Humanising accountancy in the pandemic and beyond
Raedan director Jonathan Bareham looks at how tech adoption is influencing the relationship between the role of accountants and data.
The Covid-19 pandemic has fast-tracked all industries' journey towards mass-digitisation, which, despite some implementation challenges, has presented some great opportunities for businesses.
Historically, accountancy was seen as a faceless, number-crunching profession. But the increasing prevalence of tech adoption means accountants can do less manual tax returns, checking bags of receipts, manually chasing late payments and creating endless spreadsheets.
This new phase of accountancy is both data-led and people-focused. By leveraging data to make more informed decisions and utilising technology to support automation, accountants are increasingly able to focus their time on relationship building and decision making.
We are living in an on-demand generation, where real-time information and insights are key to finances. Accountants have always processed a lot of data and often know more about a customer than their family does.
This data and the requirement for types of data, hasn’t so much changed. It is the speed at which we need to have it and analyse it that has.
Real-time data is essential for businesses to plan effectively and manage their finances in line with business objectives. For example, knowing payment success rates is key for businesses to understand any changes they need to make to the way they take payments.
Gone are the days where accountants could be 18 months behind a transaction or four weeks away from making a decision. With new technology, we can always remain one step ahead. These quick decisions and insights can help to strengthen customer relationships.
What’s more, data sets are also more accurate than ever. Once, a bored, tired human could have made a typo error looking at an endless box of receipts. Now we have robust data at the touch of a button, freeing up time to focus on more meaningful tasks, such as customer service.
The next stage in providing better client consultancy is to tap into anonymised data. To help customers make the best decisions, this could involve analysing a full portfolio and looking at average project values, charge out rates, salaries, payroll benchmarking, and margin data. The whole industry is looking at this as we become the new accountant-business coach hybrid.
Tackling late payments
We shouldn’t underestimate the beauty that a complimentary tech stack brings to businesses of all sizes. Finding the right partners can help you tackle pain points that negatively impact your business; for example, Xero works with recurring payments solution GoCardless.
GoCardless’ recent Payment Success Index research found that medium businesses are losing £200k+ every year, and small businesses £6k+, because of failed payments. This is bad at the best of times but especially when purse strings are tighter due to the pandemic.
The requirement for data isn’t a new thing for accountants. It’s about how they get it, how fast they get it and how they use it that is changing rapidly, thanks to technology.
In the case of late payments, having access to real-time data are essential to businesses for effective cash-flow planning and relationship management with customers. This can include payment success rates, as well as technology that can read that data and suggest intelligent retries.
The new business coach
Gone are the days where an accountant’s job is solely to plug numbers into a spreadsheet. Businesses increasingly go online and are required to leverage digital services. Accountants now have a responsibility to provide customers with good consultancy to help them choose the right technology for their business.
Like personal finances, businesses finances are unique and as are their goals, hopes, and dreams. Therefore it’s important for the industry to leverage human relationships and be somewhat of a business coach to its customers.
There’s a perception, across all industries, that tech adoption equals a less personable experience. But in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Accountants that can successfully identify laborious or low-reward processes and then transform them with technology and automation are often the ones that can focus more time on connecting with customers.
Tech also enables accountants to perform higher-value tasks, such as analysing data and providing strategic guidance to customers, while focusing on growing their business and flourishing customer relationships.
Using technology has humanised the industry, allowing us to focus on our customers and set them up for financial and business success, whatever journey they are on.