- Reclaim time for you and your team through simpler methods.
- An external tech expert can provide alternative solutions.
- Robotic Process Automation tools can simplify office processes such as compiling client reports.
By Adam Dierselhuis.
Innovation. The second most overused term going around at the moment. The first, you guessed it, disruption. What happened to making things better, faster, smarter, and dare I say it, simpler?
The term innovation creates an expectation that only something revolutionary is worthy of being labelled innovative, which is nonsense.
As business advisers, it’s our job to provide clarity on what matters, and what matters in business is constant and never-ending improvement. Whether that’s improving your service, your systems, or your training, the enabler of this is time. So forget about innovation and start thinking about getting back, and making better use of your own and your team’s time.
More often than not, the best place to start looking to claw back time is inside your engine room, as this is often full of unrealised efficiencies that some quick and inexpensive tech smarts can unlock.
Here are some tips to help you get you started:
1. Educate your team
Take a leaf out of Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why and do exactly that – start with why. Educate your team about the importance of getting back time to create a culture that seeks change and one that lives and breathes doing things smarter. At the end of the day, it’s in their best interests to do so.
We’re all well aware that accounting has long been regarded as one of the top industries most likely to be made redundant by automated technology, so let’s make change happen, rather than let it happen to us.
Directing effort into getting back time will keep you ahead of the curve, and it will free up you and your team to upskill and deliver services, beyond simply managing the debits and credits. This is good for our clients, our team members and our businesses.
2. Start asking questions
It is easy to fall prey to the “do what you’ve always done” trap and push change to the side when you get busy. Don’t get me wrong, being busy is good if it’s good busy. But more often than not I meet other accounting and financial planning professionals who are spending too much time on the wrong things.
Incremental changes and shifts in the way you work to free up time come about by pausing and simply asking the questions “is there a smarter way”or “can it be done differently”. Make sure you’re carving out time for you and your team to start exploring these questions.
3. Find a tech head
Quite often a fancy Excel formula can form the basis of a great efficiency gain, and having a tech head on call could give you immediate process improvements. An external expert won’t only help guide improvements or offer technical know-how. They’ll come at the problem from a different angle and could offer alternative solutions to make a greater impact.
We are fortunate to have the IT smarts of the team at Smarter Business Process working with us in-house. They work closely with accounting and financial planners to develop, test and refine solutions that don’t require you to change the way you work, but that simply help you to work smarter.
4. Jump on the tools
I speak from personal experience here - set yourself the challenge of going back to basics and experiencing your systems firsthand. When you come at it with fresh eyes, it’s easier for you to spot activities that chew time, be it duplication, double handing or tasks being performed in the wrong sequence.
This exercise was the catalyst for significant change inside our own business. A key takeaway was that we were asking smart people to do dumb things, because that’s what our systems were asking of them. That realisation created a frustration which gave momentum to the cause, and a targeted shortlist of areas to tackle first.
5. Take advantage of robotic process automation
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) might sound like something out of a science fiction film but it’s a lot closer to home than people realise, and it’s being embraced by businesses of all sizes.
What does RPA actually mean? It’s about taking a process which is otherwise performed by hand, and automating it with clever software tools which can be designed to perform any repeatable task.
Looking for an RPA specifically designed to make life easier for accountants? Check out FuseDocs (the idea for which came about when I jumped on the tools), which sits on top of your existing systems. Among other things, it automates client report package compilations.
What I hope you take from these five tips is that you don’t have to be revolutionary, world-changing, or even particularly tech-savvy to create positive change. You just have to make it a priority, keep talking about it, and keep working on it.
Related: Tech Bootcamp webinar
Are you equipped with the knowledge and skills to use technology to your advantage? Tech Bootcamp brings industry experts within the data community to discuss the possibilities.
Adam Dierselhuis FCA is the director of Brisbane-based chartered accountants and business advisers O’Connells OBM.