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.
THE EMOTIONAL AND FINANCIAL COST OF WORKING WITH OUTDATED TECHNOLOGY
Slow Tech Could Waste 24 Hours of Worktime a Year
In this digital age, businesses are hugely reliant on technology to get work done. And this is especially the case for one-man-bands and small home-based businesses who may count on a single computer to keep things running smoothly from their home office space.
This said, if the technology at hand is slow or outdated, it could become more of a hinderance than a help. Investing in upgraded tech may seem like a steep expense, however, delays cost time and time is money. In fact, recent research looking at the impact of tech troubles in the workplace found that delays caused by slow technology could add up to a hefty 24 days’ worth of worktime a year per person.
Here’s why keeping hold of outdated tech when its past its best could cost your business in the long run.
The biggest tech hold-ups
Delving deeper into the research, it’s evident that the most time can be lost on some of the smallest of tasks. Simply waiting for your computer to boot up, for example, can add up to 8.8 days of lost time over the space of a year (17 minutes a day), while 8.5 days can be lost to opening emails (16.5 minutes a day). Slow software has the most to answer for, however, contributing 10.4 days’ worth of wasted worktime (20 minutes a day). When you think about your own day rate or that of an employee’s, this lost time all adds up to some serious money, right? Probably more than it would cost to upgrade your tech.
Productivity can suffer too
Glitchy tech may not only cost your business time and money; productivity can take a serious hit too. According to the study, a third of workers admit losing motivation when they have to wait on tech to respond. And this comes as no surprise. When faced with freezing programmes and buffering browsers every day, frustration can build up. And when someone’s suffering frustration, productivity and motivation can drop. As a result, it may turn out it’s not just the tech that is slowing down tasks, but a reduction in employee efficiency too.
Tech expert and anti-futurist, Theo Priestley, argues that the issues caused by outdated tech at work can even have a negative effect on someone’s work-life balance and wellbeing. He explains, “not being able to complete work or feel productive or have a sense of accomplishment in a task can be a stressful experience. And depending on the nature of the work, more often than not, employees will need to work additional hours to compensate for the wasted time, which has a knock-on impact on personal and family life.”
Outdated tech can put your business at risk
Beyond the costs to your business, outdated tech can also put it at increased risk of cybercrime. The older the technology, the easier it is for hackers to exploit it. What’s more, if you don’t update your security software regularly, it won’t be equipped to address the latest security threats.
Priestley explains “outdated technology and software means easy exploitation from inside and outside the organisation. If you’re not using the latest versions of operating systems, or software that you’ve invested in, then there’s greater chance for someone to exploit known weaknesses in that system and expose or steal data or valuable company information from them.”
What is the solution?
Regularly assess what condition your hardware and software are in and where delays are occurring. If you find yourself waiting on the same problem day in day out, it’s probably time to do something about it. But how often should you be upgrading your IT equipment?
In general, a computer being used for business could do with being upgraded every two to three years for optimal performance. Alternatively, sometimes simply upgrading the memory or hard drive can help applications run more quickly. Any other equipment such as printers, keyboards, etc. only really need to be replaced when they break.
As for software, upgrade it regularly. While it can be a temptation to stick with older versions that you’ve grown accustomed to, the newer versions will offer improved capabilities, efficiency and security.
While computers slowing down over time seems inevitable and something that we’ve accepted will happen, it’s important for businesses to recognise the problem can have a bigger knock-on effect than you may think. By investing in updated, efficient technology, the savings experienced via productivity are likely to vastly outweigh the price of the tech itself. So, next time your computer freezes, perhaps consider whether it’s time for an upgrade.
OFFSHORE COMPANY FORMATION TACTICS FOR SMEs
James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little
Starting a business brings with it its own set of challenges, as well as opportunities. But when setting up a business, the where is often as important as the how, and knowing what to expect in terms of company formation regulations and requirements is key, so you can start your entrepreneurial journey on the right foot.
James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little, takes us through what we need to consider when it comes to offshore company formation, and the benefits it can offer start-ups and SMEs.
“Despite what the media will have you believe, there are numerous legitimate reasons to use an offshore company. Offshore companies can often provide SMEs with access to better infrastructure and legal frameworks. Regulations in different parts of the world could prove to be restrictive for businesses by preventing foreign entities from launching factories, buying property or investing in local companies. In this instance, setting up an offshore company can help in completing transactions and provide you with the ability to hold any local assets necessary,” says James.
“However, one of the fundamental reasons for setting up an offshore company is often privacy. Moving assets or setting up a business is often done in a country that offers more tightly protected data security, has a robust legal framework and a network of service providers that streamline the setting up process. Switzerland is often the country of choice when it comes to privacy, as it’s synonymous with security and data privacy. Another reason SMEs should consider setting up an offshore company is tax efficiency. Tax advantages are offered by different jurisdictions. For example, Singapore has one of the lowest corporate tax rates, while the Cayman Islands might be more ideal for freelancers who are looking to minimise the effective tax rate on their businesses,” adds James.
“Offshore companies provide SMEs with the ability to mitigate risks that arise from political instability or currency volatility. We have already seen businesses starting to register European entities in order to limit their exposure to the fallout that may result from Brexit. Whatever the reason, spreading your operations across jurisdictions may be the best long-term business strategy SMEs can adopt to secure future growth,” adds James.
Turner Little specialises in creating bespoke solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of their specialists will be able to assist with any enquires, no matter how complex.
THE END OF YEAR TAX CHECKS THAT COULD SAVE YOU THOUSANDS
Charlie Reading, Founder and MD of Efficient Portfolio After HMRC’s tax return deadline at the end of January, it can be...
RISK VS REWARD: IS AI TAKING OVER?
Xavier Fernandes, Analytics Director at Metapraxis A study by Oxford University academics into “The Future of Employment” in 2013 prompted...
HALO TRUST USES ADAPTIVE INSIGHTS FOR STRATEGIC BUSINESS PLANNING
Cloud-based financial planning helps HALO Trust deliver greater benefit to communities affected by war Adaptive Insights, a Workday company,...
IS DATA PROTECTION AND PRIVACY RELEVANT ACROSS ALL STRATA IN INDIAN SOCIETY?
A Study by Pensaar Design With CGAP Pensaar Design has been working on a research study with CGAP to better...
THE RISE OF CHALLENGER BANKS AND HOW LEGACY BANKS ARE TRYING TO KEEP UP
Jean Van Vuuren, Regional VP for UK, Middle East and South Africa at Alfresco The finance world has been...
NEW STUDY: AI HELPS ORGANISATIONS GROW PROFITS 80 PERCENT FASTER
Global research highlights how organisations are capitalising on emerging technologies to enhance finance and operations for competitive advantage Organisations...
UK START-UPS MUST MAKE THE MOST OF A SMALL WINDOW TO CAPITALISE ON INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES, FOX WILLIAMS WARNS
Despite rising investment, Brexit and growing interest from tech giants could cut off start-ups’ opportunities in 2020 While a...
XPEDITION UPGRADES MORE THAN ONE MILLION OPENWORK CLIENTS TO THE DIGITAL AGE
Xpedition, leader in the implementation of cloud-based business applications, has deployed a new system which has digitally transformed the customer...
ORACLE AND MICROSOFT BRING ENTERPRISE CLOUD INTEROPERABILITY TO EUROPEAN CUSTOMERS
Today, Oracle is announcing the continued expansion of its cloud interoperability partnership with Microsoft with a new cloud interconnect location in Amsterdam....
THE EMOTIONAL AND FINANCIAL COST OF WORKING WITH OUTDATED TECHNOLOGY
Slow Tech Could Waste 24 Hours of Worktime a Year In this digital age, businesses are hugely reliant on technology...
HOW TECHNOLOGY IS FUTUREPROOFING STOCK MARKET TRADING
Tony Shaw, Executive Director, London Office and Head Sales UK & Ireland at the Swiss Stock Exchange Markets are shifting,...
REVEALED: THE TOP 10 COUNTRIES THAT ARE REDUCING THEIR RELIANCE ON OIL
Ben Lobel, Copywriter at DailyFX New tool charts global commodity trading over the last decade The UK has reduced its...
‘MOVE FAST BUT DON’T BREAK THINGS’ – WHY FINTECHS WILL COME TO LOVE REGULATION
Alex Johnson, Director of Portfolio Marketing, FICO The guiding ethos of fintech is move fast and break things. It’s...
OFFSHORE COMPANY FORMATION TACTICS FOR SMEs
James Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little Starting a business brings with it its own set of challenges,...
EMV® 3DS – PAVING THE WAY FOR SEAMLESS AUTHENTICATION
Jean Fang, Product Manager, FIME The growth of e-commerce, m-commerce and remote commerce transactions is showing no signs of...
WITHOUT C-SUITE COLLABORATION DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS UNLIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITHIN FINANCIAL SERVICES
By Nick Gold, founder and Chief Executive of Speaker’s Corner A path to digital transformation Mapping a clear path...
LOOKING BEYOND THE PAYMENTS PRICE TAG
Rob Straathof, CEO, Liberis In the face of tough competition, cutting costs often seems like the quickest and easiest...
MITEK SETS NEW IDENTITY VERIFICATION STANDARD WITH ONE STEP LIVENESS DETECTION
Omnichannel Liveness Detection ensures more effective, safe and simple identity verification Mitek (NASDAQ: MITK, www.miteksystems.com), a global leader in digital identity...
HOW TO MERGE YOUR FINANCES AS A COUPLE?
By Nelisiwe Ndlovu, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes There is never a good time to discuss finances with...
INTERNATIONAL BANKING NETWORK IBOS ASSOCIATION APPOINTS NEW MANAGING DIRECTOR
International banking network IBOS Association is delighted to announce the appointment of its new Managing Director, Manoj Mistry. Formerly Managing...