Case study: Both accountants and clients see benefits when firms go digital

Digitalisation is helping both accountants and their clients alike as the pandemic pushes further uncertainty and England enters lockdown once again.

For Gillian French, Director at DNA Accountants, the ability to use cloud-based digital solutions like Xero have been immensely important in helping them run their business while also helping to provide answers to their client’s questions.

“Clients have been asking about cash flow forecasting and funding issues, as well as questions about furlough and other coronavirus government grants.”

French says that because several years worth of data is digitalised and collected into a single repository, she is able to provide timely and accurate advice to her clients.

“We can do some quite accurate forecasting, particularly with all the bookkeeping data that we have. With some of our clients, we have five years worth of data. I can quite accurately forecast some of their future overheads and other expenses going forward.”

Along with adopting Xero for bookkeeping and tax, DNA Accountants also transitioned their practice management software to also be cloud-based, making it easier for their accountants to work remotely.

“The software helps to dictate the flow of work and now staff working from home can access it. Before, our team would need to remote connect to their office PCs to access our on-premise system which wouldn’t have been as good.”

The digitalisation of the firm has also opened up new opportunities and efficiencies for DNA Accountants. French says that only just five to ten years ago, her firm was not providing much of a bookkeeping service because it wasn’t cost-efficient. However, since adopting digital bookkeeping tools, it has not only allowed them to provide an additional service to their clients but also helped them be more efficient with their other offerings.

“Now that we’ve taken [the bookkeeping] on, we deal with reconciliation with their banks on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis because it works better for us. If we’re controlling the reconciliation, it makes the year end and set accounts a lot easier for us.”

Costs and training

One of the common reasons that many firms are reluctant in adopting new technology is cost. For French, transitioning to new digital tech like Xero was actually the more economical choice.

“For us, it was the opposite way round, we were paying nearly £20,000 a year for an on-prem solution. [Cost saving] was actually one of our considerations when we were looking to change, not just the fact that we wanted cloud-based solution.”

Since DNA Accountants was already transitioning to digital and cloud offerings, training while made more difficult because of the need to work remotely was not problematic, as it was building on a foundation they already had.

“It would have been easier to have everyone around in the office, to gather everyone around and show them on one computer. But it wasn’t that difficult to train up because we were all quite conversant with Xero.”

Outside of a few instances of interrupted service of bank feeds, French and the accountants at her firm work solely usually digital invoices. She adds that any future clients would be digital from day one.

“Any new client that’s come on board is totally digital, even so far as the proposal and letter of engagement. In addition, we’re getting our client to sign documents electronically, its really help our practice. Even our postal bill has gone down considerably.”

Although the transition was made more difficult by restrictions the pandemic has brought on, nearly a year since formally adopting Xero Tax, DNA Accountants have integrated the software into their work process.

“The pain threshold has been overcome. Now it is quite a smooth operation. The whole flow has eased and it will only get better in the next year.”

Her advice for firms who may be reluctant to adopt new digital technologies is that the efficiencies and cost benefits are well-worth the short-term teething issues.

“I think they’re probably burying their heads in the sand, I think you need to do. It has saved so much time in our practice. It’s changed our whole structure of work.”

If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper in practice, sign up to the Xero partner programme, where you’ll get the tools, resources and dedicated account management to help get your practice and clients set up for success. Visit www.xero.com/partnership to get started.

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