Charleville Chamber of Commerce:
When setting up a business, accounting is one of the key pillars on the road to achieving a strong foothold in your industry. Tax, insurance, legal documentation and accounting are probably the most essential criteria for a new business to satisfy. As a part of professional services industry, accountants often operate in highly competitive and complex environments. In addition to the core services such as bookkeeping, taxation, auditing and financial planning, the accountants have expanded the span of their services to include business advisory & consulting, which is tantamount to playing the part of a business partner to their clients. This places accountants in a position of shared responsibility with their clients, putting them under considerable pressure to ensure their clients’ success.
In order to provide a broader range of services, accountants have turned to technology to become more accessible to their clients, facilitate collaboration and delve into data analysis to improve business performance. However, in the face of fast technological change, increasing customer expectations, improving business confidence and a strong focus on growing a firm’s revenue, how can firms choose the right technology for the right process, at the right time?
Although there is a strong focus on revenue generation and increased profits within the accounting industry, in order to achieve these goals it is critical to ensure the firms stay relevant to their clients. Now is the time when firms need to identify where technology can improve efficiencies, outcomes and results, whilst creating new opportunities.
The right processes: A recent report by Business Fitness warns the industry not to put the cart before the horse when it comes to its desire for progress. The report notifies accountants that growth is a lag indicator which is a result of strategies implemented to achieve this goal. In order to attain feasible growth, the basics needs to be executed first by improving internal systems and processes and changing the habits and culture of the company. Electing and enforcing the right technology, helps a company in many ways to drive a cultural change by encouraging adoption of more efficient work practices, delivering real time solutions to the clients in shorter time frames and collaborating on information.
The right technology: Accountants need to take advantage of the digital revolution to leverage the benefits of technology. Since the accountants are released from the data entry tasks facilitated by automation and online access to regulators and third parties, they can easily focus to more imperative tasks, such as, bringing in high value clients to their business.
Technology has also caused a shift in the expectations of clients who seek to build a long term partnership with their accounting firm and place them in the most trustworthy advisor roles. They may also outpace these anticipations via the right tools to strengthen the relationship, promise positive and consistent results and create a culture of availability to service. A word of caution however; accountants should take the time to understand their client’s needs and how to best deliver on their expectations before selecting and implementing technologies.
For accountants it is important to realise that the benefits of technology go beyond automation. They seek automation as it comes with clear measurable benefits for them and their accounting business. There is a benefit and significant value, including the sanity of staff (who previously spent days entering things like bank statements) however efficiency gains via automation in fact contribute the least to growth. Thus, accountants need to go ahead and seek out technologies that provide the greatest returns and value as well as increased profit. For example, the technologies that improves instructions and contributes to positive results will return far more to the firm than automation ever will.
The technology checklist: Here’s a brief checklist of what to look for when selecting a solution for your firm:
Get into the mind of your clients and find out:
- What means of communication and technologies they prefer to use and
- How to improve your service for the clients?
- What age group do a majority of your accounting clients fit into and what social media platforms they use? Take time to understand that generation, keeping in mind you need to plan ahead and appeal to the new breed of connected client.
- Ensure your technology decisions ultimately deliver tangible benefits to your clients including reduced costs, improved outcomes and/or value added services.
- Technology should be able to improve the advice you or your business has to offer, by doing more with the available information rather than simply loading data.
- Results must provide additional clarity to your client, your advice, expected outcomes and costs.
- The solution you choose should facilitate communication by improving the way advice is presented. It must allow you to expend less time in describing and more time delivering on expectations; both your firm’s and your clients’.
- It must allow you to add value and improve your business perception in the clients’ mind.
- Reduce the number of interactions or meetings with clients that are for gathering information as opposed to giving information.
- Choose cloud based technologies that eliminate need for hardware, are easy to install and use, provide regular upgrades, and facilitate collaboration in your accounting service.
- Here are some examples of technological solutions that have delivered great benefits to accountants:
- Risk Analytics tools for high value financial clients.
- Visualisation software to take all data and information relevant to a client and provide a visual interpretation signifying relationships, risk and dependencies.
- Marketing automation using existing data to increase awareness and to provide education and value for clients.
- Cooperative hubs to convey many facets of accounting services to clients through a single, accessible interface.
- Technologies that incorporate data from multiple sources and give multiple stakeholders access.
- Bank data, share data and property data for SMSF Administration, ASIC, PPSR, Property, Debt and Titles for commercial search displayed in hubs like Encompass.
- Payroll, inventory, tax, and accounting information in services like Xero.
The right training: In order to get maximum ROI on the chosen technology, firms must stamp out enough time and budget for training purposes. Being a consultant for the clients, an accountant should also encourage clients to adopt new technologies. Once accountants receive proper training and are well versed in use of a technology, they can add value to their business by supporting their clients as well. This is the kind of advice every client looks for, and that helps build relationships and differentiates one firm from another.
The right outcomes: With the right mix of carefully selected technology, a vision of the client’s needs, and the right people, the expected results can be easily achieved. Using online services and proper solutions, accountants can create logic leadership, and, in most cases, improved solutions. This can be attained rather quickly and without requiring additional knowledge or experience which would generally demand significant investment or take a long time to build. The right solutions can immediately help accountants improve their advice and service as professionals, ultimately leading to growth.
Tim Davidson is a Director of Connect Accounting Pty Limited, an Australian company that provides secure and cost effective compliance and SMSF accounting and income tax services to Australian accounting practices.
As per the current market trends, most of the smaller and medium accounting firms prefer outsourcing their SMSF tasks. Connect Accounting thus aims to supply quality support services to strengthen their client’s accounting practices in a better way.
Article Source: Tim A. Davidson