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Technology isn’t the problem, how we use it is


With increasing compliance demands, smarter competition and higher client expectations, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is becoming an issue for the industry. Steve Cox, chief evangelist at IRIS Software Group reveals the problem often lies within the way we use technology rather than the technology itself.

10th Jan 2020
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In 1930, a British economist, John Maynard Keynes explored the economic possibilities of his grandchildren. In the middle of the depression, he predicted that in 100 years’ time, by 2030, society would barely need to work. He estimated people would be working 15 hours a week. 

Some of you may think Keynes was a fantasist, and a pretty poor forecaster. The idea that we could be working part-time and living the high life in just ten years may seem like pure delusion. However, he could not have imagined the always-on digital world we live in, or the way we use the technology available to us. 

Avoiding the same mistakes

Kevin Whitehouse, founder of Prime Entry argues Keynes wasn’t wrong. “Accountants can run a profitable business and work part-time if they want to. I know this because I have achieved it. 

“There was a time when I was running on adrenaline, working late nights and responding to constant demands. I had 450 clients, and I was in the process of opening a second office. One day, driving between clients I decided that there had to be a better way. It occurred to me that we all look at other businesses and try to replicate what they’re doing, but by doing this, we aren’t moving forward, we are just making the same mistakes. 

The cost of time

“Communication tools are an area where many of us get it wrong. I met an accountant who set up WhatsApp groups for his clients to make it easier for them to communicate with him. And communicate with him they did. At all hours, with any questions. Another accountant told me how she was drowning in email communication. I discovered she was [replying] to all emails as soon as they landed in her inbox.”

By taking this approach, an accountant is effectively saying to their clients, ‘contact me any time, I’m always available.’

“You are an accountant, not a virtual assistant. If you follow this approach, why would they pay for a full consultation? You’ve already given them the answers,” explains Whitehouse. 

What is more, clients are more likely to act on advice they have chosen to pay for, as its value is literally greater, in a financial sense. 

It is easy to blame technology for increasing stress levels, but in reality, the way we adopt it is the issue. Boundaries for using communication needs to be set.

Using technology better

The trick is to think about how much time you are spending on communication tools with clients, says Whitehouse. “If you’re spending ten minutes drafting an email and then have to send six email chasers, you can easily lose an hour’s time.” 

For repetitive tasks like this, it makes sense to use automated chasers and notifications to free up time to provide better value to clients and generate more fees. 

Cloud benefits

Centralising data into one system and using cloud technology, means once data is entered it can be used for all the tasks you need to perform for a client, irrespective of your location. 

According to Whitehouse, cloud technology “can be liberating for an accountant. You can meet and onboard a client wherever they are. In a matter of minutes, you can carry out Anti Money Laundering and identity checks, understand their priorities and build a working relationship in a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Ultimately, making the most of technology means regulating areas of overuse and making sure shortcuts aren’t replaced with less time-efficient activities. If we can disengage from unnecessary and unpaid activities, and make sure technology is actually reducing our workloads, then Keynes’ 15-hour week forecasting could become more than a fantasy.

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