For accounting professionals in 2018, there is a need to recognise and confront operational challenges to make the shift to digital change. The HRMC’s move to making tax digital, and new regulations like MIFID II, are putting digital transformation higher on the strategic agenda. But not everyone is quite ready to get on board.
Why is this? Why are accountancy firms not embracing the digital revolution of the past 10 years? Why are firms so afraid of change?
Digital transformation goes against the traditional approach of manual and paper processes; the status quo. An accounting practice is a steady business and until now hasn’t needed to change. With anything, there are early adopters of technology and accountancy, and like any sector, has its leaders in the world of digital transformation. Overall though, the sector has not made the shift to operating in a digitally efficient world.
But times are changing; work life and expectations are changing. Your resources and clients want a more modern mode of operation. Over 50% of firms are now staffed with millennials who want an agile, flexible and modern way of working. These millennials will also be part of your client base, and this will only continue to grow. The millennials are the ones pushing for the shift; they grew up in the digital era. It’s not that firms don’t recognise this – it’s the thought, cost and effort required operationally to make the changes that are holding them back. How much longer can firms afford to hold back?
However, now is as good a time as any for accountants to embrace the digital age and reap the benefits of modern technology. As a starting point, focusing on the people within your organisation and aligning them to your digital strategy, will make the journey a lot smoother. Here are some reasons why:
- Company culture: improving operations and processes within your firm to make it easier for your staff to work, will inevitably enhance and modernise the company culture. Your people are your most important and expensive asset, therefore you should recognise that keeping them happy is important, whilst facilitating operational efficiency.
- Flexibility: enabling remote working will make it easier for your staff to work, thereby improving efficiency and increasing billable time.
- Agility: examples include hot desking, remote working, collaboration and space optimisation. These factors will enable your staff to work how, when, and where they choose, whilst opening opportunities for cost saving and increased productivity.
Digital transformation is not all about simply moving to the Cloud or installing Office 365, without any other kind of strategy. It is about recognising that technology and digital processes underpin your future working practices and are the way forward to enabling your staff as well as delighting your clients. This will in turn lead to business growth.
Take a moment to consider how IT is adding value to your firm. Do you have automated processes for payroll and billing? How are you managing paper – such as tax returns, and letters of engagement? Where do you store your data? For a millennial, the thought of these daily tasks being done in a non-automated way is inconceivable! Along with the amount of time it takes and the new regulations under GDPR, manual processes prove themselves to be more ineffective than ever.
Having said that, automating accountancy is seen as complex and there are often a variety of different systems which require a lot of software integration. A general accountancy practice may have as many as 60+ different applications and software packages to run. Do these systems talk to each other and integrate? How many little (or big!) workarounds do individual teams need to do to ensure the job gets done? How many hours could be saved if the technology worked for us rather than against us? Automation can be achieved much easier than the sector has perceived, and doesn't require lots of clever processes and integrations - if you can show a human how to follow a process, you can program an intelligent "Virtual Worker" to do it quicker and 24 hours a day. Leaving the staff to focus on the more important work.
The process of carrying out these inefficiencies can cost thousands a year for any firm. This is not just in terms of time spent managing manual & paper processes, or maintaining and running old equipment, but also with regard to training and the speed of onboarding and we haven't gone down the risk and compliance route! While there will be an initial spend on automating these processes and systems, it will cut the costs long term, and give you back time, which could be billable. T-Tech have built an offering that is a practical route to automation and which aims to deliver ROI much quicker than you would expect.
Being apprehensive about instigating digital changes is understandable, and firms should know they are not alone. Focus should not be on the pain of changing, but about the value it is going to add operationally, culturally and with compliance. There is so much growth potential for firms looking to modernise their practices, which means saying goodbye to the old-fashioned systems and embracing the digital revolution.