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Why accountants should debunk the digital myth to get closer to clients

By James Ashford, VP, GoProposal by Sage

Your accountancy firm is fully digital (or at least it needs to be). You’ve invested in the software. Your data is in the cloud and now you’re waiting for the transformation to make a difference. 

Yet, even with the very best digital technology you find that you’re still working ridiculous hours, and meeting evolving client demands is as tough as ever. It’s a common problem for ambitious accountants today. 

At the same time, SMBs have never been more certain that accountants are the number one go-to for trusted advice. The answer to meeting client expectations and thriving as an accountancy business lies in realising that what you are experiencing is the digital myth.  

Understanding the digital myth is your key to breaking free from it and elevating your work to the next level.

Is your accounting practice facing the digital myth?

The digital myth is what happens when a business invests in digital technology to replace outdated systems, without first identifying the processes they are trying to automate and simplify. Once you pinpoint what you are trying to achieve, only then can you look to get the ‘right’ digital technology.  It is a challenge that arises for accountants who view ‘going digital’ as the end goal: embarking on a business transformation journey, but only going as far as upgrading their paper-based practices into digital ones, where client information is in the cloud.

Yet, going digital is only the halfway mark. The next step is to become a truly digitised practice, progressing digital information into tangible business insights that make a real difference to your clients. 

Take a speedometer in a car. An analogue version has a moving gauge to tell you how fast you’re going. When you upgrade your car, you might find it has a digital display that’s easier to read at a glance. Break it down, though, and it’s still telling you the same information: how fast you’re going.

And that’s where a lot of firms I speak with are – they still have the same information, it’s just digital.

Being truly digitised is when you get a heads-up display in your car. One that tells you when you’re over the speed limit, how fast you should drive to conserve EV energy, or whether there’s congestion ahead. It could even help control your speed automatically if you let it. Bringing in real time data to give you personalised advice – and in some cases, course correction.

Digitised data can give accountants so much more than data preparation capabilities. It can unlock the potential for you to visualise the past, present and future of your client’s business, and provide proactive advice on how to navigate forecasted challenges.

Dream big to overcome digital inertia

A lack of true digitisation is holding many accountancy practices back from achieving their full potential. Pushed for time and unsure where to start, accountants are often forgoing the opportunity to let the tech handle the time-draining admin, freeing you up to provide the human touch. Just think about price adjustments:

Your client hires a new employee. Adjusting fees in your digital accounting system would take a chunk of your time because really, it’s just paperwork but the online version. So, you decide not to adjust – after all, it’s just one person. A few months later, the client has hired multiple new people. Without any adjustment on your side, you’re now hugely undercharging for your services.

Guess what? Most accounting businesses are experiencing the exact same thing. Struggling to strike the balance between making the price adjustments needed to remain competitive and capable, and skipping steps due to time constraints. In an ideal world, you’d simply and easily make the adjustment to your fees as needed.  Managing your clients’ expectations; making steady price changes to reflect demand, rather than suddenly upping your fees when the lower, under-charged price becomes unsustainable.

Sync up with clients to unlock true consultancy

Digitisation doesn’t only save an accounting practice time – that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the key to being able to thrill your clients by offering them the high-quality advisory services needed to take their business to the next level.

I always say that accountants should be people first, client second. That means understanding that your client’s real problem is not knowing what to do about a specific problem. Uncertainty is the cause of the stresses and strains keeping your client up at night. Maybe they believe they’re not financially equipped to overcome it. Perhaps they’re concerned that they can’t beat the issue in a sustainable way, or that they aren’t tech-savvy enough to deal with it. 

Accountants can help them to knock down those barriers, whether through consultancy, strategy or advice. This close, agile, human service is only possible when your practice truly has a grip on the twists and turns of your client’s business – bolstered by the tech that saves you time and makes data-led suggestions to keep the business on track.

The more that accountants combine the power of technology with their own empathy and experience to provide new intel or insights, the better their consultancy will be. That means helping clients identify financial blind spots, understand what they can ditch to save the dosh, or how they can quickly rebound after unforeseen challenges. 

As we all bounce back from a pandemic, it’s more important than ever that accountants can scale rapidly with their clients, remaining by their side through thick or thin and cementing a long-term bond of trust that will benefit both.

Debunk the digital myth now

SMBs need to team up with a ‘smart accountant’ to prepare for, and be resilient to, continued macro-economic turbulence. And that can be you!

Start debunking the digital myth with the power of your network and explore how ‘digital’ isn’t nearly enough. Talk to fellow accountants who have truly digitised their firms, and utilised real-time insights to guide their businesses forward, connect with their clients and point out their blind spots.

The truth is that true digitisation is a gift . And in our profession, it can elevate practices beyond accountants’ wildest dreams. Don’t settle for digital. You and your clients deserve the power, agility and flexibility of a truly digitised practice.

By James Ashford, VP, GoProposal by Sage

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