Technology & Innovation

How to complete your digital accountancy practice journey

To build a fully digital accountancy practice, you must embrace digital transformation. Discover how you can make that happen now.

Serving clients while juggling practice management tasks and staying on top of the latest accountancy technologies can be challenging.

That’s where the idea of digitalisation can become valuable.

It’s not just about converting analogue information into digital form, which is a process known as digitisation.

Digitalisation is a transformative leap that can reimagine and reinvent how you work, fostering seamless integration between technology and your service delivery while keeping you in control.

Creating a practical roadmap for digitalisation will help you identify tools and insights that could simplify your processes and free up more time. Involving key stakeholders in your journey will help you create a strategy that aligns with your practice’s unique needs.

We know regulatory compliance is not just a necessity but a key aspect of your role. A fully digitalised practice will make managing compliance simpler, more efficient, and less time-consuming.

You’ll have more time to focus on adding value to your client experience and driving your business forward.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

What is a digital practice?

To build a fully digital accountancy practice, you must embrace digital transformation, using technology to streamline accounting processes, enhance efficiency and productivity, and provide value-added services to clients.

How can you tell if you’ve built a fully digital accountancy practice?

Cloud accounting software

You’ll use cloud accounting software to manage client data, automate routine tasks, and provide real-time financial insights to clients.

Paperless workflows

You’ll have eliminated paper-based workflows and digitised all accounting processes, from data entry to reporting.

Data analytics

You’ll use data analytics to gain insights into client financial data, identify trends and patterns, and provide strategic advice to clients.

Automation

You’ll automate routine tasks and workflows, freeing up time to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Cybersecurity

You’ll have robust cybersecurity measures to protect client data and prevent cyber threats.

From digitising to fully digitalising your accountancy practice

It’s easy to confuse digitalisation and digitisation, as they’re often used interchangeably, but the terms mean different things.

Digitising

Digitising accounting processes involves converting paper-based or manual processes into digital formats.

You’re taking existing processes and converting them into a digital form without necessarily changing the underlying process itself.

Examples of digitising accounting processes include:

  • Scanning paper documents and storing them electronically
  • Converting paper-based invoices into an electronic format
  • Using electronic spreadsheets to manage financial data
  • Using electronic forms to collect financial information.

Digitalisation

Digitalising accounting processes involves using technology to transform your accounting processes and workflows fundamentally.

You’re using it to automate processes, improve accuracy and efficiency, and provide real-time insights. Examples of digitalising accounting processes include:

  • Automating invoice processing using optical character recognition (OCR) technology
  • Using cloud accounting software to manage financial data and workflows
  • Using data analytics tools to gain insights into financial data and identify trends and patterns
  • Implementing robotic process automation (RPA) to automate routine tasks and workflows.

Both approaches can benefit accounting practices, but digitalising processes will provide clients with more significant long-term benefits regarding efficiency, accuracy, and value-added services.

The impact of digitalisation

Digitalisation has transformed how accountancy practices operate, from how you manage financial data to how you interact with clients.

Some of the effects of digitalisation on a modern accountancy practice include:

Increased efficiency

Digitalisation automates routine tasks and workflows, freeing up your time to focus on more strategic initiatives. You increase efficiency and productivity.

Improved accuracy

Digitalisation reduces manual errors and improves the accuracy and reliability of accounting data.

You get more accurate financial reporting and make better decisions as a result.

Real-time reporting

Digitalisation provides real-time financial insights to clients, allowing you to make informed decisions based on up-to-date information.

Enhanced client service

Digitalisation allows you to provide value-added services to clients, such as data analytics and strategic advice.

This can help build stronger client relationships and increase client satisfaction.

Competitive advantage

Digitalisation gives you a competitive advantage over other accountancy practices that are slower to adapt.

This means you can increase market share and growth.

What digitalisation means for your client management

The benefits of digitalisation for your practice growth and client relations are significant.

By embracing digitalisation, your accountancy practice can:

Attract new clients

Digitalisation can be a key differentiator, attracting new clients looking for innovative and forward-thinking firms.

Retain existing clients

Digitalisation can help your practice retain existing clients by providing value-added services and real-time reporting.

Increase revenue

Digitalisation can increase revenue by allowing you to provide value-added services and charge higher fees for more strategic work.

Improve client satisfaction

You’ll be able to provide more accurate and timely financial reporting and value-added services such as data analytics and strategic advice.

Strengthen client relationships

Digitalisation can help to strengthen client relationships by providing more opportunities for communication and collaboration.

BK Plus is a digitalised accountancy practice

BK Plus is a dynamic and growing accountancy and advisory business that once predominantly relied on traditional paper-based systems.

Manual reporting and data entry weighed the company down with laborious daily tasks, hampering its efficiency and growth potential.

A paper-dependent model lacks flexibility, limiting a company’s ability to adapt to changing market conditions or customer needs.

The turning point came when BK Plus collaborated with Sage to transform all printed and desktop work to 100% digital, streamlining operations for the entire team. It increased its operational efficiency and significantly enhanced its growth trajectory.

BK Plus enjoys more seamless and accurate reporting, which has informed better business decisions and improved overall productivity.

The advisory businesses’ successful digital transformation underscores the importance of embracing digital tools for operational efficiency and growth.

It demonstrates the power of innovative partnerships and the significant impact of technological adoption on business success.

BK Plus’s journey underscores that with the right support and an unwavering commitment to change, accountancy practices of all sizes can digitalise, unlocking new levels of potential and success.

Talking digitally to clients

You may have clients who aren’t necessarily as in tune with technology as you are. The first step may be discussing and proving the benefits of a digital approach

Help clients understand that if they embrace digital technology, they are more likely to have accurate and up-to-date financial data, which allows you to provide more timely and strategic advice.

Make it clear to tech-resistant clients that they may experience delays in financial reporting and miss out on value-added services.

Strategies for effectively communicating the benefits of digitalisation to clients include:

Educate on the benefits of digitalisation

Inform clients about the benefits of real-time financial insights, improved accuracy, and value-added services.

Look at webinars or educational resources such as Sage Advice and Sage University.

Demonstrate the benefits of digitalisation

Provide examples of how digitalisation has improved financial reporting and decision-making.

Provide training and support

Ensure a smooth transition to digital workflows. Start by training them on accounting software and collaborative tools.

Address client concerns

Reassure clients about cybersecurity and data privacy levels, and provide reassurance that robust measures are in place to protect client data.

Offer a phased approach

Start with basic digital workflows and gradually introduce more advanced digital technologies.

Inform clients of regulatory requirements

Digitalisation is becoming a legal requirement, and compliance is front of mind.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a UK government initiative that requires businesses to keep digital records and file tax returns using MTD-compatible software. It also applies to businesses that need to declare VAT.

The MTD criteria set out the technical requirements that software must meet to be compatible with the initiative.

You can play a key role in helping clients comply with MTD criteria by providing training and support on using MTD-compatible software and digital record-keeping.

By helping clients to comply with the upcoming MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment criteria, you can ensure they are prepared for the future of digital tax reporting and avoid penalties for non-compliance.

Some common mandatory requirements for digital record-keeping and filing include:

Use of approved software

Businesses are required to use approved software for digital record-keeping and filing, which meets specific technical requirements.

Electronic signatures

Electronic signatures may be required to digitally file documents, such as tax returns or financial statements.

Data retention

Businesses must retain digital records for a minimum period.

Cybersecurity

Businesses must have robust cybersecurity measures to protect digital records and prevent cyber threats.

Stay updated with mandatory requirements for digital record-keeping so your clients can ensure compliance and avoid penalties.

Your people are vital

The human element is essential when transitioning to a fully digital practice.

High staff satisfaction rates are critical.

You’ll know that accountants who are satisfied with their work environment and the technology they use are more likely to be productive and engaged, improving client service and increasing revenue.

Look at investing in user-friendly technology that provides employee value. Training and development programmes also ensure your people have the skills and knowledge to work effectively in a digital environment.

Another important aspect of the human element of a digital accountancy practice is staff engagement and communication. Communicate the benefits of digitalisation to staff and involve them in the transition process.

Seek employee feedback on implementing digital workflows, providing your workforce opportunities to contribute to new digital initiatives.

Digitalisation can bring many benefits to your people, including:

A reduction of manual tasks

Automate routine tasks and workflows, reducing the need for manual data entry and freeing-up staff time for more strategic initiatives.

Higher job satisfaction

People can work better with real-time financial data and value-added services, as they can more effectively impact client outcomes.

Better talent retention

Offer staff opportunities for career development and upskilling, which can help to retain top talent within your practice.

Improvement of work-life balance

Enabling staff to work remotely and access work-related information from anywhere, improving work-life balance and reducing stress.

Final thoughts on the digitalisation of your practice

Transitioning to a fully digital practice in accountancy is no longer optional—it’s an necessity.

Leaping from digitisation to digitalisation yields unparalleled benefits, such as increased efficiency, enhanced accuracy and improved client relationships.

But it’s vital to remember that digitalisation extends beyond mere technology adoption—it’s about your people too.

Creating a fully digitalised environment empowers your team to deliver strategic value, supports clients in their digital journey, and fosters continuous learning and growth.

Elevate your digital practice

Discover how you can take the right steps on your digital journey to truly digitalise your accountancy practice.

Download your free guide

Subscribe to the Sage Advice newsletter

Join more than 500,000 UK readers and get the best business admin strategies and tactics, as well as actionable advice to help your company thrive, in your inbox every month.