Accelerating transformation in the accountancy workplace

Technological advancements have always played a key role in pushing boundaries and growing capabilities for businesses. Like many others, the accounting industry was destined for substantial technological transformation.

The Making Tax Digital UK government initiative is a clear indication that the accounting industry has been on a digital transformation journey. Restrictions on the workplace enforced over recent months have caused physical processes to become impractical and unpopular, signalling the need for accelerated transformation.

Digital transformation is not a new concept for most businesses, but the pace of change has rapidly increased over recent years. While huge digital transformation projects can, in some cases, be costly, requiring a significant financial investment and also a complete cultural change within the business, smart and agile businesses are undertaking smaller projects all the time.

As we’ve witnessed over the last few weeks, some nimble businesses who already have in place the tools to provide access to remote working have adapted to the ‘new normal’ with relative ease.  As many employees are currently working from home, other businesses have been forced to adopt digital transformation practices at a far greater pace. Whilst many firms were already digitally upskilling prior to lockdown, the government-imposed restrictions have accelerated the shift to a cloud-focused mentality. This acceleration of transformation has enabled many organisations to operate as normal, even though employees are not in their usual shared working space.

Thanks to modern technology, usual office interactions are now taking place at home and video conferencing has been adopted (globally) as the new norm for communicating with colleagues.

Advances in online connectivity provide workers with the ability to communicate with one another with minimal delay in sound and a clear image. Just as communication has been aided with technological advancement, so has the way we share and review documents. For many industries, including finance, legal, and healthcare, fax remains a vital tool for sharing important documents due to the nature of sending files improving legal authenticity. However, the vast majority of people do not have fax machines at home. They are forced to seek out alternative means to share documents and data without risk. Cloud faxing has stepped in to remove the need for dated fax machines, increasing the workforce’s ability to be agile as they can fax from anywhere using a mobile device.

The large increase in remote working has caused a significant rise in cybercrime. Digital faxing is much safer than its physical counterpart, as fax files are sent directly to the email inbox and sophisticated data encryption is used to increase security and confidentiality. It also saves companies money, at a time when the economy has taken a hit and reducing costs is vital. Digital faxing is much quicker and cheaper, saving costs of line rental, maintenance and toner. Cutting costs for businesses is appreciated more when performance is not compromised.

As restrictions on the movement and number of interactions of people begin to lift, thoughts turn to how offices will eventually reopen their doors. Although for the foreseeable future most offices will remain closed, or at most at minimal capacity, business owners must determine how to keep their employees safe and plan for the new normal in the workplace.

We must not forget the lessons learnt about how we work. Now is a good time for business owners to reflect and consider the changes that are working well since working from home is now common practice, progressing on their digital transformation journey. The digital implementations that were vital to the success of the business must be taken back to the office and old physical processes left behind. It is a time for refreshing the workplace and questioning old habits, asking if it is time to permanently replace them with modern solutions. 

 The accelerated digital transformation we have witnessed in the last few months has changed the landscape of accounting and will continue to benefit companies that innovate in all areas of business.

In the worst hit sectors, where there is real need for a larger amount of real-time information, accountants have certainly shown their worth by providing value added services. Yet now is the perfect time to have a new perspective on the workplace.

Technology that was adopted during lockdown to solve the issue of displaced teams away from legacy systems should not be dropped when employees return to offices. Old physical processes can easily be improved with the adoption of new digital ways of working, allowing businesses to be as nimble and agile as they need to be. 

By Scott Wilson director of service at Efax

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