Fifo Online latest tool for cloud accounting practices

Includes workpapers, practice workflow and secure client portal.

Practice management program Fifo Online launched this month and was the latest in a slew of cloud programs designed by accountants to run accounting practices more efficiently. Fifo Online – the name stands for Fast In, Fast Out – was developed by Melbourne accountant Shane Macfarlane and business partner Allan Morris.

The program intended to replace the entire workflow in an accounting practice, from preparing online working papers, allocating staff to jobs, setting budgets and timeframes on client work, emailing with clients and storing client documents such as reports and statements.

Fifo Online “deals with every aspect of a client job arriving in the practice. From the day that it arrives to the day that it’s delivered into their hands,” Macfarlane said. He claimed the efficiencies from the integrated program should reduce the time to complete a job from two to three months to two to three weeks.

Fifo Online was complementary to general ledger accounting software such as Xero, Handisoft and MYOB. “It was never intended to replace time cost and billing function. Most practices are using that in their existing compliance systems,” Macfarlane said. “Most practices would do workpapers in Excel but now they can do it in Fifo Online.”

The practice management software included a manager review process for completed workpapers and could create an electronic working paper file in 20 seconds. An accountant would usually take an hour to prepare a paper version with all tax returns and financial statements in triplicate.

“If McDonalds can implement systems that allow them to extract the maximum amount of profit out of selling a hamburger, then an accounting practice has far more scope to develop systems that allow them to operate efficiently and add profit to the bottom line,” said Macfarlane, who has experience in systems development.

Morris, CTO of Fifo Online, was a software developer who had developed back office settlement systems for stock brokers and banks. Past clients included major stockbroking houses, JP Morgan, the Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Bank, Macfarlane said.

Client documents and queries were lodged in a secure client portal that could be branded by the accounting firm. “Email is inherently insecure. I don’t really think we shouldn’t be sending clients’ financial information or tax returns and financial statements by email, which a lot of practices do. It’s much better to do it through a secure, encrypted portal,” Macfarlane said.

Fifo Online stored data in an Australian data centre to ensure accountants stayed compliant with government regulations for client data, Macfarlane said. Integration with cloud accounting program Xero would arrive “in a matter of months” followed by desktop accounting program Sage Handisoft.

Despite some crossover with WorkFlow Max, Xero’s own practice management software, Fifo Online would still be useful for creating workpapers and securely delivering files and communications with clients once the two programs were integrated, Macfarlane said.

Initially Fifo Online would pull information from Xero and WorkFlow Max but not push it back because the programs stored data offshore, Macfarlane said. “We probably won’t be pushing data back because of the data protection laws. We’re fairly cautious and conservative,” he said.

Fifo Online went live in early June and had received strong interest already, Macfarlane said. Elements of Fifo Online competed with Spotlight Workpapers and Practice Ignition, also developed by accountants.

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