9 ways to keep productive during an ATO systems outage

ATO outage? Stay productive with these 9 tips.

In an online world, outages happen. They can be incredibly frustrating and severely impact work schedules but the down time doesn’t have to be time wasted. Here are some ways to keep your business on track and stay productive should your systems go down.

Following significant Australian Taxation Office (ATO) systems outages in December and February – which saw the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Portals, ATO online, the Australian Business Register, Standard Business Reporting and Superannuation online services go offline – the ATO has announced periodic system maintenance throughout the remainder of 2017 to guard against future disruption to its services and inconvenience to the practitioners who rely on them.

Maguy Nakhl FCPA of Illawong-based MN Accounting Solutions put her downtime during the last ATO services blackout to productive use.

“During that time I cleaned out obsolete files, tidied up client files and aimed to complete work for clients that only required our internal software,” Nakhl says.

“One thing that I got from these outages is that I now download the ATO pre-fill report for clients a week ahead of their scheduled appointments.”

In the event of future service disruption, here are an additional nine ways to channel your energy and keep productive during a systems outage. 

Master one topic that’s been bugging you

Whether it’s getting your head around blockchain technology – the phenomena that has finance experts around the world believing in its ability to cut billions of dollars of cost from financial markets – or reading up on cloud accounting software choices for your practice, the next ATO outage could be your opportunity to become an expert in that one topic that’s had you scratching your head.

Prepare your business for sale or succession

It’s never too early to start thinking about readying your practice for sale or succession. This is particularly true of family-owned businesses, where personal histories and emotions can impede sound business planning.

CPA Australia’s online diagnostic tool can provide you with a quick assessment of your level of succession readiness, identification of your succession options and an indicator of your practice’s value. 

Review your cyber security measures

Cybercrime is on the rise. According to a 2017 report by Australian Cyber Securities Centre (ACSC), 86 per cent of organisations surveyed experienced attempts to compromise the confidentiality, integrity or availability of their network data or system in the 2015-16 financial year.

A fault in another entity’s systems is a good reminder to review your own. Check how regularly your business runs anti-virus, anti-spyware and malware scans, and find out whether your insurance covers cyber-attack.

There are tried and true measures available to mitigate cyber threat to business, so don’t wait until it’s too late to implement them.

Aim for ‘inbox zero’

More elusive than public holidays in February, “inbox zero” is the holy grail of the electronic mail storage world. It’s a term coined to describe the rare state of an empty email inbox. 
Getting there takes time. Some professionals swear by the “one touch” approach to achieving inbox zero, whereby each email is only read – or touched – once. This doubles down on time spent re-reading emails when it comes to actually replying to them. If you’re not planning on responding to emails until after lunch, wait until after lunch to read them.

Professional Development: CPA Q&A. Access a handpicked selection of resources each month and complete a short monthly assessment to earn CPD hours. Exclusively available to CPA Australia members.

Bump up your continuing professional development hours

If you’ve got questions about cross-border GST rules or SMSF tax returns, find out the answers and give your CPD hours a boost at the same time. Have a look at what conferences and workshops your professional membership body is offering soon, or learn from home with webinars or other online education options.

Don’t forget to check your CPD diary to make sure you’ve correctly recorded any prior activities. 

Get the small stuff out of the way

It was Benjamin Franklin who said not to leave to tomorrow that which you can do today. They’re wise words, but we don’t always live by them. 

Now’s the time to type up the minutes from that meeting you attended a month ago, check that your back-ups are functioning correctly and your files are secure, and cross off any other small jobs you tend to put on the back burner.

Familiarise yourself with your building’s evacuation procedure

Is there ever a convenient time to run through a fire drill? An ATO systems outage offers you a chance to do so with minimal disruption to your work.

Don’t have an evacuation procedure in place? Safe Work Australia offers freely available guidance to businesses for preparing and maintaining general emergency plans for fixed workplaces under regulation 43 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations.

Brand audit your business

From keeping your clients close to making sure your business’s brand is staying true to itself, there are a number of reasons for accounting practices to put their brand identity under the microscope. A brand audit could be a solution to reversing a downturn in business, or protection against a future one.

Take some time out for yourself

Emails answered? Continuing professional development hours up to date? If your work is under control, make the most of the forced downtime. Book your next holiday, weigh up the pros and cons of cashing out your annual leave, or review your team’s upcoming leave calendar to get a better sense of when your time off will have the least impact on your business.

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