Data automation and visualisation a “prerequisite” for mid-market businesses

The newly-disrupted business climate and heightened risk of erroneous data have rendered cloud adoption unavoidable for mid-sized companies, according to Mark Pullen, CEO at Xledger, a leading accounting software provider.

“When you’ve got huge volumes of data, you need to be able to manipulate and interpret that data and provide insight as a result,” says Pullen.

“If you look at some of these spreadsheets, they would take up an entire room if you printed them off.”

Pullen argues that this need for automation intensified at the onset of the pandemic. Not only were resources stretched and ways of working compromised, but new methods of reporting also had to be adopted with little warning, he says.

“The forecasting and real-time nature of data changed. There was suddenly a need to provide insight much quicker.

“They had to think about how they were going to manage things such as furlough and temporary VAT changes, and all of those were then sat within traditional spreadsheets strewn with potential human error.”

But Pullen goes on to argue that time loss is perhaps the most detrimental by-product of this.

Greater automation will create opportunities to scale and grow for accounting firms because the ratio of customers serviced by a single adviser will naturally become more favourable, he says.

“There’s an economy of scale there in two ways – it works for both sides of the coin in terms of being a cost reduction tool but also a way to increase efficiency.”

Research by McKinsey estimates that in 60 percent of jobs, at least one-third of activities could be handled by automation.

In the same study, nearly 70 percent of workers said the biggest automation opportunity lies in reducing time wasted on repetitive work.

Data visualisation

Pullen goes on to highlight the significance of visualisation and accessibility when it comes to cloud finance platforms themselves, describing this as a “prerequisite” in the modern age.

“It needs to be easy to understand, aesthetically pleasing, and it needs to be automated.”

He also alludes to the importance of “speed-to-value of information”, noting that this ties in heavily with accessibility and navigation.

“If I see some anomaly or something I don’t understand that is outside of my usual data trends, I want to be able to click on it myself and drill into it to be able to answer my own questions and not have to bother other people – especially when working remotely,” he says.

All of this is particularly important when you consider the potential liabilities involved with reporting inaccurate information in the modern age, such as those stipulated by the forthcoming Making Tax Digital rollout, Pullen adds.

“In a world where we’re trying to process much larger volumes of data in much shorter timeframes and where the financial penalties can be so severe, it should be mandatory that systems can produce this kind of data automatically.”

Implementation and delivery

But with the growing complexity of cloud finance platforms, combined with the newfound requirement to implement and troubleshoot them remotely, the delivery of such a system is arguably one of its most important features, Pullen argues.

“The absolute priority from our teams is to have a customer fully onboarded with their system working exactly how they want it,” he says.

To achieve this to the greatest extent possible during the pandemic, Xledger switched to delivering everything remotely. Not only did this allow for COVID compliance, but according to Pullen, it also enabled a fast and seamless delivery for customers who, as a result of the changing business climate, needed a new system implemented at a moment’s notice.

However, Pullen notes the “potentially negative” and “high risk” nature of such a move, suggesting that this further highlighted the need for a smooth and seamless delivery.

“We really focused on having a very well-structured and easy-to-follow implementation process that is delivered to the customer.”

At the centre of achieving this, he says, was Xledger’s “collaborative” approach to delivery.

“All of our consultants, solutions team, project managers and support team are fully-qualified accountants, and we’ve trained them to implement software. So, what that means is they’re working with teams who speak the same language as each other.


Most of our work is done as a collaboration with the team that is going to use it. So, it’s a far more iterative approach where accountants are working with accountants to deliver a tool.”If you have any queries related to this article, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Xledger team on mail@xledger.co.uk, or call 0117 457 3293.

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