Few businesses are as aware of the relationship between costs and profit as accountants! But many fail to fully capitalise on their understanding to improve their business performance through information technology (IT).
We’ve identified seven key ways to use IT to give your accountancy firm the competitive edge:
1. Automating further
Accounting and bookkeeping have long been automated, but the new generation of automation tools allow for much more than just the rapid completion of mundane tasks. Full automation of an accountancy practice now includes:
- Sending out automated reminders and follow up letters;
- Automated or canned replies to commonly asked questions, and
- Diary keeping, appointment making and general scheduling.
- This means you and your staff are free to do more of the work you are qualified for, which gives your business more flexibility and room to grow.
2. Responsive accounting
Like every other business, accountancy is having to learn to be client-responsive. The days when contact with a client was limited to the period around their annual accounts are long gone and the more competitive firms understand the importance of this for growing their client base.
Today responding to client needs can mean taking calls out of office hours, responding to emails, sending personalised reminders and engaging via social media to strengthen the bond with current clients whilst reaching out to new ones.
IT can assist with all of these aspects. Phone systems can now route calls to “On Call” staff members outside of office hours, simple email autoresponders can both assure and inform clients, secure take-home devices allow “On Call” staff to work from anywhere, plus support ticket systems, social media management software and more can help any accounting firm include responsiveness in their growth strategy.
3.Managing customer relationships
Customer relationship management (CRM) is vital to running a successful accountancy practice. IT can allow you to record every contact with a client, note what was discussed and the advice given.
This has two major benefits – it gives you a solid track record with each client and allows somebody else to step in if the client’s usual contact isn’t around to field an enquiry. The most sophisticated CRM even uses analytical tools to predict future services for each client based on their previous needs.
It’s rarely at the top of an Irish accountancy firms priority list and paper will always be a part of accountancy in some way shape or form, but going green with your business may really benefit your profitability.
Younger clients much prefer a digital service, partly because they already run a largely paperless business and reducing your own dependence on paper can:
- Give you a unique selling point
- Bring you more clients who are committed to green issues
- Reduce your insurance premiums (and GDPR headaches!)
- Free up your staff for more valuable tasks
Finding and retaining the best talent is usually part of a good growth strategy. In this respect, mobile and flexible working can give your business the edge.
Being able to allow your staff to work from home, to adjust their working hours to accommodate unexpected circumstances and to give them the opportunity to keep in touch during times when they aren’t at work, are all ways to make your accountancy business attractive to the brightest candidates and can help to keep them, regardless of how their personal circumstances may change over the years.
If there’s one area of accounting practice that creates more headaches than any other it’s expenses. It’s a chore at best and can create endless problems for accountants trying to unravel the confusions of employee reporting.
Cloud-based expense logging might be the most popular recent IT development in the accounting sector – a relief for clients and their employees and a joy for accountancy practitioners who no longer have to fight their way through confusing, scant and often unsupported expense claim forms – eliminating these headaches makes your practice shine in your clients eyes and it can save your staff countless man-hours.
Accounting is becoming more and more of a team game and many firms are now gaining a competitive by using IT to create systems for collaborative working. Teamwork can give firms a competitive edge, whilst at the same time cutting costs and boosting profits by decreasing the admin overload that often arises from people working in isolation.
Accounting is changing rapidly but IT can help you ride the wave of change to increased profits and more confident, engaged team members.