I Use My iPad

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

Convenience and Portability

Mostly, I use my iPad at home, seated on my couch. The portability of the device is its primary benefit. It’s large enough to read from and work on—and small enough to take wherever I go.

Your Favorite Device

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

Here are my favorite iPad apps.

CPA's Office Setup
Jun 14

CPA’s Office Setup: A Behind-the-Scenes Spotlight

By Charles Hall | Technology

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

Like you, I am continually 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.

Multiple Monitors – I use multiple monitors. See how to review financial statements on computer screens.

50″ Monitor (on a swivel hinge) – This monitor is about two feet behind my desk. I 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. We also use the monitor to watch webcasts. 

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 on my computer screen with those I am speaking with (I use Zoom). This Logitech camera (C930e) creates an excellent picture and sound so those I’m sharing with can see and hear me

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 S1500 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. Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Color Duplex Document Scanner with Touch Screen for Mac and PC

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 Printer

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. I recently purchased a Varidesk for my home (not pictured). It raises up and down electronically. Somewhat expensive but the quality is outstanding.

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. You want to create energy that sustains you.

Your Ideas

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

Save Time with Online Meetings
Feb 10

CPAs Save Time with Online Meetings: Getting Started

By Charles Hall | Technology

CPAs save time with online meetings. At least, they do if they know how.

Are you tired of driving hours to see clients? Or maybe you drive two hours to meet with a customer and realize you left files on your office computer. Online meetings solve these problems and make you more accessible. Below I show you how to get started. 

Save Time with Online Meetings

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 these products (and others). All of these packages offer free trial versions. And they all provide similar abilities. The main thing is they allow me to share what’s on my computer monitor and my voice. 

So, what video conferencing software do I use? Zoom. Why? It is easy to use and reliable. While Zoom offers a free version, I use their paid Pro version

The point of this article is not to sell you on a particular online meeting product (though I do like Zoom), but to sell you on the concept. I have spent years of my life (at least it feels that way) driving to and from clients’ 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. Rather than making a 4.5-hour trip to meet with my client, I did the following:

  • Opened the draft report on my center computer screen
  • Opened supporting documents on my two side computer screens
  • Shared my center computer screen using my online meeting software—the attorney, once he clicked the link I emailed him (see the next bullet), could see my screen
  • Sent the attorney an email (with a hyperlink) to join the meeting—my online software automatically created the email as I invited him 
  • Called the attorney with my cell phone and went hands-free so I could use my mouse (you can use your computer audio, 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.” 

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—or file an expense report.

If sharing video works with an out-of-town client, does it work with in-the-office staff?

Online Conferencing in My Office

Yes, online meetings work with others in your office as well. Why? For the same reasons. I can share any information from my computer screen. And I can invite several people to the meeting at the same time. They can view what I am sharing from the comfort of their offices. Believe me, it’s better than several people huddling around one computer.

Other Online Meeting Thoughts

Here are some additional thoughts about online meetings.

Though I don’t do so often, I can record my online meetings in Zoom. Then if I need to watch the session, I can.

Once you are in a Zoom meeting you can share your mouse. This allows your client to control your computer. I find this useful when my client wants to show me something. Rather than the client telling me where to click, I simply hand the mouse control over to her. Then she can move around in the documents we are viewing.

Are there any downsides to online meetings? Yes. 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 if your camera is on, guess what? Yep. They can see you. You can, however, turn your camera off. And they can as well.

For a more professional look, consider buying a video camera. I use a Logitech 930e (cost is $71.50). It sits on top of my right monitor. Why buy a camera? For higher quality video. Additionally, the camera has a microphone. If you’re wondering about the quality of the video from this device, see the recording above. I used the Logitech 930e for that one.

Sharing Video with a Client

What if your client is too busy for an online meeting? Record a video and share it. I can do so from Zoom, but I use Camtasia to record my videos. (A single license is $249.)

Say you need to explain the details in a lease document. And you want to show and explain the related journal entries. Turn Camtasia on and shoot the recording with your Logitech camera. Whatever appears on your monitor (e.g., lease agreement in a PDF; journal entries in Excel) is captured in the video. Once done, save the video and send a link to your client. And why do this? So your client can watch the presentation at her convenience.

Don’t want to be seen on video? Then turn it off. Camtasia provides that option. You can record what you present on your monitor and your voice narration–with no video.

I store my videos on Screencast. The cost is $99.95 per year.

You may wonder why I use Camtasia and Screencast, especially when I can record and store video with Zoom. The short answer is I create training videos. Camstasia gives me better editing capabilities. And Screencast was built for the purpose of sharing videos. So the two products (both made by TechSmith) work well together for the creation and sharing of video.

Sharing Video with Your CPA Firm Members

I create and share videos with my partners and staff. Once a video is created, I store it on my Screencast site. Then I share the video link on our firm intranet. That way I can demonstrate something once and share it with everyone. 

Your Thoughts

Do you already use online meeting or video capture software? If yes, what solutions do you use? Share your suggestions below.

accountant's scanning system
Aug 27

Accountant’s Scanning System: How to Build

By Charles Hall | Technology

Are you overwhelmed by stacks of paper? Do you find it difficult to locate the information you know you have? Today, I teach you how to build an accountant’s scanning system.

accountant's scanning system

Accountant’s Scanning System

I have the privilege of visiting other CPA firms, and our firm has about 120 people, so I have the opportunity to see plenty of offices. It is my observation that some CPAs are paperless, but many are not.

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:

  1. Buy a scanner
  2. Build a scanning structure
  3. Build scanning habits

1. Buy a Scanner

My scanner is a Fujitsu iX500. (There is a newer model now, the iX1500.) 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, but it doesn’t happen. Then the paper litters your desk–and distracts you.

accountant's scanning system

Picture of my office

The iX1500 costs $420, so it’s not a huge cash outlay. The scanner’s footprint is small (the dimensions are 11.5 x 6 x 6.3 inches) and it weighs 7.5 pounds. Also, the scanner comes with  software (ScanSnap) that offers you destinations such as these:

accountant's scanning system

ScanSnap File Locations

I often scan to Evernote, my cloud-based library. (Amazon also offers Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Document Scanner with Evernote Premium.) If I were buying my first scanner and didn’t have cloud-based storage, this would be my choice.

Another favorite destination: Caseware, our paperless engagement software. 

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

Non-Engagement Documents

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m a raving Evernote lunatic. Why? 

  • Ease of use 
  • 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 keywords–even if written)
  • Accessibility (I can access Evernote from my iPhone, iPad, and desktop)
  • Cost (paid version starts at $7.99 per month; 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.

Engagement Documents

If your audit and tax services are 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:

  • Tax
  • Audit
  • Reviews
  • Compilations
  • AUPs

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. (Some of the above thoughts come from David Allen’s book: Getting Things Doneone of the best productivity books you’ll find.)

Act Now

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.

More Evernote Information

For more information about Evernote, check out these posts:

Evernote for CPAs

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account

Livescribe
Jun 26

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic (for CPAs)

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Technology

Livescribe: Note taking magic. Here’s an overview of how auditors are making their lives easier using the Livescribe pen.

Have you ever interviewed a client, feverishly taking notes, and straight away forgot critical facts? You wish you had a recording of the conversation. Better yet, you wish you could touch a particular word in your notes and hear the words that were being spoken at that moment. What if I told you, “you can”?

Livescribe: Note taking magic

How? Livescribe.

Think about what you could record with such a tool:

  • CPE class lectures
  • Walkthroughs of transaction cycles
  • Board or committee or partnership meetings
  • Fraud interviews

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic

What is Livescribe? It’s an electronic pen/recorder. As you write on special coded paper, you simultaneously record the conversation (the recorder is built into the pen). Once done, you touch a particular letter in a word (with the tip of your pen) and you hear–from the pen–the words spoken at that moment. No more forgetting and not being able to retrieve what was said. And it’s efficient since you can go to any particular part of the conversation using your notes as signposts.

To start a recording, you press the tip of the pen to the “record” icon at the bottom of the page.

IMG_0002

To stop the recording you press the “stop” icon above.

Once the recording is complete, you simply touch the tip of the pen to any letter and the audio recording will start playing–from the pen–at that point.

IMG_0004

You can upload the pen notes and the audio to your computer desktop Livescribe software using a USB cord that connects to the pen. (See below.)

IMG_0003

You can also play back notes from your uploaded desktop copy just as you can with your pen. Click a letter with your mouse and the recording will play.

I was surprised by the clarity of the sound from the pen and the audio capacity200 hours (for the Echo version that you see below).

There are different versions of the pen. I bought the Echo version due to the lower price. You can review the available pens on Amazon. I also bought additional Livescribe notebooks (they come in packs of four) and a portfolio (binder) to hold the notebook and pen.

My Experience with Livescribe

I have used a Livescribe pen for four years. After using to it to record hundreds of hours of audio, I consider my Livescribe pen to be one of my best audit tools. I recommend it.

What if you don’t desire to shell out the $155 for the pen? Consider using the Notability app. 

Another Option 

If you have an iPad, you can buy the Notability app for $9.99 and record conversations with your notes (with play-back similar to Livescribe). You will need a stylus (I use an Apple pen) to take notes since you write on your iPad screen. See my article about using Notability.

One More Thought

If you are performing a walkthrough of a complex transaction cycle, consider using your phone to take pictures of what you are seeing (e.g., computer screens, documents). I use the Scanbot app. Between your notes (with audio) and your pictures, you will have a good understanding of what you have seen and heard.

You might also be interested in my article Four Keys to Better Client Interviews.

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