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3 ways to modernise your accounting firm

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Young accountants

Accounting has always been, and always will be, a competitive profession. It’s important that firms stay current if they want to keep winning business and keep their clients happy and engaged. Your success as an accounting firm over the next five to 10 years depends on how you respond to competition, new technology, and increasing client demands.

Forty percent of accountants across the globe are less confident about the prospects for their practice than they were a year ago, and 67% say the profession is more competitive than ever, according to our Practice of Now research.

To stay ahead of the rest, you need to ensure that your practice is as modern as possible. This means changing the way you’ve always done things and aiming for optimisation and improvement, while always keeping your customer at the centre of everything you do.

Practice of Now

The 2019 research reveals evidence of a cultural shift within the industry as it prepares for the coming decade. Recruitment, skills and training, business practices, service offerings and technology are all evolving.

Download the report

What’s the problem?

But knowing what to optimise is not always obvious. A good place to start is with your technology. Is it connected to everything, can you and your customers easily access and use it, and does it offer a great user experience?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, it might be time for an overhaul.

Disconnected tech

If your data still lives in spreadsheets, it’s time to modernise. Why? Because there’s probably no single spreadsheet in your business that offers a single view of the truth and that has the most current data. If you’ve used spreadsheets for a while, your data is probably scattered across a few of them, as well as in a number of applications that you use to store client details.

Why is this problematic? For a few reasons. The first is issues around data protection, especially with the incoming Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which says that privacy should be designed into all your systems and processes. Spreadsheets do not offer the requisite level of security in protecting client information, which means you’ll fail to comply with POPIA and could face hefty fines.

Second, spreadsheets do not support real-time data. Updating them requires input from a person, who might capture the data incorrectly. This means that you’re making business decisions based on inaccurate, historical data. Not ideal.

The bottom line is: if you’re still using spreadsheets, you’re not running your business as efficiently as you could be. Here are three steps to modernise your accounting practice.
  1. Embrace technology

Yes, there’s a lot of technology out there, from cloud-based accounting software to artificial intelligence. It can be overwhelming to know which is right for your business.

Start with improving your knowledge about what the different solutions offer, their benefits, what processes they can improve, and which can have the biggest impact in your firm.

Sign up for industry events, like the Sage Accountants Roadshow, to discover the latest products and trends and to hear from the profession’s leading innovators. You’ll also have a chance to network with other accountants and find out what worked best for them.

  1. Align tech with your business goals

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation. You’ll need to identify the technological gaps in your business and how to plug them. Choose solutions that specifically cater to these needs – as well as your business’s wider goals – and that can take you to the next level on your digital maturity journey. If you want your accountants to be able to access client data when they’re not in the office, for example, cloud-based accounting software can support this goal.

Your goals, whether uncovering new revenue streams or improving compliance processes, will provide structure to digital transformation strategies and guide you in making the right decisions.

  1. Stay future-focused

Technology advances rapidly. Don’t focus too much on what’s happening now; rather take a forward-looking approach and focus on what your business might need in five or 10 years. This is crucial if you want to remain competitive, stay ahead of the ever-changing technological curve, and make your business more resilient and agile.

This is another good reason to attend industry events. By staying up to date with developments in technology and understanding how they might impact your business, you can make changes to your systems and processes now that will help you better navigate what’s coming next. You should always be thinking about how you can use new tools and innovations to better serve your clients today and anticipate their needs in future. Using technology to stay ahead of client demands is an effective way to stay competitive.

Encourage your entire workforce to come up with ways to work better, smarter, and faster. If you leave them behind in your digital transformation journey, they’ll eventually slow you down because they weren’t adequately prepared and equipped with the skills and knowledge to be future fit.

Last word

There’s a lot on your plate. You’re building a brand, pitching for new business, trying to attract top talent and plug the skills gap, and now, trying to keep up with the pace of technology. It’s a lot to manage, but managing change is going to be a key competitive skill. If you want your firm to grow and thrive, embrace the change and make it as central to the business function as servicing client needs.

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