Don’t be left behind: How to become a data-driven practice
Rapid digitisation and globalisation are forcing businesses – for better or worse – to adapt to a new era of work. What’s most critical for industries like accounting, however, is the value placed in data. Here’s why your practice needs to transition to a data-driven business strategy.
The age of pen and paper is well and truly over
For several years now, accountants have known that they will have to adapt to the digital age or risk becoming redundant. And while some of the more traditional practitioners may have been slow to accept this truth, COVID-19 has accelerated the very real need for change.
But it’s not just hyper-connectivity that is driving change. Competition amongst accounting practices is greater than it’s ever been, and with new technologies like automation, AI and big data helping firms eliminate time-consuming tasks, it’s the customer who holds all the power.
So how can you gain insight into your target market’s needs while delivering them the exact service they are looking for? Through data.
3 elements your practice needs to focus on
If your practice has been slow to embrace digital tools, taking the idea of ‘data’ at face value may seem overwhelming. After all, accounting firms accumulate and store incredible amounts of data every year – particularly those that leverage client collection data in the cloud. Without the proper processes and technologies, most of that data will be wasted. That’s why you need to focus on key three elements of becoming a data-driven business:
- People: You want a team that is built on a culture of collaboration – one that is always seeking to learn new things and enable each other through new technologies.
- Processes: In order for any data-led initiative to succeed, there must be a robust data governance program in place. Moreover, leaders must be collaborative rather than take a ‘top-down’ approach, and they must use the data to make informed decisions instead of old-school ‘gut instinct’ management.
- Technologies: You’ll want a cloud solution that can scale with your business and allow you to deploy a variety of tools as and when needed. You should also seek out a platform that can automate data preparation and other time-consuming tasks, thus freeing up your team to focus on creative, customer-facing jobs.
Top concerns for practices with legacy systems
The issue for most practices – especially for those that have yet to begin, or are still in the midst of, their digital transformation – is that there may be legacy systems and siloed organisational processes that hamper progress. That requires an investment in the right technologies to consolidate your processes.
There may also be a significant talent gap. After all, if a firm never had to rely on digital tools for the majority of their tasks, they wouldn’t have known to hire people with a background in data science and analytics – highly-sought-after skills these days.
Finally, there is the ever-present fear-of-failure culture. Experimentation is very rarely rewarded within structured industries like accounting, yet it is the key to innovation. You want to develop a culture of creativity and agility in your team, and encourage them to adopt new processes if they believe it will improve their productivity. The bottom line: for any major organisational shift, you’ll need buy-in from the whole team before the transition begins.
What your data-driven practice should look like
The result of becoming a data-driven practice has numerous benefits, and managers should be driving these positives home, particularly with staff who may be reluctant to step away from their familiar pen-and-ledger workstyle. Here are some of the outcomes you can expect:
- Single source of truth: No longer are your data sources de-centralised and disconnected. Instead, your employees will have a platform that is easy to access for analysis, reporting and of course decision-making.
- Benchmarking: Set and reset your KPIs to measure the value of your data – and find out where any gaps need to be plugged.
- Tech-savvy team: When your people start using these digital data solutions in their day-to-day work lives, they will soon gain expertise in both business and technical issues, allowing them to support their co-workers and train up new employees.
Rather than being an accounting firm stuck in the past, your new data-driven practice will be able to leverage the power of data today while making informed predictions about tomorrow.
If you’re ready to embrace all the benefits of being a data-driven accounting practice, contact the experts at APS today. We’ll work directly with you to understand your specific needs and set you on the path to deriving real value from your data.
To find out more about APS software, visit www.aps-software.com.
APS is a division of Reckon, an ASX listed company. We develop the software used by the best Accounting Firms in Australia and New Zealand to run their business’ and advise their clients.
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