By Viresh Harduth, Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East
We have entered the age of the digital accountancy practice. Organisations embracing digitalisation and becoming tech-savvy will gain a valuable competitive edge by improving their productivity, enhancing how they collaborate with their customers, embracing more flexible ways of working and even unlocking new revenue streams.
However, many practices are unsure how to start or progress on their digital journey. For some, it’s a matter of resistance from customers or internal teams who want to stay rooted in the status quo. Others believe they don’t have the in-house technical skills or the budget to make the shift.
With that in mind, I’m going to offer five tips to help your accounting practice overcome these barriers and become more tech-savvy.
1. Start with a business problem
To make the most of technology, start by analysing your business’s pain points and opportunities. For example, are you spending a fortune on couriers to collect and deliver paperwork? You could digitise these processes with a document management system and digital signatures, making your life and your customers’ lives easier in the process.
2. Invest in team training
You and your team will feel more comfortable using new systems if you invest in training. Cloud-based solutions like online accounting and payroll software are easy to use. Still, you can benefit from them even more by learning about the tricks and advanced functionality they offer. It is also important to receive additional training as new software updates are released.
3. Bring customers with you
Investing in technology isn’t just about making your own life easier but also about breaking down barriers for your customers. When you introduce a new technology like cloud-based accounting, for example, that will change the customer experience, spend time talking to customers about how it will save them time and money. You may encounter some resistance to change among more conservative customers, but this will disappear if you show them the benefits.
4. Embrace new ways of working
Digitalisation is an opportunity to rethink your business processes for a real-time, work-from-anywhere world. However, some staff may resist because they’ve always done things in a particular way. For example, you and your customers can collaborate to keep the books updated in real-time with cloud-based accounting. That could mean admin staff will need to capture receipts and invoices as they come in, rather than processing them in weekly or monthly batches. Educate your team about new processes and get their buy-in by showcasing the business value and insights they can derive from the process.
5. Start small
If your customers make purchases on mobile devices and use a mobile phone for banking, they are tech-savvy enough to use cloud-accounting solutions and record expenses with a mobile app. But if you are concerned about whether they will adopt new tech, start small with a few of your more forgiving and easier customers. Getting short-term wins under your belt will give you confidence to thrive and provide evidence to the sceptics about the benefits of the technology.
Making a change for the better
It may seem quicker, cheaper and easier in the short term to do things the way you’ve always done them. Whether that involves manually entering a trial balance or collecting a box of receipts from your customers at year-end. However, smart investments in technology create time savings and efficiency gains that position your firm for long-term success.
In addition to the productivity wins, tech-savvy accountants will position themselves to become true partners and advisors to their customers. The time you save on capturing data or generating reports from Excel could be diverted to adding more value for customers. This, in turn, translates into new revenue opportunities and higher customer retention levels.