Will Microsoft file storage reign supreme?
We make a case.
Thousands of accounting firms are waiting patiently for their software providers to bring their file storage into the new millennium. And their patience may finally be rewarded by an unexpected player — Microsoft file storage.
Accounting file storage systems have lagged far behind the market. Box, Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft have redefined business and personal file storage. And they continue to push each other to be even better. Meanwhile, accounting-specific file storage systems continue to offer outdated interfaces, fewer features, and frequent crashes. It’s time to consider file storage solutions that work better for both firms and their clients.
Why accounting-specific file storage popularity is dwindling
The promise of pushing a button in the tax software that sends engagement letters, organizers, signature requests, and documents to clients is attractive. It’s the primary reason firms purchase accounting-specific file storage. But if the client experience isn’t good, clients won’t follow along. And for precisely that reason, tax portals see low adoption, client organizers go unfilled, and files go unfound.
At the same time, many practices have become year-round full-service firms. This shifted technology requirements from tax-only to full-service. Since most integrated tax portals only work well for tax, firms end up purchasing one set of systems for tax and an entirely different set of systems for client accounting and audit.
From a profitability perspective, client experience is the most important factor in attracting and retaining clients. Firms that don’t provide convenience to their clients are losing out to firms that are. And if you think your clients aren’t going to work with you online then you might want to buy paper-based clients from your peers – they’re selling for a dime a dozen.
So where does this lead? Many firms are at a critical juncture as their tax and file storage providers work to lock them into multi-year contracts with the promise of future features and functionality. The key to this decision is likely to revolve around convenience, cost, and capability. Enter Microsoft.
Is Microsoft a complete package for the accounting profession?
Microsoft Office is a business prerequisite so chances are you’re already using Microsoft 365. With your subscription, you get Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint file storage solutions for free. And Microsoft includes 1TB of storage per employee. So, the cost argument is immediately compelling.
Both OneDrive and SharePoint allow you to save files across their secure, collaborative cloud. OneDrive is ideal for personal files and traditional person-by-person sharing. SharePoint provides file storage and collaboration by account and team. Both OneDrive and SharePoint integrate with popular services such as Teams as well as by API. And Microsoft offers important features such as eDiscovery and Litigation Holds that many other providers don’t. In total, the Microsoft platform is a more capable permanent file storage solution than any accounting-specific file storage solution.
But what about being able to push a document directly from the tax software to the client’s folder? That’s certainly enticing. However, that value proposition falls down if client adoption is low.
Furthermore, tax-centric storage only works with tax software. Non-tax files fall outside of the limited integration scope. Compare that to Microsoft’s open integration approach. There’s no wonder that virtually all CIO’s are now building their firm file storage strategy around Microsoft.
We believe that Microsoft will continue to build market share in the accounting space at the expense of tax-only players. In the face of declining market share, tax software providers will likely continue to raise prices while under-investing in support and development in order to maintain profits.
Meanwhile, we are raising the bar for client-facing file storage. In addition to integrating with Microsoft, our new document transfer technology allows firms to print files directly from any software and send a message to the client at the same time – saving the steps of saving the file and then having to jump over to email to explain to the client what to do. We’re also adding machine learning that will automatically help save files in the right place. The combination of open integration, integrated transfer and communication, and machine learning represents a quantum leap forward for firm efficiency.
How do firms transition without surrendering hundreds of hours?
Transferring files from legacy systems can be daunting. Many file systems only allow files to be extracted one file or folder at a time, so the projects can take hundreds or thousands of labor hours. This leaves many firms feeling trapped by their vendor. Liscio offers a file transfer service that will extract and move files to Microsoft and other select systems for you. It’s a turnkey process and is offered to the public – no Liscio subscription required.
Firms are realizing that a refresh of legacy file storage systems isn’t enough. Microsoft is already the majority choice of accounting firm CIO’s and has major traction with firms of all sizes. If you’re contemplating the move, Liscio can help. Call us to learn more about our file transfer service and direct integrations that bridge the gap between firm and client.