According to a study by the AICPA, 92% of CPAs say they are not future-ready. Alarming.
But what is it that accounting firm execs pore over in the board room? What challenges are they actively looking to find solutions for? Which actions can they take today to ensure a promising, future-ready tomorrow?
There are business elements in this sector that drive success. Many of these elements speak to the value of future-proofing the firm to stay modern and competitive. Here are a few of those elements — and all of them follow a path to benefits offered by information management platforms and other digital transformation technology.
We Need to Reduce Labor-Intensive Tasks
In managing financial health and tax issues for their clients, firms conventionally employ several repetitive, manual tasks — from data-entry to document filing and everything in between. If a firm can automate many of these tasks through technology, they find more time and resources to focus on strategic services. By reducing administrative busy work, accounting firms can increase margins within fixed price, managed services, or subscription services.
We Need to Automate Client Services & Business Processes
The secret to prospering in the new world of accounting lies in automation. Firms can automate client services in the form of self-service portals and information-sharing solutions, decreasing the time spent searching for information. It all leads to a better experience for clients and increased margins on existing services by freeing up personnel to focus on value-added tasks.
Opportunities to automate can also be found in standard business processes, like contract management. By enabling workflows with information management technology, contracts can be managed efficiently from drafting to signature. Automation can also help streamline back-office processes like employee onboarding, accounts payable and other otherwise banal (and manual) office functions.
We Need to Minimize Compliance and Audit Risks
Accounting firms and the clients they serve operate in a world where the consequences of inferior audit procedures and non-compliance with regulations can be drastic. At a minimum, a poorly conducted audit and lack of easy access to needed information depletes precious resources and productivity. At worse, non-compliance with regulations can cost companies dearly — not only in fines and penalties, but it can be damaging to a firm’s reputation.
Information management solutions like M-Files assist with compliance-related activities — audits, corrective action/preventative action (CAPA) processing and standard operating procedures. This sort of information environment ensures the quality and security that is expected from customers and regulatory bodies. Documents can be quickly retrieved and the evolution of documentation can be tracked with version history.
At the end of the day, all accounting firms need to control the creation, ongoing development and access to the documents they produce and share with their clients… Their reputation depends on it! As such, information management should form the cornerstone of a firm’s technology infrastructure. Firms in the sector have traditionally used file stores — like Box, SharePoint and even network folders — to support their document production processes and simply accepted the audit limitations. The smart firms have led digital transformation with an investment in a document management system.
The expectations of the client are continually maturing. While accounting firm execs are still focused on reducing operational costs by streamlining processes and introducing automation, they also recognize that their staff are changing the way they want to work and how their clients interact with them.
This essentially means that IT solutions now need to be:
- Collaborative. Colleagues and clients need to access the system easily and be able to exchange documents, or alternatively co-author, online.
- Secure. Security is key, not only to the client but, arguably more importantly, to their clients.
- Mobile. The expectations of the workforce are changing so cornerstone systems like document management must have the ability to work outside of the office – without compromising security.
- Easy to use. The solution must be reliable and easy to use, as this makes staff more productive and reduces overhead.
For more information on how M-Files helps accounting and financial services firms sleep better at night, contact us for a quick chat.