Managing an accountancy practice involves the simultaneous pursuit of several key ambitions, each of which presents unique challenges. To succeed, accounting firms need to find ways to:
Grow revenue and profits
Connect your growth strategy with your business practices to win more profitable business
Guarantee successful engagements
Deliver advice and support on complex issues within tight timescales, in scope, and within budget
Provide superior service
Exceed expectations with more focused, informed, agile and responsive teams
Accounting is one of the most rapidly changing industries in the world today. New technology has fundamentally altered the way businesses deal with their finances, with accounting software and cloud computing reducing or even replacing the need for some services. The role of an accountant is also evolving swiftly. No longer seen as simply there to keep track of the money, accountants are increasingly being recognized as trusted business advisors with vital insights on how to help clients develop and grow. However, this is a time burden on a profession notorious for being busy.
Taking full advantage of the latest technology advances in professional services automation/project services automation – such as the Unit4 PSA Suite and broader enterprise software such as Unit4 Business World – enables accounting firms to stay flexible, efficient and at the top of their game, providing the best possible service to their clients and growing their own businesses too.
What challenges do accountancy businesses face?
With increasing numbers of clients using accounting software to do their own finances, many accountants are instead offering higher value services, such as business planning advice, but this takes time and requires a degree of efficiency in order for firms to remain profitable.
And there are additional factors to cope with:
- Strict regulation makes control and transparency essential, but this needs to be achieved without adding to non-billable, manual admin work.
- New technology has given clients higher expectations of information access and involvement in accounting decisions.
- Data handling and security are in the regulatory spotlight but having financial data in separate systems and databases can add to risks.
As a result, many firms are harnessing the latest technology to improve coordination, planning and efficiency, while also enabling better control and transparency.
Key accountancy industry trends
Unit4 offers a range of innovative solutions for accounting firms, to help them rise to the challenges they face today, and respond proactively to many of the key trends that are reshaping the industry:
A common stereotype about accounting was that once a year, clients would produce a shoebox full of receipts and invoices, and leave the whole thing for the accountant to sort out. But, this mentality – that accountants complete your tax return and nothing more – is dying out as technology takes over.
However, while accounting software is becoming popular, it is no match for tech-savvy accountants with the expertise to back it up.
If firms can provide the convenience and transparency of software with the financial business advice that clients crave, they could make waves in the industry.
Win more business
Unit4 solutions help accountancy firms manage ongoing finances, people and engagements more effectively and offer the tools and insights to plan the most profitable way forward for the business. By automating admin tasks to maximize availability and productivity, they also free up valuable staff. This safeguards the agility (and margins) to stay ahead of market trends and rivals.
Keeping up to date and compliant with the many finance and tax regimes around the world is a constant challenge, whether doing business internationally or in a domestic market. Take the UK, for example, where Brexit promises to bring a deluge of new and revised laws and regulations. But, as well as challenges, there are major opportunities for firms that can provide much-needed clarity to their clients, as well as keeping every financial transaction legitimate.
Meanwhile, cybercrime continues to rise with data theft and other issues predicted by Forbes to cost businesses around the world a combined $2 trillion by 2019. Accountancy firms are increasingly in the front line with financial data an enticing target for hackers. One key safety measure is to avoid having sensitive information split across different databases and systems.
Smarter software is a must for navigating through these issues successfully.
Execute profitable engagements
Using Unit4's solutions, managers can see what’s happening for every client and employee, as well as all the opportunities for efficiency that come with that. And managing via a centralized, secure and consistently-applied solution, helps reinforce data stewardship efforts and protects the business and its clients from being harmed by fragmented, siloed systems.
One of the most valuable resources an accounting firm can have is talented staff.
However, with client requirements increasing in complexity due to their need for ever more complex financial advice, engagements can often involve more than one accountant.
As a result, employees have to shoulder a wide array of responsibilities, collaborating with each other on a range of differing accounts, making it harder to match the most appropriate resources to each engagement and to keep track of time in a transparent manner.
Staff more effectively
Unit4 solutions improve collaboration and provide 360-degree visibility of staff availability and time for every engagement, to make best use of their skills and talents. They also keep track of employees' skills, appraisals, work experience, compensations and benefits. This can aid hiring policies, while ensuring that staff are able to develop and grow within an organization.
It is no longer enough for many clients simply to have an accountant handle their finances.
In an age when apps can perform this function, accountants need to offer more, which is part of the reason behind the rise in business advice and tax planning services. In order to remain competitive, firms must offer this kind of added value.
However, adding value takes time. So, it is more important than ever for accountancy firms to make efficiency gains, in order to safeguard and maximize profit margins.
Increased client demands also mean accountants' time is even more valuable – every hour spent on non-billable administrative tasks is an hour that could have been spent on billable services for clients.
Bill with precision
With Unit4 software solutions, firms can take control of this situation by automating key processes. Billable hours, costs and resources can all be easily logged and planned around, according to changing requirements, without the need to spend hours doing admin. This frees up valuable time for more billable work and makes sure that billable time gets invoiced completely and promptly, to optimize cash flow.
Helping accountancy staff at every level
Unit4's holistic solutions don't just benefit the person at the top of a company; they can deliver value across an entire organization. Here is how your entire accounting firm can benefit from Unit4 software:
Executives and Managers
Unit4 solutions make it easier to oversee the firm's strategic direction.
Leaders and decision makers will get a clearer picture of the status and progress of work across the business, allowing them to make informed decisions about where to prioritize and where new opportunities might arise.
Unit4 solutions make it easier to budget, report and forecast more accurately, helping the finance team to drive strong profit margins and spot potential efficiency gains that could lead to improved cash flow.
Unit4 solutions deliver better visibility over the end-to-end management of complex requirements in real time, giving the ability to allocate and reallocate staff to provide the best service at the lowest cost to the firm, while delivering results within budget and on time.
Unit4 solutions help firms to maintain and match the right skills to current and future client engagements. As well as ensuring the most suitable staff can be allocated for their skill set, HR teams can track the progress of all staff members and provide training and support as and when it is needed to match regulatory changes or industry trends.
Unit4 solutions help reduce the time taken up by complex bureaucracy and manual form-filling, so accountants will no longer need to focus significant portions of their time on administrative tasks and bureaucracy, freeing up time for more productive, profitable and fulfilling work.