How to enhance client service delivery using advanced technology
Mike Bowman, Chief Commercial Officer and Lindsay Wemyss, Senior Business Development Manager at Inflo spoke at the Accounting & Finance Show Asia in November and discussed how accounting firms can enhance their client’s service delivery through leveraging new technology.
In this session, some of the areas Mike and Lindsay touched upon were around:
- Digital transformation journey
- Digital client collaboration
- Standardised financial data
- Improved audit quality
A look at current market dynamics
The basic strategic goals of accounting practices have not changed. It still very much around growing a sustainable business by providing valuable client services. The challenge lies around maintain focus of these goals whilst the external landscape is continuously evolving and changing. The, creating that much needed competition in the space. It is also fair to say that the role of the client has changed in recent years as they move from a role of to be seen and not heard to a strategic business partner leading their organisation from the front.
Some larger clients may now be implementing advance technologies within their own process, which can mean that their expectations have increased as to the technology being used as part of their audit. We see many accounting firms winning new clients on the back of a value proposition supported by technology and automation. The changing role of the client may also allow relationships to develop into a more strategic partnership as a service beyond compliance is offered, helping to bridge any skills gap for the client.
Staffing and resourcing continues to be a major challenge for most accounting firms, particularly in an age where the use of technology is assumed to be standard practice. Graduates are leaving education, where technology is likely to be used on a daily basis, meaning they understand the efficiencies that can be achieved, and adopting technology within accounting processes will support their recruitment and retention of talented professionals.
Approach your challenges using three digitising methods
You need to consider your own firm, the resources you have available in terms of time, people, and money to invest and where you’re going to see the most benefit.
Efficiency gains take pressure off teams and allow them to focus more on the advisory opportunities.
Elevating your proposition allows you to improve existing services to clients offering greater insights and interpretation to them.
Adding new services that are driven predominantly by technology.
Digital collaboration is what we consider to be the foundational steps of adoption and can be a great steppingstone towards transforming services. Inflo allows engagement teams and clients to collaborate effectively over a safe and secure platform, providing a project management tool to support both the engagement team and the client team when managing information requests.
In addition to offering a safe and secure platform for document exchange, Inflo’s data ingestion module provides an opportunity for engagement teams to obtain more detailed financial information from their clients. Inflo offers an automated ingestion solution for the most common global accounting systems and can work with 100 percent of client accounting software packages.
How are firms collaborating with their clients right now?
Typically, we hear accounting firms telling us that their existing process is heavily laborious with the task of managing information requests from clients becoming very much a box ticking exercise for the engagement team. The lack of transparency often leads to duplication of requests as actions are being performed by individual email accounts, which will eventually lead to both teams becoming frustrated with the process.
Using technology to collaborate with your client will allow for a more project management approach, giving both teams the flexibility, transparency and visibility needed to manage the entire process. File sharing sensitive business information with your client now becomes more safe and secure, with no issues around file sizes, which we know can be a challenge when using email to document exchange. Using technology gives engagement teams back control of the process with status updates and visuals showing that the process is completed efficiently within the required timelines.
Standardised financial data
At Inflo, we understand the challenges accounting firms face when trying to obtain good quality financial data from their clients. Often, we hear of engagement teams spending days, sometimes weeks, formatting data into a usable format before any analysis can be performed.
Inflo’s Data Acquisition product Inflo Ingest allows client financial data to be uploaded in various different formats and structures, depending on the database design of each client accounting system. Our team of data specialists will then transform your client’s data into a common data model. Our ingestion process is a managed service, meaning we remove that pain from the engagement teams and provide a standardised universal format of all of your client’s financial information. This then allows engagement teams to perform their audit work on a complete and accurate data set, standardising the outputs that will be available from Inflo for uploading into your firm’s existing software packages.
Inflo’s Explore module adds value to the analytical review process because in addition to viewing movements at financial statement level, teams can also drill right down into transactional level, wherever needed for the most significant variances. Inflo’s suite of dynamic dashboards and visuals allows for the identification of unusual trends and user characteristics, making for a much more valuable and interesting planning conversation with your client.
Inflo’s Detect module analyses 100 percent of general ledger transactions and will perform a suite of routines to help engagement teams identify and highlight the more unusual and therefore potentially high-risk transactions within your client’s financial data. Inflo’s heatmaps illustrate the client’s general ledger transactions based on risk, which is calculated by looking at how often this type of transaction occurs for your client versus the impact the transaction has on materiality. The findings of visualisations with an Inflo Detect can be presented back to the client using the PowerPoint presentation tool in our Inflo Reports module. This ensures that the much-needed value and insight identified from the work performed by the audit team is passed back to the client by way of tangible output.
Implementing new technology for your accounting firm
Automating manual effort and rephasing audit work to remove busy season peaks will create efficiencies within your processes, offering more valuable services and therefore increasing your value proposition will help you win new clients and engage existing clients. Delivering continuous services and using technology to undertake more consultancy and project work will also help your accounting firm move up the value chain.
If you would like more information about any of the topics in this article or would like to discuss how you could get started today for free and enjoy all the benefits of Inflo’s modules, please get in touch with us today.
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