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Emma Reid, IT partner at Cottons Group
Emma Reid_Cottons Group

My Tech Stack: Emma Reid, Cottons Group

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As East Midlands-based Cottons Group celebrates its 40th anniversary, IT partner Emma Reid explains how she aims to achieve maximum impact by streamlining the firm’s app line-up.

9th May 2023
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How would you describe Cottons Group and its client base?

Cottons Group is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. We’ve grown into a five-office practice primarily serving the owner-managed business sector. Most clients are small limited companies, sole traders and partnerships. We’ve built up enough experience to be the sort of practice that has strong relationships with our clients and our staff. CCH practice tools and Xero cloud accounts are the centre of our tech stack. We did a lot of work on MTD and are going down the digital route regardless of the delay, because of the efficiences we get.

What is your attitude to accounting tech?

I love tech – that’s why I’m IT partner. I like to continually watch what’s out there to see what new features are coming out so we stay at the forefront of technology. If we want to continue to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible we need good data, automation and tech. If we have all that, we can continue to drive client service. Technology keeps moving, so at some point you have to let it settle before you take on something else. 

What’s your favourite work app?

Definitely Microsoft Teams because of how it speeds up business communication. It allows us to collaborate so easily across offices. I can hold regular meetings with Teams and lose all the travel. We try to minimise how many products people need to open, so with Teams as a platform for communicating with staff, they have just one system with all the apps alongside. It makes collaborating so, so easy. We can get documents on screen and do things together. Our new phone system is part of Microsoft Teams and we also have holiday leave software built in.

Cottons Group accounting software tech stack
AccountingWEB

Are there any gaps in your stack that you’re looking to fill next?

I’d like to see stronger reporting packs for management accounts for one and cashflow forecasting is another. I’m going to explore with Xero their new reporting capabilities and make sure we’re using their developments to the full. I also want to investigate what else could feed into them. Within internal finance, we’re looking at a better approvals process, so I’ll be investigating ApprovalMax and Quadient by Beanworks.

What’s been the biggest challenge in building your accounting tech stack?

We always want to make sure we get as much as possible out of a product. New features are there because they make the product better. That’s why we need to have good relationships with software suppliers, so we can go to see them to catch up with features. That’s another reason why we try to keep things minimal and focus on the software that really makes a difference to us. Some technology covers all the pain points you can think of. We try to concentrate on the ones that make the big differences.

What advice would you pass on to other accountants who want to follow your path?

Don’t try to do too much too quickly. It’s a mistake to say: “We need all this technology” and implement them together. Do one thing at a time and move on to the next one. We struggle with time – we’re all trying to do other jobs as well. It’s quite a big investment in time to plan out how to use the tech to your best ability, maintain a good relationship with the supplier get the right people and training. Take it one piece of software at a time.

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