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.

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Paul Clarke

Director

Develin Consulting