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Future Accountancy: Basic vs. Bespoke Automation

21st Nov 2023
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FYI have a clear goal. To remove repetitive and mundane tasks from the day-to-day work of...
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The Future of Accountancy: Basic Automation vs. Bespoke Automation

By Ian Cooper, Head of UK Operations at FYI

Automation is no longer a buzzword—it's essential to many firms' operations. While the focus may be on what comes next, in the form of AI and machine learning, the here and now is automation.

However, not every form of automation is created equal. While basic automation serves to streamline straightforward tasks using rigid templates, true, bespoke automation, can be tailored to meet the unique needs of your accountancy firm.

This tailored approach can lead to substantial efficiency gains, more satisfied staff and, most importantly of all, well serviced clients. The main aim of automation in your firm is to free up time. You can use this team to do more of the same, or you can use this time to allow your team to work on higher-value work and more rewarding tasks.

Having a clear understanding of the processes in service delivery is a great cornerstone to build from. Accountants are in an envious position as many of your existing processes are refined and efficient. With the introduction of Business Process Automation (BPA), it allows these tried and tested processes to be taken to the next level with automation.

FYI Automations library
FYI Software

Basic Automation: A One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Basic automation in accountancy often involves the use of off-the-shelf software to perform routine tasks like data entry, simple calculations, and report generation.

While this form of automation saves time and reduces errors, it often lacks the flexibility to adapt to the complexities that are inherent in the accounting world, which can lead to a less personalised service.

It's a rigid program offers only a narrow range of predefined operations, leaving firms struggling to adapt the tool to their specific and unique needs. Its usefulness is, therefore, limited.

Bespoke Automation: Crafting Solutions

In contrast to basic automation, true automation can be customised to your firm's specific requirements.

Whether it's tailoring workflows, integrating with other platforms, or automating client communications, customised business process automations (BPA) allow you to configure the software to create new solutions designed around your specific preferred ways of working – without the need to request developers to update their solution.

By offering this adaptability, those platforms that provide craftable automations make themselves invaluable to firms who increasingly are looking at ways to streamline their workflows.

Process-Driven Workflows

Automation enables firms to design process-driven workflows that cater to your unique operational demands. Instead of rigid, one-size-fits-all processes, you can configure bespoke workflows that make sense for your team and clients.

However, merely adopting automation tools isn't enough; the real competitive advantage lies in having in-house automation expertise.

The most automated firms empower a digital champion to automate many service lines in the firm.

Their remit will first start with understanding the processes today. Following this review, it becomes an easier process to see which areas can be automated to bring the most value.

As accountancy firms increasingly integrate advanced, bespoke automation solutions into their operations, the value of having a dedicated team or individual experts focused on maximising the potential of these tools becomes evident.

Navigating Complexity with Ease

Accountancy practices are often fraught with complex tasks and processes. Understanding how to tailor these systems effectively requires a nuanced understanding of both the software and the accountancy domain.

Having in-house experts ensures that your firm is not just implementing automation but doing so in a way that is most beneficial to your specific operational needs.

Agility and Rapid Adaptation

Financial regulations, client needs, and market conditions are ever-changing. An in-house team with automation expertise allows your practice to be agile, adapting quickly to new situations by tweaking the automation processes in real-time. This responsiveness is hard to achieve if you depend entirely on external vendors or generic solutions.

Small changes can make big differences  

Sam King is a partner for the award-winning firm Thorne Widgery. This firm pushes the boundaries of efficiency through its use of technology. Sam and the team are fans of incremental improvements.

“Don’t try and do a huge automation and go, ‘Geez, where do I start with this?’ Just do a little bit, often. Focus on one or two areas that are big for your firm, and literally do something that will save you a minute. Then start building it out and share the knowledge with your team internally. 

“We’re big fans of the Kaizen approach,” says Sam of the Japanese idea that small, ongoing changes can reap significant improvements.  

“It’s really just 1% here, 1% there.” 

Continuous Improvement

Automation is not a 'set-it-and-forget-it' solution but a dynamic tool that can continuously improve outcomes. 

Having a team that can regularly assess the efficacy of automated processes, refine workflows, and leverage data analytics provided by advanced platforms to make data-driven decisions for ongoing improvements.

Lucy Handly, Accounts and Advisory Manager at Ammu is one such user of automation, via FYI, to benefit from this approach: We can tailor it to what we want, which is important. So, we can have the automations we want and define how we want them to run. 

“We are constantly changing how we use FYI and making improvements, but equally, the platform is constantly being upgraded to offer new, useful features – it is an ever-moving tool in itself as more additions are coming to it all the time. 

“But we also know we can build on this software the bigger we get. We’ve never stopped improving how we use FYI, and like that we can handle the innovation ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a software developer in the background that is doing it.” 

Ammu like that they can decide how they want FYI to look and function. They have developed many automations that have created the functionality to do lots of powerful and time-saving tasks, like sending out automated emails to clients. 

Clients Benefit from the Digital Journey

Clients today expect quicker turnarounds, real-time updates, and a more personalised service. In-house automation allows you to meet these expectations and exceed them by delivering highly customised services that can be adapted to each client’s specific needs.

The Bottom Line

Basic automation is definitely better than no automation, but for accountancy firms aiming for transformative change, a bespoke automation platform, like FYI, is the way forward. You can read more about FYI's approach to automation here.

Its adaptability, integration capabilities, and focus on automating day-to-day business processes make it a tool that can empower accountancy firms to achieve incredible things.