How IRIS Elements is solving the accounting industry’s patchwork problem

JP | How IRIS Elements is solving the accounting industry’s patchwork problem
By Conrad Emmett | 11th May 2023 | 8 min read

For many accountancy practices, cloud software is firmly on the to-do list, and with good reason.

Cloud software delivers better security, lets teams operate from almost anywhere, cuts errors by using a single system to do multiple things and provides efficiencies when the promised integrations arrive.

However, this isn’t always the result.

Despite all attempts to adapt, Jonathan Priestley, VP of Product Marketing at IRIS, says many practices are suffering from a software 'patchwork problem' as they seek the best answer to each challenge they face.

In larger firms, the patchwork problem creates an ongoing cost of customisation in an effort to get solutions to play nice with each other, while in smaller firms, it has the effect of running a dozen or more specialist software applications that rarely connect. 

What should be smart ends up fractured, and what should be more secure introduces risk.

The dilemma for small, medium and large firms

Jonathan explains: “As you move beyond the smaller practices, this patchwork issue gets worse. Mid-sized practices have got a mix of desktop and cloud applications, so they have more complicated integration needs. They have to deal with this while struggling with ever-shifting compliance changes and disruption caused by the after-effects of COVID which means they also need a lot of flexibility.

“Then there’s the large practices, which have very different business needs. They’re typically looking to grow by acquiring other firms, which often means they are inheriting bags of bits from each one. In every acquisition, there's some indigestion prior to integration. Often juggling a myriad of different vendors, they must standardise the way their businesses work.”

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Seamless integration, not a patchwork problem

Our cloud solution, IRIS Elements, is swapping the patchwork problem for a seamless experience, helping firms bring their accountancy applications together into a platform with a single view of the client, either through the apps it provides or by real-time synchronisation with existing software.

IRIS Elements is designed as an end-to-end, fully integrated, MTD-ready cloud accounting platform with a mission to deliver consistency and accuracy through one client list.

Functions include:

  • Proposal management
  • Practice-wide AML compliance
  • Client ID checks
  • Tax and accounts filing
  • Company secretarial
  • Practice management

Jonathan says: “We have the perfect answer for smaller practises because we now have a complete cloud-native integrated suite that they can use, dramatically reducing the patchwork problem.

“Meanwhile, we describe our philosophy for helping medium businesses as being hybrid by design, enabling accountants to migrate across to the cloud from desktop software at their own pace. We've invested heavily in bridging technology, ensuring our desktop and cloud-native software synchronises in real-time.

“Because bigger accountancy practices are dealing with consolidation and staying organised, they can leverage the breadth of the IRIS portfolio, like our HR software, payroll solutions and hosting platform.

“At every level, it's about building new capabilities, but with a sympathetic connection back to what our customer base is already using, so they control their transition to the cloud.”

News: IRIS propels accounting tech to the next level with largest IRIS Elements release

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Accountancy’s shifting landscape

Where is the industry heading next?

Jonathan says: “We’re seeing the number of small firms grow fast. There are a lot of new people setting up on their own, scaling their businesses and picking up clients.

“We believe the number of mid-sized businesses in the market will start to contract, for a number of reasons: partners setting up on their own, senior partners retiring and selling out to a larger enterprise-sized organisation.

“Enterprise firms are also growing rapidly; we are seeing some phenomenal growth with businesses taking on double-digit acquisitions in a single year.”

More content: How IRIS Elements grew from adversity, ingenuity and lessons learnt

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Addressing efficiency and reporting requirements

Finding efficiencies for smaller firms is essential.

Jonathan explains: “Anything that gets smaller practices away from unbillable work and onto developing a more profitable business with a broader range of services will make a dramatic difference.

“It’s especially important now – there are fewer newly qualified accountants joining the industry –they would have helped with excess work as they learned the ropes.

“Because of this, we need to make sure no task is duplicated. We will be devoting yet more of our time to adding extra integration points into the platform, making it work better with other software that is both IRIS and non-IRIS.

“We’re also looking to put as much reporting in place as possible, giving customers even more out-of-the-box insights into how their businesses are running. We want people to have data in real-time, so they can make decisions at the pace of the business.

“At an enterprise level, we’ll look at some of the more extreme requirements our bigger customers will have in compliance. It's less about function at that point and much more about how specific parts of the product work inside large practices, catering for more complex needs.

“Elements will need to do as much heavy lifting as possible for these firms – before they get to the point of making a calculation on behalf of their client.”

One certainty in a fast-changing world

As we saw in our previous blog, hundreds of practices are involved across IRIS Elements’ design and agile development groups, helping direct the development of the software.

Jonathan reflects: “Ultimately, when we talk about the future, there’s one thing that’s certain – we will continue to work with our community.

“A lot of businesses talk about putting the customer first, and I’m proud we made that a reality. The feedback from our community so far has been superb, and that really means the most to us in our journey.

“Looking ahead, I’m excited about the great things we will deliver together.”

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