By Chris Downing, Product Director, Accountants, Sage
No profession is immune from the seismic changes being wrought by digitisation. This revolution has been particularly felt in the accountancy sector, where long-established ways of working have been swept away by new reforms and regulations such as Making Tax Digital (MTD) and GDPR.
But practitioners don’t just have a duty to adopt new digital skills and processes; they must also help their clients to master them too. They will struggle to do this if they haven’t already made significant progress in their own digitisation journey.
The good news is that Sage’s Practice of Now 2019 report paints a picture of a profession that has already made great strides towards building the practice of the future. Half have formally examined their business practices in the last year, with a further quarter having done so in the past five years.
The increasing digitisation of tax – especially when mandated by governments or regulators worldwide – is among the chief reasons for accountancy practices to evaluate their business practices. And while there might have been some pain involved in adopting new digital-first practices and acquiring the necessary skills, the move to digitisation has brought transformational benefits to accountants who have mastered them.
And master them they certainly have – for the most part. Our research shows that the majority of respondents who took part in our research have achieved greater productivity through adopting new technologies, while for more than a quarter the biggest benefits have been time savings that enable them to focus more on their customers.
Even more encouragingly, it seems that the profession isn’t content to rest on its laurels, with over half looking forward to adopting artificial intelligence applications in the next three years, helping them to cut down some of the drudgery involved in data entry and routine communications by automating many of these processes.
Digital technologies – both those already in use and those on the horizon – are enabling practices to receive, process and communicate data far more efficiently than before, while enabling them to engage with clients more often (and more accurately).
There is certainly more work for accountants to do, and not just within their own businesses. The opportunities presented by new technologies are not limited to delivering efficiencies and better compliance, important as these are, but in strengthening the relationship between accountants and their clients.
To outsiders, accountants are sometimes seen as number-crunching functionaries. We know, of course, that they can play a crucial consultancy role, partnering with clients to improve their own internal practices, strengthen compliance, and reduce the cost and complexity of financial administration.
As accountants look to the future, they need to give careful thought to how they can share the lessons and best practices that they have acquired over the last few years. They must help clients as they digitise their own finances and learn how to integrate data streams from across the business.
Accountancy practices need to become their clients’ coaches, taking time to understand their particular pain points and recommending technical solutions to these problems. This will be impossible unless accountants have mastered the same technologies themselves and can act as an exemplar for best practice.
The benefits of the great digital leap forward are too important to remain locked up within accountancy firms. If clients are the biggest influence on their practice’s culture – as our research has shown – then accountants need to concentrate their efforts on helping their clients extract the same value out of digital technology that they have enjoyed. That’s why accountants should work with their software partners to ensure that they achieve full mastery of technology, before sharing this knowledge with their clients for to achieve deeper, more fruitful future relationships.
FIVE REASONS WHY YOUR BUSINESS’ PROCUREMENT TEAM SHOULD BE USING A CONTRACT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
By Daniel Ball, business development director at Wax Digital
Even in today’s digital-first environment some businesses are still storing documents, such as contracts, in filing cabinets making it labour intensive to retrieve, manage and even identify important paperwork. In fact, it is calculated that poor contract management practices are costing companies an average of nine percent of their annual revenues.
Moving to a contract management system online can speed up the retrieval process and help decrease the amount of time and resources required to manage contracts. Using a CMS companies can create an online database to centralise information and store documents. Not only does this help ensure contracts are well managed and kept up-to-date, but it can also help businesses save up to 20 percent of overall costs per year.
From legal departments overseeing regulation compliance to finance teams ensuring payment deadlines are met, contract management technology benefits many areas of an organisation. So, how can a good CMS help your procurement team?
How will a good CMS help your procurement team?
The number of suppliers your procurement team must oversee varies depending on the size of your business. It’s not uncommon for large enterprises to be working with thousands of suppliers at one time. A CMS will use automation to record, manage and streamline data, providing procurement teams with important contract details including time and location information, as well as real time alerts such as contract breaches.
Here are five reasons why your business should be using an online contract management platform:
- Increased spend visibility
Using a CMS can give procurement professionals full visibility of suppliers, including the company name and location of where a product is coming from and in what quantity. This transparency will also help contribute to the risk management strategy of your business as it enables you to spot vendors who may be prone to environmental, economic and political uncertainty. In the current environment, for example, suppliers’ may have decreased or ceased production due to COVID-19 or could have been heavily impacted by the negative price of oil, making visibility increasingly important for businesses.
- Eliminates maverick spend
Centralising and streamlining contract documents will ensure that buyers can instantly access up-to-date information to see if a contract already exists. This helps buyers avoid simple and common mistakes that often occur when using manual filing systems, such as onboarding new vendors when existing agreements are in place with another supplier.
- Keeps track of contract renewals
It’s easy to forget about contract renewals or sign up for another term without ending an existing agreement, especially when using a traditional filing system. Businesses using an online CMS can set up renewal alerts in advance, allowing buyers sufficient time to source new vendors or negotiate better prices.
- Improves spend management
A centralised database means that all negotiated prices, contract conditions and other important transactions can be accessed in one place, making it easier to analyse spend. A CMS can help identify discrepancies, find where contract violations have occurred and deal with any associated problems.
- Adhering to regulatory and legislative compliance
It’s important to ensure that all suppliers are meeting the terms of their contracts. A CMS will automatically audit supplier information, meaning that any failures are immediately raised to procurement teams. The platform will also provide notifications if any new data is required or updates need to be made, avoiding potential legal issues.
It’s clear that using an online CMS will benefit your business and procurement teams by increasing spend visibility, enabling access to up to date information, ensuring contracts are closely monitored while contributing to the reduction of unnecessary spend. So, now’s the time to stop relying on those dusty old filing cabinets and start using a CMS.
PROTECTING YOURSELF AGAINST A RECESSION
James Turner, Director at Turner Little
The coronavirus outbreak has spread to businesses, leaving many around the world counting costs. Notoriously, known as the Great Lockdown, it’s been affecting the world economy since early this year. The predicted recession is considered to be the steepest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
So, what does that mean for you? James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little, suggests “While there’s no fool proof way to ‘recession-proof’ your finances, establishing a solid base now will put you in a better position to weather the storm.”
“Whilst the future of the global economic landscape is simply too complex to predict, it’s not hard to spot imbalances that have built up, as central banks and governments around the world talk about introducing further fiscal stimulus and monetary expansion, the consequences could be significant,” adds James.
A good wealth management agent will recommend starting by saving a substantial cash emergency fund in a high-yield savings account, understanding your spending habits and where you could cut back if you needed to, and establishing your long-term investing strategy now, so you can stick to it.
If you were to solely invest based on the inevitability of a recession, you are likely to miss returns that are immediately available. If you truly want to recession-proof your assets, the best thing to do is develop a long-term strategy and invest wisely.
Diversification still matters
It’s dangerous to pile all your investments into a single sector, including consumer staples. Diversification is especially important during a recession when particular companies and industries can get hammered. Creating a diversified portfolio of assets blended across asset classes—such as fixed income and commodities, in addition to equities, sectors, geographies and strategies—can also act as a check on portfolio losses.
Build a reserve
To keep your money protected before, during and after a recession, it’s recommended to have an income generation conversation with a financial advisor. This will cover a lot of different topics, but one of the most important is the emergency fund. You’ve likely heard many times that it’s good to have between three and six months’ worth of living expenses set aside in the event of a job loss, health crisis, or other unforeseen circumstance.
Protect your assets
If you’re interested in talking about protecting your assets and your investment portfolio, do get in touch. We specialise in creating bespoke solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of our specialists will be able to assist with any enquires, no matter how complex.
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