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Financial planning, Investment and Self Managed Super Fund Article
Remote Practice Management for the Non-Tech MD
By Matt Fogarty
1st August 2007
This article may be out of date.
Once you have great practice management strategies in place and you can go on holiday, how do you keep in touch with what’s going on while you are away?
You have a systemised back office, your clients are very clear on what services they can expect from you, referrals are streaming in and your staff are happy and extremely competent. It looks like it’s time for a well deserved holiday.
Even though you are confident that everything will run smoothly in your absence, there is nothing like being able to login to keep you feeling as though your finger is still on the pulse.
If you have a server networking your office computers and hosting your emails, chances are it will allow webmail access to your emails. If your emails are hosted outside the office it should be no problem getting remote access from anywhere in the world. Check with your IT support for instructions on how to access or set up webmail before you go.
Taking a laptop with you on holidays may not impress your partner, but it does make it easier to stay in touch. Many hotels are offering free wireless internet these days, so check ahead before you make your reservation. Make sure your laptop is set up for wireless connection.
You also have the option of going to internet cafes, but be prepared for higher costs, limited time allowances and not a lot of privacy. Check ahead to find the nearest internet cafes to save time when you arrive at your destination.
File sharing software can put documents from your server within your reach wherever you are. This saves the trouble of having several copies in existence on your desktop, portable USB drive, etc.
It also gives you the security that your documents will most likely be backed up.
Ask your IT support about setting up a web accessible portal to your server files or installing file sharing software.
Client management system
Do you want your client information at your fingertips wherever you go? There are several solutions for a business owner away from the office.
A web-based client management system (CMS) may be a good option if you have more than one office or are often working away from the office. This kind of system will usually be hosted offsite by the system provider, meaning you have less security responsibilities, but will have less control (especially if you can’t keep your bills paid on time). Client information, reporting and workflow tasks can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
Alternatively, if you have a web access portal to your server, and your CMS software installed on your laptop, you should be able to access your client database.
If you don’t want to take a laptop with you, make sure your mobile phone or personal digital assistant (PDA) can access similar information.
Ensure your mobile/PDA can receive and send your emails while you are out of the office. You may even be able to synchronise your CMS with your mobile/PDA, meaning you have all the client data you need to contact them. If Microsoft programs such as Excel or Word run on your devices, you will also be able to create documents (albeit usually simple ones).
If your mobile provider has global roaming you will need to contact them to switch it on for your handset and get instructions on how to use it if you are going overseas.
Global roaming calls, even just to leave a message on your voicemail, can be hideously expensive. If you only want to use your mobile to call out, it would be best to turn your voicemail off to avoid unnecessary expense.
Web access to your server means opening up your business files to the outside world if you’re not careful. You need to ensure that your files and computers are protected. Regular automated updates for antivirus software is a must. Also, having a password login with strict password policies, such as regular forced password changes or requiring a number in the password, is a very good idea.
If you prefer to stick to reliable old-fashioned methods, you can ask your support staff to send you regular reports to let you know how everything is going. Email, fax, or even express post if you are travelling within Australia, will provide you with much of what you need to know.
This task may require a little more preparation if your financial and management reporting is not systemised. Staff will need to learn what information is expected and to include any notes on anomalies or issues. Ensure you leave them with an itinerary and your contact numbers, along with guidelines as to what to contact you about.
Access to up-to-date information on your business may repress any urges to panic about how everything is running without you. It may also mean you can fix a problem before it gets out of hand.
Matt Fogarty is a director of The Encore Group, a specialist practice management consulting firm. Contact Matt on 1300 780 730 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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