With MTD’s deadline closing in, it’s not surprising that 99% of accountants are now using some form of digital accounting, and the shift to digital-first accounting has become viewed as “imperative by nearly all accountants”, Sage’s latest research finds. Catering to this digital paradigm shift, Sage has released its latest accounting solution: Sage for Accountants. But what does this really mean for accountants and their clients?
Gerty Bester, director of Product Management at Sage, explains that the purpose of Sage for Accountants is to “address the end-to-end workflow, right from accountants getting a client into the practice [and] getting their pricing right, to making it easier for them to manage the workload through enriched features on the smart reporting side”.
According to Sage, the solution aims to support UK accountants to work in conjunction with their clients by introducing end-to-end proposal-to-advisory management to UK practices. In particular, the smart reporting side of the solution includes client management, single sign-on across Sage Accounting, payroll, online compliance tools, partnership tools and resources, and support for practices to advise clients on how to achieve their goals.
Chris Downing, director of Product Marketing at Sage, explains that GoProposal aims to make sure “the price is right” and is priced “efficiently”. He also notes that by having more consistent proposals it can help benefit firms when it comes to securing more profitable business. “For accountants, a great onboarding is all about getting a customer into the system very quickly, keeping detailed customer records, and tracking for the task that needs to be done. This means accountants can bill more efficiently and accurately for the time needed to serve the customer well, from day one,” he says.
Bester says: “If we just take an existing workflow and copy and paste it into a digital solution, that’s not really improving anyone’s lives. It’s all about digitising the processes themselves so they aren’t just electronic versions. We’re going to be improving the way accountants do things, making them more efficient, and saving them time”.
Why was Sage for Accountants created?
Sage’s recent survey analyses what accountants need to improve their job. It finds that solutions which could “remove friction” regarding how accountants do business with their customers as well as their partners like Sage, are vital. Bester highlights: “Sage for Accountants was born with that idea in mind. It grew into an end-to-end proposal and advisory platform to better equip accountants to do their job, to provide value-added services, and to become that trusted advisor”. Moreover, Downing asserts that Sage for Accountants “unifies all our best cloud-native products in one place, enabling the accountant to have a single view of their whole client base.”
Downing also puts emphasis on how the disruption to the accounting industry brought by Covid and the pandemic was a strong motivation for creating Sage for Accountants. “When we think about the additional challenges which an accountant is facing, including the pandemic, Making Tax Digital, new VAT rules in April 2022 or MTD ITSA (income tax self-assessment) in April 2024, it’s going to be a mammoth change for how every accountancy practice is going to operate.
“Therefore, Sage has looked forward to the future, by thinking about how accountants will need to work, and collaborate with their clients and third parties. We have therefore built a platform which is fit for the future”.
Downing also highlights that the solution “is about giving the client choice”, as accountants can choose what solutions they want to use within the platform and how they will use them. Meanwhile, Downing also adds that the solution’s collaboration tools will help accountants to “digitally onboard clients at speed and pace”.
Furthermore, Downing reveals that clients will have a choice to either be “hands off”, enabling the accountant or the bookkeeper to do most of the processing themselves, or the business owner can take more ownership over their own business affairs. “You’ve got that real time collaboration which means that the business owner can work with the accountant whenever they want to, in a way which is efficient for them,” he notes. “At the same time, it also gives the business owner greater insights in terms of how their business is performing. So, the client is going to see value straight away in terms of the accountant being able work on their affairs as and when the client needs their services”.
With accessibility at the forefront of the solution, Bester asserts that “Sage is all about knocking down barriers. The easier users can access the software, the easier they can access the support or education that they need. Whether you’re an end user or an accountant becomes irrelevant; it’s beneficial to all”.
What effects will Sage for Accountants have on accountants’ day-to-day operations?
Sage for Accountants brings much-needed “visibility” to the work that accountants are performing. Downing explains that “it’s providing accountants the tool to do in-the-moment, active client proposals; for instance, if clients ask for more services, accountants are able to be reactive by repricing their service appropriately. This means they can maintain their profit levels, especially as clients are demanding more in their burgeoning markets, whilst perhaps not necessarily wanting to pay more for those services”.
Downing observes that, due to the effects of Covid on working culture, there was a disruption in how the accounting industry operates – whether that’s by employees working from home or increased collaboration within the field. “What we’ve developed is the opportunity for the accountant to have a single window within their practice to see all their clients, to have access to the data in real-time, and to give them competence and access to data”.
But why is it important for accountants to have a single environment to manage their practice? Downing explains: “Think about how a practice will grow over the next couple of years: getting ready and onboarding clients for MTD ITSA or supporting clients in terms of business growth. Having access to those tools in one place is hugely timesaving. That’s what accountants want: to save time, create capacity, and deliver a great experience.”
Meanwhile, the feedback from Sage’s report revealed that having to rekey data from one digital solution to another is “one of the biggest pain points” for accountants. However, Downing says: “We’ve gotten rid of that overnight with Sage for Accounting. But we’ve also given the accountant choice over how they want to operate, because they are becoming more complicated in terms of their client relationships. Therefore, we’ve given the accountants the tools and the choice regarding how they want to grow going forward.”
Training and education
Alongside the announcement of the Sage for Accountants solution, Sage has also announced that the company will offer its customers training and education. Sharing insight into what this entails, Bester reveals that Sage is providing an “overarching rewards programme” for its accountants.
She revealed that feedback from accountants showed that they want to be acknowledged for learning more about the product. “Part and parcel of how we reward them is going to be integrating our education pieces. We’re going to make it easier for people to get up and go with Sage for Accountants, at a much faster pace than they’ve previously been able to,” she says.
Ultimately, as Sage proceeds through MTD, Downing says the next big thing for the company is to “continue to evolve” as accountants and clients “collaborate closer and work a lot closer”.