If you run an accounting business, chances are you’ve heard a lot about new technologies automating complex processes and helping individuals manage their finances themselves. Here, we take a look at some of the top accounting sector trends and how you can go about bringing your business into the digital age.
According to Sage, 57 percent of accountants say technological literacy is the most important skill for those in the finance sector. Increasingly, professionals are turning away from paper documents, desktop software and their trusty Excel spreadsheets in favour of cloud-based solutions. By automating repetitive processes, AI is freeing up time for workers to spend on more complex, financially productive tasks.
The potential for businesses focused on adopting new technologies for accounting is immense. It’s hardly surprising professional services firm Accenture predicts 70 percent of finance workers will be “data gurus” in the future. So, if you haven’t yet planned some form of digital transformation strategy, you’re putting your business at a significant disadvantage.
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Ways you can upgrade your customer interactions
- Introduce a ‘chat bot’ or a similar tool to help support customers when you’re not in the office by answering questions and carrying out simple tasks. Last year, Sage predicted 58 percent of accountancy professionals expect to automate jobs with AI in the following three years.
- New technologies can help people save time, effort and money when it comes to managing their finances - so don’t keep all your insight to yourself. You have the chance to show your customers how to take advantage of the latest online tools, such as reporting their expenses on their phone. Then, you’ll be able to join forces more effectively.
- Take advantage of e-signing software, which allows you to authenticate documents without having to print and scan them. Using this digital solution will also help you reduce your paper usage and reduce your impact on the planet.
- Some new technologies allow accounting businesses to manage their customer communications through an app. You can cut out a lot of admin by asking it to automatically request documents from clients and send reminders when they forget.
How to modernise your accounting business - in 7 steps
1. Review your processes
It can be hard to know where to start when you first contemplate adopting new accounting technologies. But the process probably isn’t as complicated as you imagine. Start by closely monitoring one of your projects and making a list of every action anyone takes until it’s completed. When the job is done and you can see every stage in chronological order, you can begin thinking about how you might introduce technology to save you time or money.
2. Consider your options
There’s a huge variety of different software packages out there, so you’ll need to do a bit of research to find the right one for your accounting business. If you start by knowing which processes you’d like to improve, you can narrow down the options. For instance, Xero can turn your quotes into professional invoices in seconds, while PayPal, GoCardless and Stripe can collect payments.
3. Test the tech
You don’t necessarily have to jump straight into using a software product you feel you know little about. Most packages come with a free trial, so you can test them out and see whether they work well in your accounting business before you implement them permanently.
4. Ask an expert
There’s no shame in feeling a little out of your depth when it comes to digital transformation strategies. If you’d like some extra support, why not appoint a specialist consultant to advise on best practices and monitor progress as you introduce new ways of working? Even if you think you can manage well on your own, having an expert on hand could help you identify profitable avenues you’d never have otherwise considered.
5. Train your staff
Many software and cloud-based systems are fairly self-explanatory but don’t just assume your employees will know how to get the most out of them. It’s worth organising a training session to go through your new practices - and make sure you run more every time there’s a software update.
Communication is key in a cloud-based accountancy practice where people might work part time or at home… During a session, anybody who had been on a training course would share what they had learned. Also, if there was anything that people had thought could be done better, this would be the forum to raise it. - Della Hudson, Hudson Accountants
6. Review your processes
Having adopted new technologies, you might find there are new opportunities for the way you and your team operate. As Fred McBreen, Managing Director of accountancy firm Base 52 explains:
“We used to be organised by work type – for example, year-end accounts, personal tax, bookkeeping and VAT. But we are now structured in teams who look after all the work for a set of specific business clients.
“Within the teams, there is a hierarchy of roles so that basic processing work is done at a junior/trainee level, which is facilitated by the new technology. Managers are then freed up to spending more time looking after clients, reviewing work and carrying out higher-level analysis.”
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7. Don’t forget cyber safety
As accounting businesses increasingly handle large volumes of sensitive data online, it’s never been more important to make sure you have a solid security system in place. Customers will always be concerned about the way organisations use their information, particularly when it comes to their finances. Taking the time to do your research and implement the most effective protection is a must.
Times are changing - and fast. The way we do business is constantly evolving and new technologies helping make workplaces more efficient, profitable and rewarding are emerging all the time. We’ve got a wide range of helpful guides in our article catalogue.
For more information about how you can prepare your business for the future, why not find out how to run an accounting franchise from home?
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©