Understanding the value and application of information technology is the cornerstone of building a successful “next generation” accounting or consulting practice. Professionals are finding that new opportunities to engage with new and existing clients comes from closer involvement with client financial and operational systems. Collecting and analyzing data, integrating applications and automating data exchanges, and leveraging cloud platforms and services is rapidly becoming the next level of “standardized” service offered by many professionals.
The pace of change is increasing, which makes it increasingly important for business owners to wisely select their technology partners and solutions. While many accounting professionals consider themselves to be the business owner’s trusted advisor, their clients often seek advice on increasing efficiency and reducing costs from software and IT consultants instead.
Yet conditions will change and could force the client business to make adjustments that impact the applications and services supporting the operation. Do the solutions in place have the agility necessary to meet changing business needs, being adaptable enough to meet new conditions or orientations? This is where accounting professionals can help their business clients make the right choices to address current and potential future needs.
Even as information management paradigms continue to shift, accounting professionals can help their business clients achieve better business performance and profitability through innovating workflows and increasing process efficiency. Whether or not the existing systems lend themselves to these efforts remains the question, and represents an area where the professional could provide great value.
Accounting professionals should look at services they can provide to clients that have direct and meaningful impact on operational efficiency and resultant profitability. These areas represent not simply cost and efficiency improvements, but speak to quality of service and sustainability as well, creating better and repeatable outcomes that can support the operation even as operating conditions may change.
Improving data collection and analysis provides the foundation for understanding more about the operation, and delivers the insight required to identify areas where performance might be improved and then to prove the outcome.
Automating data exchanges and imports, eliminating redundant entry and the potential for manual errors, establishes structure in processes which can then be streamlined to deliver consistent and predictable results.
Utilizing cloud platforms and services allows the business to utilize the infrastructure required to support operations while providing a level of affordable scalability that doesn’t push the business beyond its reasonable boundaries.
What this discussion touches on is the subject of digital transformation and what that really means for small businesses and the accounting professionals who support them.
Rather than performing the accounting and financial work as after-the-fact participants, accounting professionals should help their business clients take a new view of processes and activities performed throughout the business, identifying areas where new approaches can be applied to increase efficiency as well as agility, developing a stronger foundation for growth and profitability.
From the adoption of paperless and electronic workflows to merging social media with marketing and support activities, digital transformation represents an ongoing effort within a business to fundamentally shift from manual processes to electronic exchange, and expanding considerations beyond physical boundaries to include the virtual, as well.
All of this represents new opportunity and enhanced value for the accounting professionals ready to help their clients become “next generation” businesses.