Digital Transformation can provide accounting firms with avenues to increase practice productivity, retain existing customers, and acquire new customers.
Today’s customers and employees are more tech-savvy than previous generations. These “new” generations were introduced to technology at a very young age and, consequently, have embraced the benefits of technology in their everyday lives. As a result, customer demands and expectations of accountants have also, over time, changed. They expect convenient, accessible, and real-time services. Hence, now is the perfect time for accountants to explore how they can leverage digital transformation to their competitive advantage
The following section provides examples of Digital Transformation Initiatives in existence today or that have the potential to be adopted by accountants in the future:
1. Save on time and cost with Automation
Using human resources to undertake repetitive, time consuming tasks is costly and an inefficient use of a valuable resource. Deploying Robotics Process Automation (RPA) such as I&A Admin Assist enables accountants to redeploy these resources to higher value tasks. This technology does not sleep, eat, have coffee breaks, get distracted by telephones, or have the need for time off. RPA can process tasks up to 10 times faster than a human and executes designated tasks with minimal errors.
RPA processes can include interacting with portals, such as ATO and ASIC, processing tax correspondence, Statement of Account, updating your practice management system, validating, emailing clients, uploading documents to client portals and practice management systems, and, comparing and updating client addresses across different on-premise and on-line systems, as required.
2. Increase flexibility and accessibility
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces that businesses should be prioritizing flexibility and adaptability. The growing demand for remote work has been accelerated by COVID-19, and the associated lockdowns. This requires requires essential data and tools remain accessible to your team, no matter where they are.
Cloud computing software provides accountants with a centralized platform, which is generally accessible from anywhere. Your employees can, at short notice, work from home as required, without significantly limiting productivity.
3. Co-Worker Collaboration
Whilst there are obvious benefits of having all staff working under one roof, and clients visit your office, the ability for employees to work from home, as required, can deliver a significant boost to productivity. Whilst anecdotal, products like Teams and Zoom reduce employee sick days and increase work throughput. COVID-19 has made remote remote meetings far more acceptable to many clients, reducing lost/unbillable time due to travel, allowing accountants to fit more meetings into each day.
When combined, these technologies allow you to scale without necessarily increasing your head count, or, required office space. Done correctly, the improvement in an accountant’s ‘cost to income’ ratio, can be exponential.
5. Revenue Diversification
Whilst there still appears to be an abundance of compliance work, it is only a matter of time before digitisation will reduce this activity and accounting firms will have to diversify their revenue streams to survive. Providing outsourced management accounting, and CFO services, to existing and potential customers is one area that appears to be gaining traction in the marketplace.
The key information that accountants really need, to assist their clients, often does not reside in a ledger. This information typically resides in an “operational” system, such as, point of sale, client booking systems, or other industry specific management software.
Cloud-based technologies in the marketplace, such as Essatto, allow accountants to gain a more intimate understanding of their customer’s financial position, and day-to-day operations, that take them beyond just the financials. These types of solutions, allow accountants to combine detailed financial data with detailed operational data, providing significant value-add opportunities for both accountants and their customers. This includes, comprehensive reporting, budgeting and forecasting, which typically cannot be produced from a ledger and/or a combination of Excel spreadsheets. These technologies allow an accountant to scale this service, providing more detailed information in a fraction of the time, and therefore cost, ensuring greater adoption of this service by clients.
Embracing the future of accounting
Digital transformation cannot be ignored by accountants. Clients are demanding more for less, are themselves undergoing digital transformation, and therefore, will have an expectation that their accountants are keeping up.
Guy Ioppolo is an FCPA and Managing Partner of Ioppolo & Associates.