The accountancy industry is at a crossroad – evolve or be left behind. With increasing client demands alongside old-fashioned processes, the industry is in trouble of stagnating. In order to meet new expectations of both clients and the industry, we get to the fifth and final stage of the maturity journey: Automation. Many other industries like investment bankers have been doing it for years already, so it’s time for the accountancy industry to get onboard.
Once you have the foundations of good IT, systems, and support in place, you can turn your attention to the exciting world of automation. Accountants have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with automation but are beginning to see the value in these projects.
Traditionally accountants ensure there is enough fat in their billing model to cover the background admin but tightening up the process gives room to add so much more value, meet client expectations, and in turn increase billable time. Imagine decreasing the cost to invoice from pounds to pennies? Imagine being able to trust that a client’s details have been updated in all systems when they change and there are no errors. This is where the automation opportunities lie. To begin the journey, accountants have 2 primary approaches to choose from:
- You can achieve a quick win with a tried and tested out of the box solution
- You can create a firm wide formal process to select automation opportunities
The good news is that you can do those things in tandem: realising the quick wins whilst putting together a broader strategy to adopt automation across the practice. Speak to someone experienced who can give you an insight into choosing the right tool. As employees start to realise that automation is on the horizon, they need to be reassured that the purpose of these projects is to be able to increase customer base, without having to take on further headcount, and the only thing they will be losing is the dull, mundane parts of their job.
How does it work?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has the ability to truly transform business practice and processes. It can remove that layer of inefficient, costly tasks that are often open to errors and inaccuracies. Naturally humans are not good at repetitive processes and consistent behaviour in doing tasks. Virtual Workers are the perfect candidate for simply that; cost effective, reliable, consistent work and governed by rules not emotion.
There is no shortage of buzzwords going around at present like artificial intelligence, automation, robotics and virtual workforce and each will have an impact within the accountancy sector. RPA is the one that really stands out as something that right now could make a real impact on your growth plans. You could read this, take an action to learn more and in a matter of weeks could be seeing real business and bottom-line benefits. All the while it has relativity minimal impact to your employees, apart from freeing up their time and having no impact to the systems they use daily. Virtual Workers can interact with the most recent technologies, to the most archaic legacy system.
Accountants and many other professional services rely on teams of people to complete manual tasks for business processes, such as reviewing, gathering, inputting data between systems, products and portals. The industry is a spreadsheet haven of heavy lifting manual tasks.
The digital front door
Among the many automation opportunities within a practice, one of the largest is standardisation of information sharing for data entry from customers. Having a single location for every form of communication between your practice and your customers improves the customer experience and is the launchpad for the standardisation necessary to adopt automation on a significant scale. This is available out of the box: Practice Gateway.
Essentially, the portal uses robots to mimic tasks people do. It doesn’t need a rigid process where information is required in a defined format. It has the intelligence to understand natural language and sentiment in a variety of formats. At that point it can follow clear instructions on how to proceed. It can have accuracy settings to determine how much leniency you want the Virtual Worker to have, and it can be instructed to interact with a human where there is doubt.
Firms have already seen significant gains from Practice Gateway: with 21,000 hours automated for tax advisers, and 75% of the personal tax submission process reduced. This has greatly improved the client experience and has reduced accountants time re-keying information. The stats speak for themselves.
At this point if you are picturing the room of IT developers you will need to employ, then remove this vision. This technology works by following a process map and does not require complex coding. You could run this in your business the same as any software. As long as someone can convey the process steps then the Virtual Worker can follow them. The technology is very secure and does not hold any of your data, it simply interacts with the systems exactly as an employee would. Except this employee doesn’t require a lunch break. As a result, you will see increased productivity, higher margins and inefficiencies removed.
This is a really exciting time for accountants. There is no better way to end the maturity journey than with a bang.