Jennifer Warawa, EVP Partners, Accountants & Alliances at Sage
Accountancy is a venerable old profession. Since mankind first worked out how to exchange goods and services for small metal discs, the job of bookkeeping has been a central part of every economy – not to mention a source of professional pride. When Roman generals were defeated by their enemies, their accounting scrolls were among the first things they saved as they beat their retreat. Accountants have long been the unseen cement keeping the edifice of business together.
Fast forward two millennia and the picture has changed in style but not substance. Accounting still occupies an essential role in the success of businesses of all sizes, helping them to keep control of their finances and ensure that they’re focusing their energies in the right places and for the right reasons. Business leaders of all stripes rely on their accountants to act as a counterweight of good sense and sound practice.
But the old ways are changing. Our global research study, The Practice of Now, lifts the lid on an industry in flux. We already know that technology is changing not just how accountants do their age-old job, but the job itself. Where a few decades ago the role was primarily focused on bookkeeping, balancing incomings and outgoings and making sure the taxman got his fair share, those strict lines are beginning to blur.
In a world where data flows more freely than ever before and accountants have access to information from across the business, accountancy is undergoing a shift of purpose, moving closer to strategic advice and business insight.
The silos are coming down. The numbers with which accountants work are no longer bound to the pages on which they’re written – they’re linked in to a holistic picture of the business as a whole, which gives accountants the chance to widen their scope and increase the value they provide to their clients.
In our ‘experience economy’, where data-driven value-add services based on customer needs are the key to a successful strategy, accountants must be able to keep pace. Their clients are becoming increasingly used to being provided intelligent, personalised services by their professional partners. Everything from supply chain to HR is becoming data-driven, using insights generated by increasingly digitised systems to tailor services to the specific users and customers in question.
The good news is that this is a truly exciting time to be an accountant. Many practices are already making the shift from transactional relationships to strategic partnerships with their clients. There are boundless opportunities for accountants to maximise the value they provide and so increase their market share – and The Practice of Now research will help shape that. Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning matched with cloud-based accounting software are providing not just a sleeker way to manage the books, but a whole raft of high-value insights that can help drive clients’ businesses to the next level.
The old skills aren’t defunct. Every accountancy should be based on a solid foundation of financial expertise. But that foundation is now ready to be built on. Accountants can use their unique insights into the business’s financial health to provide sound, actionable advice for business leaders on where to invest, when to double down and when to watch and wait. Aided by the advanced technologies now becoming widespread in the industry, there’s a real chance for accountants to push into the next level of partnership with their clients and secure their position as value-add strategic consultants.
Now is the time to embrace the change and get ahead of the curve. Equip yourself with the right tools to provide the strategic service your clients demand, and turn your bookkeeping expertise into board-level business insights.
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.
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