There has been plenty of talk about the growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence and yes, accountancy is one of the professions earmarked to be the dinosaur of the 21st century, heading for extinction. But on its own technology doesn’t deliver the full picture; it enables different working practices – more efficient, cost effective – but is that everything? I think in the past there has been a disconnect between many accountants and the clients they serve, the relationship built on once a year contact for accounts and tax – but technology can transform that relationship into something proactive and meaningful which delivers real value to a business, and, very importantly at a price it can afford.
There are two functions in every business which have often historically worked separately from each other – financial and operational. I can think of client in the past where it has become accounts vs operations… Two totally integral parts of the business – but with very different needs and resources. Accountants have been understandably, focussed on the finance function – but everything operational will have a financial impact in one way or another, whether it is stock control and valuation, production, procurement, approvals, project management, sales order tracking and fulfilment, the list goes on.
The disconnect between the processes may typically have been bridged by the use of Excel spreadsheets and manual processes. And where there are Excel spreadsheets and manual processes there is an increased risk of error, inefficiency – and a dependency on maybe one or two key individuals whose absence can cause problems. Let alone the potential for disaster if they leave – or, as we have recently learned, can no longer access or share your data because of a lockdown!
At the heart of any business you have the people, people working in different departments. They will have built their own processes, and whilst there are now alternative solutions which can give a more integrated approach, people will be reluctant to change. That reluctance isn’t necessarily an irrational fear. We all know stories of poorly implemented systems which led to massive disruption. And then of course those systems where a shed-load of cash was spent which was then written off before the product even got to implementation.
But change doesn’t all have to be negative, and cloud technology is now giving so many options for replacing those spreadsheets and manual processes with proven solutions which work for the ops team and the finance team, in a fully integrated solution. Within any business you will have a mix of people, and enthusiasm for technology isn’t just a generational thing. Yes, the so-called Millennials might have grown up with technology but there are plenty of more – shall we say -experienced finance professionals who understand and embrace what can be achieved by adopting new technology and the associated new methods of working. Through their experience they can fully understand the challenges faced – and, dare I say, enjoy the satisfaction, maybe even excitement of finding solutions to age-old problems.
Where is this leading? Well as accountants we can have conversations with our clients to establish exactly what is of value to them, whether it is regular accounts, cash flow forecasting, business modelling, a sounding board for future plans, a virtual finance officer. No two clients are exactly the same and needs can vary hugely, but one thing is consistent and that is the wealth of experience and knowledge an accountant can bring from working across different sectors and with multiple multi-faceted clients. And through working across multiple sectors we learn the solutions available and can bring to you tried and tested answers to your challenges.
So ask yourself two questions – firstly, what would you like to get from your finance system and secondly what do you actually get. If the second answer is not the same as the first then now is the time to consider an alternative and contact Bridge Financials