As businesses move their finances over to self contained, self service applications in the cloud some of the information they need to run the business will definitely improve. Fundamental questions such as ‘how much have we spent this month?’ can be answered in an instant.
But to improve a business, the right questions need to be asked, such as ‘do you know what to do to lift your business to the next level?’. And, be asked by a person rather than by something similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
We need the human touch
Only a person will have the experience and the nous to see the opportunities and pitfalls ahead, and be able to say ‘if you want to know what to do, I have some ideas’.
However, the better the technology the less likely it is that this will happen. Because the person best placed to ask the right question is our Accountant. And if the new tech means that we need our Accountants less, the less we will pay for their services, and the less they will be in touch.
That leaves the business owner with the information that the technology is already set up to provide, and at the mercy of the AI algorithms that makers of the new tech are introducing.
The clue is in the word ‘artificial’
No matter what spin is attached to the powers of AI, always remember that it is a reworking of data that is already in the machine to show patterns and correlations that may have meaning when looking forward. And if that data is no more than a history of income and expenditure, the insights will be limited.
Better information comes from new data, selected carefully with a key question in mind.
For example, you run the Mrs Miggins bakery business and deliver to retail outlets in your area.
It’s clear from the map what the shortest delivery route is. However, if asked the question ‘is this route the one that will make you the most money?’ you will need data to tell you about the time each possible route will take, as well as the distance. The route that takes the shortest time may allow time for more deliveries to be made, even though the distance may be greater.
Finding the right answer may not be an elegant exercise. And shiny new accounting tech may be of limited use.
Google will provide typical times for travel over different routes at specific times of day. The accounting system will provide you with costs and income. And the sales system (along with website, emails, and Facebook posts) will tell you about enquiries and the potential for additional deliveries.
But, the answer could lead to a higher margin and an edge over your competitors who are still working with just a map, or just google, and not combining different sets of data to uncover the hidden possibilities.
Here is the question
As specialists in Business Intelligence we are looking at ways to equip Accountants in Practice to transform the information that their clients can use to build a competitive edge.
Training is essential, specifically in the art and science of gathering and using data for a sharper commercial perspective and a stronger bottom line. We are working with BPP to develop the courses that will help.
And the right technology is needed. But this is less about pre-prepared reports and multi-coloured dashboards (although they have their place), and more about connecting data to crack the critical unanswered questions.
But are we right? Here is the question.
If you are an Accountant in Practice, what is the technology that you need most? And what would it allow you to do better?
Please let us know by commenting on LinkedIn. The more we understand of the world of the Accountant in Practice, the better we can make it.
Let’s say you have a small manufacturing business. Demand is good and you are working flat out to keep up.
You also want to grow. But the cost of hiring an Apprentice who will take 3 years to train seems to be prohibitive. What do you do?
Or, you run a logistics business. You know that some types of contract make more money than others. Which ones do you opt for?
Every one of the small and medium sized businesses across the UK will have similar questions. What a difference it would make to productivity across the UK economy if they could all be answered.
Where’s an Accountant when you need one?
The person ideally placed to provide the answers is the Accountant. They know their client’s business. They are always looking for ways to help their clients to grow. They are normally the first port of call for questions about income and cost.
However, some challenges stand in the way.
Accountants already have access to the numbers in the business, but they may not have access to the data needed for the answers required.
They already have a great deal of skill and experience, but need access to particular analysis methods and models.
They already work hard to be on hand for their clients whenever required, but clients are already becoming more self sufficient with financial information.
These challenges become all the greater when Accountants find it difficult to gain the access to their clients that they need.
Our goal is to equip accountants to overcome these challenges, first and foremost through highly focused and practical training.
We are part of the BPP professional development programme for Finance Professionals. We are preparing courses for Accountants in Practice aimed at helping them to lift the productivity of their clients.
Scenarios such as those above suggest the need for stronger ‘commercial’ analytical practices.
But is this true?
Here is the question.
If you are an Accountant in Practice, and you want to equip your clients to make the greatest gains in productivity, what would the title of your ideal training programme be?
Please let us know by commenting on LinkedIn or Twitter. The more we understand of the world of the Accountant in Practice, the better the training courses will be.
Much has been said about the arrival of automation and its impact upon Accountants. The consistent theme is less time needed for routine tasks and more time available for ‘value adding’ analysis.
For Finance Professionals in larger organisations this will be an opportunity to get teeth stuck into the data within the business and provide a greater level of insight.
The small matter of the economy
But what of the Accountant in Practice? It is vital to the economy that they can do the same. This is because most of their clients are to be found amongst the UK’s 5.7M SMEs, which in turn comprise 99% of the UK’s businesses.
Just think of the benefit if each Accountant could help lift productivity within each of their clients by a few percent.
But they have challenges that their colleagues in larger organisations may not have to worry about. E.g.
- The client may only have accounting data to hand. If they have more, they must be able and willing to make it available.
- The client will also need to make more time available, something they may be reluctant to do if it detracts from running the business.
- The Accountant must then be equipped to provide the insights needed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
These can all be addressed through a mix of training and technology.
For example, imagine a care home looking after elderly residents, with different levels of care provided depending upon frailty and conditions such as dementia.
As demand for care increases the home needs more funding. But to qualify, they must provide detailed information about the actual costs of care.
Equipped with the right templates their Accountant can show the staff how to collect the statistics and measures needed. They can guide staff to relevant data within payroll and care administration systems. And they can make efficient work of combining sets of data to produce a clear and granular set of service costs, along with cost projections into the future.
If care home staff are clear about the benefits to be gained from dedicating time to the task, they will be willing and able to perform the leg work required.
Bring on the trainer
It’s the training that matters most.
We are part of the BPP professional development programme for Finance Professionals. We are preparing courses for Accountants in Practice to equip them to help businesses exactly like the care home above.
We believe the training needed is about becoming better at ‘commercial’ practices. This is the art and science of gathering and using data for a sharper competitive edge, greater capacity, and a stronger bottom line.
But are we right?
Here is the question.
If you are an Accountant in Practice, and you want to equip your clients with the sort of information illustrated above, what would the title of your ideal training programme be? And what would you like to be better able to do as a result?
If robotics will make time available for better things, that has to be good. But only if Accountants are equipped accordingly.
So, please let us know using the comments on LinkedIn. The more we understand of the world of the Accountant in Practice, the better the training courses will be.