The workload of the office is measured 2 In terms of actual clients; rather than attempting to measured the firm In terms of the billing hours or dollars. Two individual clients serviced by the firm illustrate the complexity of coordinating the activities within one local, targeted firm within the region. One client Is an independent 011 and gas entrepreneur that operates over an expanded region which may involve operations in multi-states when exploration is active.
A second client is a construction company that has crews operating in four states on a weekly basis..
The required accounting and tax documents (paperwork) ND information change exponentially with the addition or deletion of new clients to the existing client list. A concurrent change is that of administering a database to ERM the tell to manage the required coordination between separate accountants working independently but for the same client. The firm’s workforce is made up of two partners, one non-partner associate and various other hourly personnel. The firm currently operates offices in two locations within a single state.
The CPA Firm (CPA) partners recognized within the past several years that a paper intensive environment ad resulted in a firm-wide system that was in danger of collapse. One of the two partners, the senior partner, was assigned the specific task of developing policies related to two interrelated purposes involving the use of technology: (1) to improve the management of the processes and work (data) flow within the firm’s system and (2) to undertake strategic planning to insure the firm’s continued growth and success by improving cost efficiencies through better usage of technology.
The research group (authors of the study) used the results of an interview of a partner of a repressions law firm (in a parallel study) using the nine milestones recommended by the SEARCH (the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics) during the literature review as a guide in determining the strategic planning and implementation for a typical law firm within the Justice system in order to compare research results between two different, but similar, professional firms.
The milestones permitted the research group to organize its findings in a manner that is consistent with other efforts within the Justice system (law firm) while also providing similar structure for a CPA that is governed by parallel expectations.
However, since the law firm was a component of the Justice system the findings are grouped into fewer categories to allow the research group to structure the intent of the recommendations provided by SEARCH to a specific case study (of the CPA) regulated by professional, federal and state statutes/regulations to a professional law firm within a specific segment of the overall Judicial system yet regulated in a similar manner. Both types of professional firms have legal and ethical obligations to protect their clients’ interests (manual and electronic documents, etc. 3 STRATEGIC DISASTER PLANNING The CPA notionally had a self-contained computer- based information system housed internally in one of the two branch offices of the firm. As growth of the client base grew and the firm expanded the firm added a part- time, consulting-in-nature IT support that continues today. Initially IT periodically backed up the firm’s data on an infrequent basis that evolved into a routine practice over time. However, no firm backup policy or procedure existed; rather the IT staff simply implemented common sense and applied what experience had shown them was the service the firm needed.
In short, simple use of backup tapes and disks as determined informally by the IT consultant as his time permitted. However, as the CPA continued to grow the partners began to informally create a plan for backup; however, the backup was still localized and stored at one of the firm’s office where the primary IT operation was housed. The easy plan established and used was to store duplicate copies of computerized files in the same physical location where the master copies were located.
Experience proved to be a lesson learned. The offices of the firm are located in an area of the U. S. That is prone to hurricanes. While the offices are not located on the coast hurricane damage NAS occurred within the elite to the firm and the original partners learned that offside storage of backup copies could prove to be a wise course of action in an area that has experienced hurricanes on a frequent basis. Thus a backup of computerized records with offside storage became the default plan for several years.
The senior partner, upon being charged with the responsibility to improve the management of the processes and work (data) flow within the firm’s system and to undertake strategic planning to insure the firm’s intended growth and success by improving cost efficiencies through better usage of technology initiated planning by developing a firm wide identification of technology needs, policies and procedures that would be necessary for the firm to successfully survive a natural disaster.
This planning effort included charging the IT consultant with the responsibility to recommend changes in the computerized firm-wide system that would permit the daily backup of all databases and other files at remote sites including alternative network capabilities that could be used to resume email and there communication capabilities as quickly as possible if the main office location was down due to a natural disaster. The plan was to have alternatives that would permit the firm to resume and maintain operations from various sites within the U.
S. If necessary. On no single date was the system to be backed up at only the main location by having the master and backup files physically located at the same system. The IT consultant recommendations were used by the senior partner to subsequently develop plans for the CPA which addressed the backup, relocation, security, and covert in the areas of hardware, software, databases, and physical 4 structure or operational areas, and telecommunications-network links internal and external to the CPA.
The IT staff was requested to provide the senior partner with suggested scenarios that would describe the cause and effect of actions (procedures) that the CPA should implement. Examples provided by the senior partner included the following: 0 Hardware – laptop computers were to be taken home (and subsequently to evacuation locations) by individuals the laptop was assigned to by the firm. All non-removable computers, etc. Were wrapped in heavy plastic for retention from wind and water damage (anything short of a direct destructive hit).
The CPA buildings were to be secured to minimize the effect of wind and water debris and structural damage. 0 Software – All software programs, systems and applications, backed up and sent to offside locations in second firm office located another geographical region of the country. 0 Databases – all data backed up and copies moved to local and distant locations electronically and hardcopy. Two sets prepared and kept at two different locations locally and one set sent to an off-site location in Tennessee (and not in line for hurricane damage).
Telecommunications- network – reviewed the backup contingency plans with vendor that was located in another geographic region to initial recovery efforts once the CPA and vendor could resume contact and after power and other utilities were restored. Partners of the CPA were obviously kept in the loop and were advised to carry identified hardware, software, and paper files to other locations (homes and perhaps subsequently to evacuation location areas outside to the disaster area). The partners supervised t transfer of items to the second CPA location (from one gulf coast state to an inland state overnight).
August 26, 2005 the path of Hurricane Strain continued to indicate that the CPA likely would be within the projected landfall area and subsequent inland path of destruction. The increasing magnitude of the hurricane became obvious to the firm personnel and the disaster plan was set in motion. The plan identified those responsible for each of the planned areas of responsibility. When the decision was made by the partners-owners of the firm to implement the disaster plan there was approximately four hours remaining in the work week.
CPA employees were already concerned for family and personal reporter and the firm began to allow employees to leave work early to tend to those needs. However, a core of employees – partners and one staff person remained to oversee the completion of disaster procedures. Who did what? When asked this question the senior partner stated that the partners did the activities related to insuring the hardware, software, databases, 5 telecommunication-network and structural preparations were completed as quickly as possible.
He commented that what most have to remember is that Hurricane Strain grew from a category 1 too category 4 or 5 within a very short timestamp. All disaster planning had been based on what disaster experiences in the past had shown would be probably. The IT consultant worked non-stop until the last items were relocated, secure, backed up and ended their efforts on Sunday, August 28th. The CPA partners at both locations dealt with the business end of the disaster plan implementation.
Those tasks included : 0 Notifying clients and carriers the CPA was “battening down” and would be back in touch as soon as possible, 0 Arranging to have any imminent incoming checks re-routed to the off-site inland state location (for feet and operational banks), 0 Updating voice messages for the office, 0 Making final decisions about which paper (hard) copy file needed which level of protection (covered, uncovered, removed to another location, etc. , 0 Reviewing that all electronic (soft) copy were backed up according to the plans to insure that copies were located in several locations locally and remote and the person responsible for each copy, Providing phone contact lists for all employees and giving out partner information to all employees (who had already been sent home to deal with personal and family assister preparations), and 0 Checking insurance policy coverage (and later following through [for example, business interruption insurance has been troublesome]).