It’s time to love data, not battle it
Data has always been critical for accountancy practices.
The difference between past and present, is that twenty-five odd years ago when I was an accountant; everything was stored in paper files.
I remember pouring over rows and rows of filing cabinets with draws bursting at the seams, boxes and piles of paper crammed in every spare office corner. The sheer volume of these documents often required additional office space and storage units which is something I will never forget.
It really was a battle to find anything and this left accountants scrambling to find the precious information they needed for their clients.
Data, data and more data
Business and client data is now stored across servers, networks, hard drives and applications. These different interfaces are producing more business data than ever before.
Yet by design, these digital interfaces are dispersed. Of course, you can piece them together or extract information and merge reports but the risk of data being fractured is omnipresent.
While there's a good chance that data issues are already known, the true impact and full extent of broken data is often underestimated.
Firstly, hunting for missing data, correcting inaccurate data and putting the data sets together are a waste of valuable time and resources.
Secondly, as this poor-quality data moves through a firm it has a compounding effect.
Data informs critical business decisions - it's used to plan, operate, predict and steer strategy. Without accuracy and context, these decisions are in danger of being best guesses which can result in a loss of productivity and missed opportunities.
It's almost as if accountants are right back where they started, still struggling to get a good view on their stored data. It’s becoming reminiscent of the old cabinet filing days.
Ditch the rear-view mirror
In the last few years, accountants have increasingly become the first port of call when clients are looking for trusted advice. This places firms under significant pressure to drive and improve efficiencies across the board.
What work is profitable? Are client expectations being met and services delivered? Are budgets and timelines on track? Where are members of staff creating value and how? How can other members of staff be nurtured and developed to do the same? How can productivity be increased?
With fierce competition in the accounting industry and increasing economic pressures, there’s not much room left for hindsight.
Yet firms still look back at the end of the month or period and say, okay, how did we do?
I think this reactive approach is one of the biggest challenges facing accounting firms and this challenge stems directly from how data is managed and processed.
To be more proactive and get to the heart of critical data, firms need a holistic, real-time view of it.
This will empower accountants and shift the focus forward to, what's coming, what's next?
If you love your data, it will love you back
To truly unlock the value of your data, it needs to be accurate, complete, relevant and trustworthy; and doing this at scale requires the right technology that can extract real value through insights and business intelligence.
As a result, there is an increased focus and movement towards cloud-based platforms that combine interfaces and applications to create one consolidated view on data.
But a consolidated view of data is just the start of a truly digitised practice.
Automated functionality is the key to empowering accountants and bringing to life high-quality advisory services clients want, while maximising the earning potential of the firm.
For example, instead of letting your client know they have passed the VAT threshold, you can let them know they are about to.
Instead of realising a project has overrun and its profit margin lost, an automated alert can let your senior managers know beforehand.
Instead of spending hours of time on repetitive admin, workflows can be automated and more time can be spent on advisory.
Instead of being understaffed or short-skilled, employees can be trained in the areas where there is increased customer demand.
Having this time-sensitive intelligence on performance, budget and resource will not only foster growth for accountancy firms but it will make a real difference to clients by taking their business to the next level.
It's time to embrace technology and automation to reap the rewards of a future-fit firm with happy, retained clients.