December 15, 2018

Top 5 Virtual Communication Apps for Remote Accountants

If you like to work remotely, you’ll need to use virtual communication apps to stay in touch with workers and clients, keep everyone on the same page, and ensure key benchmarks are being met on time.

But with the wealth of virtual communication app options available, how do you know which ones to choose? We spoke with some of the leaders in the cloud accounting industry to get their take, then combined it with our own research and expertise to compile the following list.

1) Slack

Pros: Easy to use, integrates well with other apps, promotes casual conversation

Cons: Can create distraction, slow adoption rates

As we engaged our cloud accounting experts, one virtual communication app was mentioned above all others: Slack. It was highly praised as a “one-fits-all” solution, thanks to its text and voice chat capabilities and the ease with which it integrates other applications. And the ability to group conversations by channel makes organization simple.

“The most important characteristic of any app is that it works all the time, and that’s true of Slack,” Amanda Aguillard, principal, Aguillard Accounting, and co-founder, Bluewire Strategy Group, says. “We love that we can communicate on our desktops, laptops, and mobile devices seamlessly. It also integrates via Zapier to lots of other apps that we use.”

“Every company should be on either Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat, if you ask me. I can’t go back to email,” Blake Oliver, senior product marketing manager, FloQast, and publisher of the newsletter Cloud Accounting Weekly, says.

“Slack makes it easy to communicate with your virtual teams and clients,” Jay Kimelman, founder and CIO, The Digital CPA, says. “You can create channels for specific purposes, keeping them private to only those you assign to that channel. Slack connects virtually to every app we use, making it an essential tool.”

2) Zoom

Pros: Cost (essentially free), recordable meetings, screen sharing

Cons: No real-time document sharing features

Ahead of competitors Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, and GoToMeeting, Zoom’s wide array of features and attractive price helped it emerge as our top app for virtual meetings.

“Zoom is the web conferencing and meeting app of choice. It has a light footprint and, more importantly, it’s easy to use,” Kimelman says. “Add in the webinar option and you now have powerful marketing tools, including the ability to stream live to Facebook and YouTube.”

“We use Zoom for pretty much all calls to ‘see’ each other and our clients, and do computer and mobile app screen shares,” Bruce Phillips, founder and CEO, HPC, says.

3) Karbon

Pros: Fast onboarding process, easily integrates with email, good privacy control

Cons: Not widely used, can be pricey

In a crowded field including Trello, Asana, and Wrike, we’ve chosen Karbon as the best virtual project management software on the market. Its website claims it can save 10 hours per employee, per week, and while we can’t back up that claim, it does seem to streamline a lot of complex project management tasks.

“HPC runs on Karbon as a project management software. Karbon tracks our staff email and deliverables and much of our client data and projects. We are able to measure and manage processes well using Karbon,” Phillips says.

4) Hipchat

Pros: Easily integrates with Jira, very helpful support staff and easy-to-use support tickets, secure storage

Cons: Sends too many notification emails

While Hipchat doesn’t do much that Slack can’t, it has one key advantage: easy integration with issue-tracking software Jira. If your practice relies a lot on technology and requires quick resolution of tech problems, Hipchat may be your best bet for virtual communication.

5) Twist

Pros: Innovative “conversation threading” features

Cons: New to market, adoption may be slow

New to the world of virtual communication apps is Twist. It’s based on a principle that might give it an advantage over Slack and Hipchat at some companies: that employee conversations need to be grouped into appropriate threads, and that this process should be largely automated. If you find that many of your messages in other apps are getting lost in the ether, give Twist a try.

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More Details on the Year That Was at Crowe Horwath

Thumbnail image for Crowe_Horwath_2c_lo.jpgLast month we had a couple of posts on the year that was in Crowe Horwath layoffs. After learning about three rounds of layoffs and a CH exodus, we figured we had exhausted the details on 2009 for Crowe.
Not so! The latest on CH is that, like everyone else, the firm is gearing up for busy season desperately shortstaffed despite the end of their “Alternative Staffing Program”.
We’ve also learned that there were pay freezes across the board at CH last year. This included a couple of instances where newly promoted managers had their pay frozen despite being told “substantial changes in duties would be exempt from pay freeze.”
Right now our sources aren’t sure what to expect from CH in 2010 as communication from their leadership has been minimal. So all in all, it doesn’t sound like Crowe is all that different from the Big 4 despite claiming to be “a unique alternative” to them. Good luck to all the professionals at the firm in 2010 and keep us updated with all the happenings during your busy season.

Tracking Charitable Donations? Now There’s a CPA-Developed App for That

In more non-iPad, Apple-related news, we learned earlier this week about iDonatedIt, an iPhone app developed by BMG CPAs in Lincoln, Nebraska. The app is designed to track all non-cash charitable contributions whether it be clothes, furniture or family members (okay maybe not the last one). This will allow you to track all of our donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. rather than receiving that crappy receipt they give you that has nothing on it.

Being interested in all things accountant-ish, we got in touch with BMG to find out how this bit of ingenuity came about.

We spoke with Todd Blome, a partner at BMG who came up with the idea and he told us that as soon as he got an iPhone he was thinking of ideas for apps that would be useful for his clients. Since Todd is the tech-savvy partner at BMG, (he heads up their IT consulting services) he started kicking around ideas right away and eventually landed on the idea for iDonatedIt.

Todd told us that the development was fairly simple and that there were only two test versions prior to releasing the app.

“So far we’ve 100% positive feedback on iDonatedIt,” Todd told us, “We’re definitely looking for suggestions for improvements or add-ons.” The one idea that has been floated to Todd was adding a tax savings tool to the app so that a user could determine how much tax savings would be created by the donations. “That will probably be in version two,” he told us.

iDonatedIt retails for $2.99 at the app store and as Todd noted, “a donation of one item pays for the app.” A version for the Droid is currently in the works as well.

Todd and the rest of of his team at BMG are kicking around a few more ideas for apps but he said they want to make sure iDonatedIt is working as good as possible before committing to another project. Check out the demonstration below and jump over the firm’s website or follow them on Twitter to give them your feedback.