In Part Three of our series about the IT challenges faced by the accountancy sector, we looked at how the implementation of effective IT plays a major part in client retention by giving fee-earners the opportunity to delight them with great customer service. In this final part, we will look more closely at the solutions available and how they will help your fee earners make more of their time.
A large part of an accountant’s job will be the menial tasks that have to be done, even though no-one enjoys doing them! Without a ‘joined-up’ IT strategy, this often involves repeating tasks on different portals and pulling data from them to input into a central spreadsheet. With the right technology, these menial tasks can be done quickly, accurately and automatically at any time of the day or night. This allows fee earners more time and energy to concentrate on the elements of their job they find more motivating and less tiring.
Fatigue is a huge problem in any industry, and there is compelling research showing how demotivating it can be. An academic study looking at decisions made by judges on Israeli parole boards showed a huge differential in decisions made just after a break and just before a break. Those whose cases were heard immediately after a break had a 65% chance of a favourable ruling. Those whose cases were heard later in the day and immediately before a break had an almost 0% chance of getting parole. The study concluded that, as people get tired, they look for easy shortcuts, which, for the judges, was to uphold the status quo and deny parole. From a broader perspective, it can be interpreted that repetition causes fatigue in staff, which in turn is likely to substantially decrease their ability to do a job accurately and consistently, as well as their motivation to work to the best of their abilities. So by automating the tasks that are more likely to result in fatigue, you will be increasing the likelihood that your clients will receive a much better service.
Expensive technology does not need to be expensive
We have a number of clients who have already chosen different ‘best of breed’ applications for different departments, but none of them are integrated. Our clients worry that when they come to us for a strategic overview, we will not be able to integrate these existing applications, and instead we will use an off-the-shelf, middle-of-the-road solution that will not work as well as the individual components and will lose the firm a lot of money. This is most definitely not the case as we can always find a bespoke solution for every firm enabling each accountant to work to the best of their ability.
Large firms are able to use highly specialist and expensive software such as IBM Watson, but many small and mid-sized firms do not even consider it because of the costs involved. What they do not know is that, by using AI integration bolt-ons and working through a data mining company, it is possible to rent access to Watson as and when you need it. By only paying for the time you are actually using it, the scalability makes it affordable and cost-effective, allowing small and mid-sized firms to compete with larger ones on a level playing field.
Better for teamwork
Many accounting firms offer a number of services and solutions, so clients will have different specialists working on their account. It is likely that fee earners will all be working on different specialist applications, none of which ‘speak’ to each other, meaning no-one on the team has a good overall picture of any one client’s account.
In these situations, we recommend using Microsoft 365 which integrates the different applications and can pull all the data together on one portal. With everyone on the team getting a top-level view of every client’s account, all your fee earners will be in a position to make better-informed decisions about every account.
Better for attracting talent
Using new technologies will also make your firm more attractive to potential new staff members, especially younger people at the beginning of their career. Technology is now such an integral part of young people’s lives that they expect to be working with it. If you provide talented staff with the kind of intelligent, automated technologies they are used to, you are more likely to attract the best young accounting talent to your firm. If you don’t, they are simply going to go and work for a firm that does. Can you afford to lose them?