Cloud and Digital are Driving Change in Professional Practice

Accounting and Finance Professionals: Cloud and Digital are Driving Change in Professional Practice

Accountants and financial consultants working in public practice are experiencing a revolutionary change, evolving from documents and paper-based processes with after-the-fact reporting to real-time business management and providing services which support daily decision-making.  The underlying cause for this evolution in business accounting is the technology: cloud and collaborative computing models are enabling much closer and regular interaction between accounting professionals and the businesses they serve. Even more, technology is taking its proper place in automating once tedious activities, allowing professionals to focus on causes and results rather than on transactions.

What is the real impact this is having on the accounting profession?  It’s forcing a new focus and attention on change management within the practice, and is causing professionals to recognize the requirement for standardization of processes and development of controls which are the foundations for creating sustainability in a business.  The goal now is placing reliance on process rather than people, which establishes the basis for intelligent automation.  Standardization of processes does not require that the firm lose its personality.  Rather, the mission at hand is to imbue the organization with its unique flavor and approach and to use process automation to develop and support consistency in the functions performed.

While cloud computing models allow accounting and finance professionals to work closer with their business clients, it is important that the practice look at those client interactions and develop standards for processes supporting frequently performed functions.  These operations generally represent the activities within the firm which generate the highest levels of profitability due to the consistency in approach and repetition of tasks, and are the activities to apply intelligent automation to first.  Those activities or engagements which represent the “one-offs” are often the most costly for the firm to perform, and therefore may not be the most profitable of activities and are certainly the most challenging to support with any significant level of automation.  It is in this area where AI will find useful value in the practice, where a more informed answer than simple process automation is required.

The surprising finding when looking at many professional practices with more than one partner/professional involved is that these firms often fail to develop even the most basic of standard processes which apply throughout the firm.  Rather, each partner or professional has “their way” of handling things, which challenges the supporting personnel as they try to deal with multiple working methods. The result is a lack of consistency in the service delivery to the clientele and reduced productivity and profitability for the firm.

The thing that these firms are failing to recognize – the light bulb over their heads that just isn’t lighting up – is that cloud computing and collaborative working models aren’t designed just to enable and facilitate a closer working relationship with clients.  They’re also able to be applied inside the professional practice, enabling a more productive and efficient workflow which addresses the strengths and capabilities of the entire organization. And it doesn’t stop there.  Businesses are relying upon their accounting professionals to provide guidance and develop controls and standards to support the client transformation from paper-based to digital operations, and embracing the entire realm of data and interactions associating with the business. Digital transformation in a client business demands transformation in those firms who serve it.

As professionals learn to go deeper in client operations they would do well to look internally, too, exploring how increased attention to process automation and consideration for the firm’s own “digital transformation” might lead to great profitability through market differentiation and improved performance.

Make Sense?

J

Improving the Business of Art: Making Beautiful Business Decisions

There is a lot more to managing and maintaining an art collection than simply collecting.  In the art business, knowing where something came from, how it got to where it is now (and what it cost to get there), and keeping track of it thereafter requires software and systems to store and manage the information.  A professional art collection management solution will do much more than simply keep an inventory list of items.  This solution must store all the relevant information about the work as well as gather information while facilitating the various business processes relating to activities around the work. The first step to improvement is ensuring all the processes are being facilitated.

Acquiring the item, transporting the item, preparing the item, showing the item, maintaining the item, selling the item… all of these business activities performed must not just be accounted for, they must relate back to the work of art and become part of its historical record. Art tends to move around. Traveling from collector to collector or to different galleries, works of art may change location and ownership or custodial care frequently.  The origin of a work and the tracked purchase history, as well as the history of placements is among the critical information to be stored with each item. This most valuable data is part of the legacy of the work that any professional system should address. If information is power, then better retention and management of information regarding a work makes the entire collection stronger.

The location or exhibition of a work, its purchase history, the related museum and contact records – all this and more must be maintained and managed with each and every item in a collection.  Essential data such as provenance, condition and value is certainly kept for each work, but the key to making a truly useful system for collectors and artists both is the ability to get all the needed data in a single view or report.

Having the inventory information available for invoicing and reporting is one thing, but also being able to connect or identify individual works and collections with relevant contacts is surprisingly valuable. Tracking other information items like costs associated with shipping or framing, or storing both an appraised value as well as an insured value, provides for a comprehensive record of the work and its properties and makes forms and documents preparation not only more accurate but more efficient and useful, too.

Art businesses are like many other “product”-based businesses in that they have e-commerce needs, they build websites to show off their catalogue, they use mobile applications to display items, and they find much higher efficiency and agility when the websites and mobile applications work with the same real-time inventory data that the rest of the system works with.  The goal is to achieve measurable results through improved efficiencies, and that comes from improved information management and integrated systems.  Centralized computing models and connected cloud services establish the foundation.

Cloud hosting, remote access and mobile technologies, and location-based solutions are all part of the package for businesses involved in the business of art these days.  Implementing a hosting solution which enable anytime/anywhere access to business applications and information is often the first key to unlocking the better and more efficient art business.

Whether it is collecting, selling or showing, users involved in the business of art need secure access to all their information whether they’re in the office or not so they have the data needed to support making beautifully intelligent business decisions when it matters most. The rest is just pretty pictures.

Make Sense?

J