Digitisation is transforming accounting firms, yielding productivity gains for practices – as well as their clients. While it may seem daunting to digitise your business, taking a step-by-step approach can make the journey achievable as well as successful.
Tim Hoopmann knows this story well. The founder of Sydney-based Spinn Business Solutions embarked on a decade-long journey to digitise his business with Receipt Bank. The process allowed him to significantly scale up his processes and practice.
“Moving to digital supported a different and better relationship with my clients,” he says. “It requires effort, but it’s worth it in the end. The technology is proven, so it’s now a matter of getting every business looking at how to do things more effectively and productively.”
“Moving to digital supported a different and better relationship with my clients. It requires effort, but it’s worth it in the end.”
Jessica Minnett, Asia Pacific partner success team manager at Receipt Bank, says cloud-based automation tools are transforming the way accountants work. Receipt Bank, for example, processes seven million receipts a month. That saves professional services firms 75,000 hours a week in handling receipts.
“Being able to envisage what you can do with the extra time helps you move forward in becoming a digital practice,” she says.
Here are five areas on which to focus to support an easy transition to a digital practice.
1. Assess the situation: are you working in chaos?
If your practice is still paper-based, it’s highly likely your processes (and office!) are sometimes left in disarray. In the worst case, it’s chaos. You may often be asking clients for information to support the paper work and to verify transactions. But providing this documentation might not be a high priority for your clients, who are probably busy with other things.
Not having all the required information creates delays for accounting staff, who must then do their work based on incomplete information – with deadlines looming. Subsequently, clients may be dissatisfied when their work is not done on time. Moving to a digitised world can release hours in a day for accountants to reduce the jumble.
Digitising the practice means there’s no need to wait for documents from clients to be able to reconcile information. It also removes the physical turmoil involved with handling boxes of paper-based receipts and sorting, filing and scanning paper documents.
“That used to be my practice – everything was reactive. Being able to create more regularity helps deliver the best outcome for your client,” says Hoopmann.
2. Focus on one area first
The best way to get started on the digitisation journey is to focus on one area over which to take control. The idea is to select something you would like to change or streamline and do that one thing really well.
Improving areas of the business such as data collection and processing gives an instant return on investment from which to build a scalable workflow. But it’s important to bring clients along on this journey.
“The best thing you can do for your clients is to be clear about your workflow and when you require documents. It’s inefficient to have a team member waiting for information. This can lead to stress and risks not delivering on the client’s requirements,” says Hoopmann.
“It’s important to communicate that everyone has responsibilities, including the client, who is responsible for giving you information. The clearer you can be with clients about everyone’s roles, the better the outcome,” he adds.
3. Implement the right technology
Choosing the right technology for your digitisation journey is crucial. You want tools that will save you and your clients time and money. Automation must be an essential part of the system, so you can reduce time spent on manual processes and data entry.
“With automation, you need to understand the process first – that’s the start of the journey,” explains Receipt Bank’s Minnett. “Be aware of the way you work now because you need to know your pain points to take control of them. Assess how your staff are spending their time and work out how it can be better spent.”
Automating processes supports better relationships with clients. Instead of doing manual data entry, team members can be generating insights from the data, which leads to higher-value work.
Of course, cloud technology has been a game changer in the accounting sector. It generates real-time data so accountants can get information exactly when they need it.
“Xero introduced cloud accounting to Australia in 2010 and Receipt Bank came to the market in 2013; it was revolutionary at the time,” notes Hoopmann.
“Since then, we’ve had years of experience implementing the software in accounting firms and many more features have been added, with impressive impacts.
4. Use your time for more profitable work
Using technology to raise your practice’s productivity has several benefits. The right technology solution will give you faster access to more accurate data, which releases more time for you to spend with clients. This, in turn, allows a practice to deliver higher-value services.
“If you want to be more profitable, being more efficient will help you achieve this. Receipt Bank does the work for you,” explains Hoopmann. “Most accountants would prefer to be talking to a customer rather than typing in data, because talking means more work. I also know I have the capacity in the team to do the work because automation frees up everyone’s time and, ultimately, makes you more profitable.”
However, it’s not essential to make clients use new technologies. Some may push back. In that case, you can always use new technologies on their behalf. For example, while Receipt Bank can streamline the whole accounts payable process, at a minimum it can be used as a great data collection and storage tool.
5. Move to data entry in real time
Streamlining the data collection and paper-based parts of the accounting process is just the first step. You can also use Receipt Bank to instantly capture documents and pull common invoices, such as those from the major utilities, into the system, and scan in documents, which can be dragged and dropped into the system. It can also extract data from accounts receivables and bank feeds. Simply take a photo of a receipt, input it into the system and throw the receipt away.
Says Hoopmann: “Real time is now what we expect and demand of our own firms and the firms with which we do business. The world has changed. If people have to wait for something they will find an alternative. Receipt Bank is the system you need to ensure they won’t find one.”
To find out more go to receipt-bank.com/events or call Receipt Bank on 1800 107 451.
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