Date posted: 18/05/2020 5 min read

How to become an Intelligent Practice

As accounting’s digital transformation accelerates, how should you adapt your practice? Brought to you by Wolters Kluwer.

Those businesses that fail to invest adequately in technology face an uncertain future. Wolters Kluwer has identified the positive impact technologies such as
cloud-based software, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) would have for the accounting industry in their recently published whitepaper, The Intelligent Practice: Building an accounting firm for the future.

The intelligent practice is one that uses technology to solve complex problems, create innovative services, cut costs, identify revenue opportunities, improve client satisfaction and increase employee engagement.

In more concrete terms, the intelligent practice is one that automates its practice workflow and compliance work. It’s one that uses cloud software to foster greater collaboration between staff, the practice and its clients, and the bodies that regulate them.

The case for automation

There’s no shortage of questionable claims made by those wanting to sell high-tech digital picks and shovels to accounting practices. If you’re yet to be convinced about the business case for investing in yet more technology, you may be interested in the views of industry experts, as well as your peers.

Sholto Macpherson is a journalist who reports on cloud accounting for and other outlets. “Workflow management, pre-accounting and productivity tools should all be considered as secret weapons behind customer retention, higher referral rates and higher growth,” he says. “These are three of the biggest pain points for both the firm and clients today.”

Research conducted for Wolters Kluwer in 2019 found technological disruption had created headaches for practice owners by lessening demand for high-margin and compliance services. But that same research found more than half of the practice owners surveyed said they were benefitting from automation. Many said it had allowed their practices to grow strongly without needing to hire extra staff.

 Are you planning to incorporate automated technology and/or services into your firm?Picture: Are you planning to incorporate automated technology and/or services into your firm? Source: WK Landscape 2019 survey.

A Pretty impressive testimonial

Following a successful corporate career, Bridgette Pretty launched Pretty Accounting in 2011 in Nelson, NZ. Pretty started the business with the intention of “[moving] beyond compliance paperwork and instead taking a look at what really drives a business.”

When cloud-based software aimed at accountants came on the market, Pretty was an early adopter.

“Cloud-based systems can provide the real-time analysis you need wherever you are,” she says. “I can either be in the office or be onsite directly working with clients, and the access to information that can positively impact my client’s business is what I find exciting.”

Pretty believes the specialist software she’s sourced from Wolters Kluwer has allowed her to achieve 30% year-on-year growth without having to hire any additional staff. In particular, Pretty “loves” the 1700 practice tools and resources CCH Business Fitness offers.

“It provides the right templates you need to communicate with clients,” she says. “Its automatic updates to IRD changes, and rules in everyday language, and really handy checklists are just fantastic.”

Pretty says CCH Business Fitness, along with CCH iFirm (a practice management software platform), has been a “key differentiator” for Pretty Accounting and allowed it to build a reputation for being exceptionally responsive to clients.

The dangers of complacency over compliance

Whatever the industry, automation hoovers up the “grunt work” – those repetitive tasks usually done by less skilled, more junior workers. For accountants, that results in more time to focus on providing clients with higher-value services.

Increased IRD automation and the commoditisation of compliance services are also leading forward-thinking accountants to use technology as a base to build advisory services.

Hartmann-Cox Chartered Accountants has invested in solutions such as CCH iFirm Practice Manager, CCH iKnow, CCH iFirm Tax and CCH iQ Client Match. As explained in the whitepaper, it has done this to profit from a market in transition from compliance to advisory.

“In the future, we would expect the need for more analytical skills for junior staff and a greater capability to deliver real-time advice for senior staff and partners,” says Hartmann-Cox partner Troy Johnson CA.

“With government agencies digitising reporting requirements, this is only going to continue to free us up further to focus on what the clients really want – advisory services.”

Troy Johnson CAPicture: Troy Johnson CA.

“With government agencies digitising reporting requirements, this is only going to continue to free us up further to focus on what the clients really want – advisory services.”
Troy Johnson CA, Hartmann-Cox Chartered Accountants

Teddy Kosasih, managing partner at Pitt Martin Accountants and Tax Advisers, agrees. “We are finding our clients want to talk beyond the numbers,” he says in the whitepaper. “They want to discuss their entrepreneurial and leadership plans. Automated technology gives us the real-time data analysis we need [to provide] up-to-the-minute and accurate information [during] these conversations.”

 Are you planning to incorporate automated technology and/or services into your firm?Picture: What is the mix of compliance and advisory work in your firm? Source: WK Landscape 2019 survey.

Are you meeting client expectations?

Those old enough to have a stake in an accountancy firm may not be digital natives. But they should be aware that an ever-growing proportion of their clients (and staff) have no memory of a pre-digital world.

“Younger clients will make a huge impact on firms,” predicts Macpherson. “[Clients will] expect much greater value from their accountant than a tax return. They will be looking to their accountant to educate them on what their financials mean.”

Find out more:

Wolters Kluwer helps practices improve their efficiency, navigate change and adhere to the needs of regulators and customers alike. By combining our expert knowledge with our passion for developing future forward technology, we are global leaders at meeting the need of our customers.

Our product management and development teams are constantly hard at work to provide software and tools to accountants to enable them to enhance existing and offer new advisory solutions to their clients, as well as protect and generate new income streams. We are dedicated to finding collaborative solutions to add to our suite to help our customers future-proof their business for the change that lies ahead.

You can find out more about how Wolters Kluwer can help you create an Intelligent Practice by visiting