Now more than ever, technology enables accountants to connect more effectively with the businesses we serve, prioritising advice and guidance with integrated systems to work alongside us. Technology is not replacing us, rather opening up more opportunities for us to do the work that makes a difference to our clients. For that reason, we should wholeheartedly embrace it.
In the last five years, the development of cloud-based accountancy software has transformed the role of the accountant. For me the key five key innovations in our industry are:
- Cloud based accounting systems
Systems like Xero or QBO that allow both the accountants and the clients to view their data at the same time from anywhere with an internet connection. This unshackling of data from desktop software is truly transformative.
- Daily automatic bank feeds
The ability to integrate these into the cloud accounting system mean that both we and the business owners can see data updated every day without any manual intervention. HSBC has led the way and Yodlee feeds are crucial for banks without their own automatic feeds.
- Paperless receipts, bill collection and data entry by OCR (optical character recognition)
Integrating these with both cloud-based accounting systems and bank feeds have done more to save bookkeepers time than anything else in the last five years. Gone are the days of wading through shoe boxes of receipts; we can now process paperless records and update data in real-time at the tap of a button.
- Slick reporting dashboards
The ability to instantly and directly report to business owners in a beautiful format through Xero, Spotlight and other reporting add-ons; without resorting to data exports and manipulation in Excel. This has allowed timely sharing of management information in a way that more people respond to.
- Improved communication tools
Tools like Skype, Facetime and Zoom have also allowed us to talk to our clients from anywhere, while providing face-to-face communication – crucial when talking about confusing, difficult or sensitive data. This allows us to provide relevant, real-time financial advice, all while maintaining that human connection.
The ability to spend more time forging connections and delivering real-time advice right when clients need it, is transformative in our industry. By streamlining everyday finance management without wasting too much time on compliance, we now have more opportunities than ever to understand our clients’ real needs and grow our businesses.
Not only does this create a more streamlined admin process for all parties, it allows accountants to process data remotely, in a way that meets legal standards while reducing the margin of error. It also creates a more open, transparent relationship between client and accountant, particularly for those who aren’t traditionally “numbers people”. By empowering our clients to understand their daily finances better, we empower them to better understand their business as a whole, which can only be a good thing.
Integrating cloud technology into working practices is a no-brainer. Tasks that traditionally would have taken hours, like reconciling receipts with bank statements, can be done in minutes remotely. This allows us to manage multiple client accounts, quickly pull together financial data and display it in a simple, easy-to-understand format for clients with ease. Simply put, we save time, money and add more value to our clients’ businesses in the long term.
Heather Darnell is founder of Ask the BOSS and One Question conference 2018 panellist