Guest opinion by Courtney Kunzig
The influence of technology and current market pressures are growing within the accounting industry, meaning firms need to explore the possibilities of digitisation to remain competitive and meet the ever-increasing needs of clients.
In some respects, attitudes to tech are already evolving. According to Thomson Reuters’ ‘2023 State of the Tax Professionals Report’, half of accounting firms plan to offer tax technology training to all employees, showing a willingness from industry leaders to embrace what technology has to offer
However, there is still work to be done if the sector is to take full advantage of the innovative resources available and future technologies yet to emerge.
It is vitally important that accounting firms identify the key areas they need to improve and pinpoint the solutions to help them achieve this. Prioritising digital tools which complicate, rather than simplify, the firm’s service can cause performance to regress instead of driving it forward.
Clients want visibility across the different stages of an engagement to ensure deadlines are being met. This can be achieved by integrating software that allows clients to track progress in real-time, helping them understand the next steps necessary to advance engagement.
Granting access to specific documents or work papers gives clients a collaborative experience where information can be reviewed timelier, resulting in more accurate calculations in advance. This reduces the number of bottlenecks and ensures that the stream of work and the time taken to complete tasks remains constant.
Accountants often need help securely sharing large file sizes, sometimes turning to makeshift tools that do not have the requisite security measures. A shared portal eliminates this headache
Additionally, leveraging collaborative tools means accountants can place permissions on data sets and sensitive documents to ensure clients only see relevant and unrestricted information, keeping proprietary firm information and research confidential.
In this instance, technology improves the speed at which clients provide the information required to move the engagement forward. It improves their overall experience as they feel briefed across all phases, ensuring that authorised personnel only access sensitive data.
Client portals are a quick and secure way for clients to communicate with their engagement team. This technology offers a central point where documents or data sets can be shared and maintained with relevant users even as engagement teams change.
Clients and teams then have all the information they need in one place, saving accountants and clients time as they avoid duplicate requests for information.
Client portals are also beneficial as they provide firms with an added layer of protection. Accountants often need help securely sharing large file sizes, sometimes turning to makeshift tools that do not have the requisite security measures. A shared portal eliminates this headache, supporting the transfer of large file sizes with zero risk involved.
As accounting enters a new era of digitisation and collaboration, firms must consider the tools that best suit their needs
When properly implemented, such tools streamline external collaboration with a 360-degree view of all relevant content without migrating, synchronising, or duplicating it, improving the digital collaboration experience while maintaining security and compliance. Client experience is also enhanced by the convenience of a portal.
They can access and share information on their time, decreasing the disruption to the client’s normal daily operations. Accountants are creatures of habit, and the repeatability of using a client portal allows clients to more easily track where they can expect to send and receive documents rather than receiving things via digital signing platform, emails and other similar platforms.
Finally, client portals expand the geographical reach of firms, as they can more efficiently work with clients outside of their physical locations and expand their client base. Optimising client experience by connecting the back-end and front-end platforms.
Simply put, the front end is the client-facing system, and the back end is for internal use, where accountants can plug in necessary data and complete their day-to-day tasks.
Connecting these platforms involves establishing communication between the front and back end to allow for data exchange. The front-end systems can then retrieve information from the back-end systems and display that information in the front-end system user interface.
Building this connection yields significant upsides: information is provided in a timely manner because the front end can pull information from the back end in real-time, data security increases as the integration ensures IT protocols are followed via encryption and the general user experience is enhanced.
Ultimately, employees of firms integrating platforms are rewarded with the seamless navigation of internal processes due to information between systems being linked. Operability for clients also increases as the front-end interface becomes easier for them to use and understand.
As accounting enters a new era of digitisation and collaboration, firms must consider the tools that best suit their needs and improve the quality of service they deliver.
If digital tools are implemented correctly, firms will stay within the growing expectations of clients, and accountants will spend less time going back and forth due to poor communication, collaboration, and archaic processes, dedicating more time to meaningful work.
Courtney Kunzig is Industry Solutions Manager at M-Files
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