Tech champion reveals practice efficiency tips
As the Practice Excellence technology champion of the year, Daniel Moss’s philosophy towards technology may actually surprise some people: “Don't make it all about the technology."
Moss rails against using technology to reduce client contact. Under his stewardship, Moss installed a range of technology efficiencies, sparing his former firm from the admin burdens that steal valuable time away from client interactions.
Moss grabbed the Practice Excellence Awards judges' attention in part due to these efficiencies. He particularly impressed them with a secure online questionnaire designed to eradicate the hassle of submitting tax data. In doing so, he provided the leg work to ensure his former compliance factory firm had the right processes in place to respond to the expected conveyor belt of digital data to be soon fired at them.
Removing the hassle of tax returns
Before that, Umbrella Accounting sent clients who needed self assessment tax returns a manual, paper-based Word document. But the contractor clients often missed certain sections of the form, not saving the document, or claiming the form got lost in the post. This held up their tax returns and frustrated both clients and the firm alike.
I enjoy the accountancy side of things, but it turned out that as I progressed in that role I was being pushed more towards the tech-based stuff because I was good at it.
Moss resolved this with an online questionnaire, powered through WooFoo (a company owned by the people behind MailChimp). The cloud functionality allowed the contractor to log in and fill in the form, and as soon as it was complete, the document would automatically save to a central location. The mandatory set fields ensured everything the firm needed answering was answered.
Moss advises other ‘super firms’ to put in place similar solutions. “Any inefficiencies like losing forms or anything that takes any longer than it should do would cause problems or cut your profit margins down,” he said.
Tech efficiency tips for accountants
Working in the engine room of a super firm forced Moss to create more tech efficiencies for the organisation, its accountants and clients.
Most of the accountant's time should be spent adding value to that person or their business and not spent answering simplistic questions
Practices looking to seize further efficiencies, Moss said, should consider an email management system, which automatically files emails to the client record. Moss said an online knowledge base can also drive efficiencies for practices. “For the more complex queries you want to be speaking with your client. Most of the accountant's time should be spent adding value to that person or their business. Not spent answering simplistic questions,” he said, further underlining his philosophy towards tech.
For accountants to regain efficiencies, Moss is a great proponent of time management apps such as Trello and Evernote. While Trello’s kanban style interface helps organise his workload, it's a simple online gizmo that zapped his admin burdens.
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The website unroll.me automatically unsubscribes users from spam. It analyses the inbox, recognises potential spam, and de-registers the user from those mailing lists. “It's very simple, but you'll be surprised by how much efficiencies you could get from just doing that one thing. And it will take you about 10 minutes to do,” he said.
But key to this is automation. “When you're dealing with such high volume accountants undoubtedly make mistakes," he said. "The more processes that are manual and require human intervention, the more mistakes you have.”
Once you've got the systems in place that can do all that stuff you have more time to offer the value-added services that accountants enjoy.
Moss sees value in software companies automating as much as they can. For example, he explains, big companies like CCH have developed software that files a set of accounts, and then sends the accounts out to the client. “That’s sort of the holy grail for these sausage machine type of practices. Once you've done one step, it automatically goes on to the next step.”
This, in turn, he said, allows accountants to escape the daily admin grind. “Once you've got the systems in place that can do all that stuff you have more time to offer the value-added services that accountants enjoy.”
Don't make it all about the technology
And that’s how Moss envisions accountants and technology to tag-team client services and advice. In his former role, Moss started to see success with accountants using reporting tools such as Crunchboards and Spotlight Reporting to enhance these relationships.
Removing the personal admin also allows accountants to keep abreast with the latest tech releases. “The accountant should be more inquisitive about what's out there for their client - don't sit back for what you know or understand,” he advised. The raft of Xero add-ons released every month ensures that whatever industry the client comes from, rest assured that there’s an app specific to them.
Meanwhile, Moss’s natural inclination towards tech nudged him towards a career change last year. He joined My Digital Accounts, an umbrella software firm for contractors, as a business analyst. “I enjoy the accountancy side of things,” he said, “but it turned out that as I progressed in that role I was being pushed more towards the tech-based stuff because I was good at it, and I ended up pushing myself that way because I enjoyed it more.”