Why accountants need a comprehensive data strategy

29th Sep 2020
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Why achieving Fullsight is essential for accountants to remain competitive – and how to get there with Silverfin.

The twin forces of new technology and increased customer demands are transforming the role and services of accountants.

According to a recent survey by the CFA Institute, almost half of finance professionals across the globe think that their jobs will either be replaced or transformed substantially by emerging technologies.

This, combined with the fact that new bookkeeping and pre-accounting technologies are entering the market at breakneck speed, means that while life is becoming much easier for clients, for accountants all this innovation is creating unwelcome complexity and data fragmentation.

Here are the fundamental problems we see facing accountants today – and how we look to overcome them.

Problem 1. Basic services are not as valued by clients as they once were

New, cloud-based platforms such as Xero, QuickBooks, Exact, and Yuki are automating core bookkeeping activities and making it much easier for businesses to manage their day-to-day finances in-house.

With compliance becoming fast, easy, and accurate, clients now want more from their accountants. They are not willing to pay top fees for pure processing. Instead they expect expert advice and analysis about their business – insight that will enable them to make more informed decisions and solve problems before they even arise.

Problem 2. Data proliferation and fragmentation is rife

As different clients choose different bookkeeping and pre-accounting software, accountants are finding themselves having to regularly navigate multiple systems and data sources. In a bid to rationalise how they work and create a centralised repository, the profession has relied on Excel. But this brings its own challenges. Complex sheets, formulas, macros and navigating between multiple tabs – and complexity leads to an increased risk from the human (and technology) error that follows.

Data fragmentation brings its own worries too. Storing data in multiple different places, means there is no single version of the truth you can trust.

For many firms, it’s all become too much to manage: they will only take on clients who use their preferred systems. This then hampers their capacity for growth.

Problem 3. Data standardisation is poor

According to Harvard Business Review, just 3% of companies’ data meets basic quality standards. This is a worry. The vast amount of data available to accountants today is only useful if it is standardised. It’s virtually impossible to manage information, or to facilitate real-time reporting, without a common way to present data. What’s more, the automation of workflows is impossible if the information isn’t formatted in a consistent manner.

Problem 4. Partners lack visibility across their practice

Accountants in the same firm often have different processes and reporting methods. This is magnified by firms with offices in multiple locations, especially those who have joined the firm as part of an acquisition or merger and have legacy processes that are at odds with the new firm’s way of working.

This results in a number of issues:

  • Customer service is inconsistent
  • There’s a lack of continuity if someone is out of the office or leaves the firm
  • With poor visibility into which employees are performing effectively, partners struggle to resource work efficiently.

It’s a risky way of working – a lack of visibility here leaves room for error and that is an unacceptable increase in risk and liability.

Problem 5. Data is out of date

Our recent research found that only a third of accountancy professionals have a live link to client data that is updated automatically. This poor access to information is a major inhibitor to success and hampers accountants’ ability to deliver advisory services. What’s more, out-of-date data also leads to mistakes and errors – and that raises risk again.

5 problems, 1 solution

Solving these problems is a priority as it improves the efficiency and accuracy of core accounting processes, making them faster and more cost-competitive, and enables the transition to advisory services.

So how can Silverfin help?

We believe the answer lies in giving accountants what we call Fullsight – the ability to see financial data from all types of bookkeeping and other systems, and across all clients. With consolidated, and standardised, data in one central cloud data hub, key tasks and workflows can be automated. Real-time data is a click away at all times. And Excel workarounds are consigned to history.

Fullsight is not just about bookkeeping consolidation – it reaches much further than today’s compliance work. It lays the foundation for quicker, automated reporting processes, and enables the level of in-depth analysis required to unlock revenue from tomorrow’s advisory services.

It puts partners back in control too. Fullsight means they have full visibility of workflows right across their practice, enabling them to see which accountants are making progress and redistribute work where required. With everyone working in the same way, collaboration is improved, processes are more efficient, and risk is reduced.

Fullsight delivers immediate benefits now and is the foundation connected accountants need for success.

Download our eGuide to learn more about how to achieve Fullsight and ensure your firm remains competitive in a changing accountancy profession.