Despite being the month of the UK’s first national lockdown, a record 636 accountancy practices were founded in March 2020. The pandemic drove the profession almost entirely online, with many practices adopting digital, cloud-based tools so they could work anywhere at any time. In this month, the first truly ‘cloud-native’ accountancy practices were born.
Cloud technology – designed specifically for accountants – has now become the de facto for many new practices thanks to the enhanced efficiency it brings, its affordability, and ease of use. Cloud-native practices work smarter, automating inefficient tasks and helping accountants base decisions off of real-time data. This frees up time for accountants to focus on what’s most important – offering clients higher-value advisory services.
More and more practices are catching on. In fact, over 70% of IRIS customers have migrated to the cloud, so competition in the profession is now as fierce as ever. To not only survive, but thrive, accountancy practices must adapt quickly.
Take the necessary steps
Making slight tweaks to current working processes can help accountancy firms move to the cloud at their own pace. Marginal gains can be created from tactical changes such as encouraging clients to use receipt capture or bookkeeping tools. These tweaks don’t have to be audacious, complex, or even expensive.
First and foremost, accountants are businesses’ most trusted advisers. Using the information gained from digital tools, they can start to provide clients with better-informed advice and insight as they contend with issues such as rebuilding from the pandemic and Making Tax Digital. Meanwhile, when it comes to recruitment, practices should consider evolving working styles to attract the best talent.
To do this successfully, firms must harness the right digital practice tools. Ones that both enable flexibility and provide accurate, real-time data from across their own business as well as their portfolio of clients. In short, practices must join the cloud-native party if they want to stay relevant.
Real-time data equals real-time success
Real-time data powered by cloud technology helps accountants stay one step ahead. It increases the touchpoints between all associated parties and widens the scope for additional collaboration. This actionable data also helps accountants provide forward-looking advice as opposed to just completing general bread and butter tasks such as year-end tax filings.
Integrated cloud technology also anonymously amalgamates the correct data to measure the performance of clients and businesses in the same sector effectively, so firms can understand where their clients are both winning and losing out and use in their value-add advisory services. Ultimately, cloud technology helps accountancy professionals deliver what’s best for their clients.
Culture on the cloud
Cloud-based tools also prove incredibly beneficial internally. Employees now expect different working experiences and styles to pre-pandemic standards. Harnessing the cloud enables flexibility, meaning employees can work from just about anywhere there’s an internet connection, and at any time.
This is extremely beneficial for employees such as single parents. Working via the cloud enables these individuals to choose the hours they work that are best suited to their lifestyle. For Becky Homer at Farnborough-based practice, Jones & Co., access to flexible accountancy software opened the possibility of effectively managing to be a parent with a heavy workload. Becky said, “I’ve even been to Thorpe Park for the day, and the kids have gone off on the rollercoasters and I’ve sat in a coffee shop and been able to work as if I’m in the office.”
Having the best talent will also position practices to succeed in the future. Offering flexibility in the workplace will attract and retain young talented, up and coming and eager candidates who seek a greater work/life balance. This in turn will deliver the ultimate client experience that will boost revenue streams and keep up with the competition.
Get with the times
Accountants are a critical part of every business. But the profession can often be guilty of being slow to innovate. This reluctance is harmful and it’s damaging the value proposition of such an essential professional service.
To remain competitive against cloud-native newcomers, using real-time, accurate data is a must for firms. Ultimately, life on the cloud simplifies inefficient processes and gives firms the possibility of adapting their culture to suit everyone. It’s no wonder firms that have already adopted these tools are thriving!
Accountancy practices must get with the times, become cloud-native and transform their business. If they don’t, they risk falling into irrelevance.
By Jim Scott, MD for Accountancy at IRIS Software Group