2020 saw remote working move from an employee perk to become part and parcel of everybody's lives — but that’s not to say that this transition was easy for every firm. Suddenly, practices needed a way to store, access, and collaborate securely on all their business-critical documents.
That’s where technology has been able to help.
To discuss this move to remote working, we caught up with Sandra Morrell, Partner at Edmund Carr LLP, a Chelmsford-based practice that serves a wide range of clients ranging from agriculture, to dentists and charities.
We wanted to find out how Silverfin has made it possible for Edmund Carr to work remotely during COVID-19 and to understand the wider impact that it’s had on the practice.
What was life like at Edmund Carr before you implemented Silverfin?
We’d always been a traditional pen-and-paper sort of practice. This is largely because Edmund Carr is headed up by a number of senior partners, experienced professionals who have been successful by following the same principles throughout their career.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this but having such a traditional approach means that we’ve typically been behind the curve when it comes to adopting technology. Over the past few years, however, we began to look at ways that we could bring Edmund Carr successfully into the digital age.
We recognised that if we didn’t implement new technology solutions, we’d quickly fall behind the competition. What’s more, the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) highlighted that effective digital data management is a modern accounting necessity.
Our long-term goal is to transition into acting more as management consultants than pure accountants per se. We want to be advising clients on their long-term growth plans, not just reconciling transactions and spending hours pouring over the minutiae.
Lastly, we were also acutely aware that our office was bursting at the seams. We had endless boxes of paper stashed here, there, and everywhere - so something really needed to change. Three of us partners decided to join forces and really lead the push towards making Edmund Carr an entirely paperless practice.
What capabilities were you looking for in a technology partner?
We wanted a solution that could store securely our entire practice on the cloud. We wanted a way to all be able to access the same documents, no matter where we were located, and to collaborate together on them just as easily as if we were all together in the office.
Plus, we were also looking for a way to digitise our existing workflows. Our compliance workflows are a massive part of our practice’s work, they govern how we do everything and quite literally power our practice. We wanted to find a tool that we could replicate these workflows entirely digitally. Fortunately, Silverfin was the perfect tool for allowing us to do this.
It’s worth mentioning that we also got incredibly lucky with our timings. We’d just finished being set-up on Silverfin when COVID-19 hit in March 2020. As soon as lockdown was announced, we were relieved to know we had everything in place to work effectively from home.
Don't get me wrong, there were some initial teething problems when it came to working remotely but this is just because it was such a drastic shift in how we do things internally, rather than the technology. In fact, if it weren’t for Silverfin, we wouldn’t have been able to transition nearly as effectively as we did.
How did your firm overcome the fear of change that usually prevents innovation from taking place?
This is always fairly tricky. Change of this kind requires a massive mindset shift for many people. I spent a lot of time persuading colleagues of the benefits of this change and fortunately for us we all saw the benefits and made the change we needed just in time.
If we hadn’t been set up with Silverfin by the time COVID-19 rolled around, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the pandemic-induced accounting chaos nearly as easily as we did.
With this hard experience of the benefits, it’s not surprisingly to find that everybody is now completely on board. As you would expect with this kind of project, we did have to do a certain amount of hand-holding at the beginning but I think that even some of the more experienced, traditional partners realised that the time had come to change our work of working..
So what sort of impact has Silverfin had on Edmund Carr?
It’s now a mainstay of our practice. We have around 55 employees in total, and I think that roughly 30 of them are currently using Silverfin every single day.
So much of what we need to work on is now all stored in one central place; this is especially important when it comes to creating working papers, for example. We can all access the same documents, collaborate in real-time, and communicate with one another within the same cloud platform.
As a result, we’ve become so much more efficient as a practice than we ever used to be and that’s despite all working remotely. Workflow management is now a breeze. We can instantly see who’s working on what project, the progress they are making, next steps and more.
Plus, we’ve managed to transform our custom workflows and make them entirely cloud-based. There’s no going back now, we’ve really levelled-up as a firm.
For instance, us senior partners are now able to spend so much more time speaking to clients than we ever did in the past. Menial tasks like printing out Excel spreadsheets have completely disappeared from our lives.
Silverfin has allowed us to work remotely while also fine-tuning the way we operate both of these factors have had a huge impact on the practice.
Why did you choose Silverfin?
In one word: flexibility. Silverfin is incredibly flexible. We set out our requirements and the Silverfin team then worked wonders, adapting the platform to design an experience that’s based entirely around us as a firm and what we need. This was incredibly impressive, going way above and beyond our initial expectations. You always think in the back of your mind that you’ll have to settle somewhat when picking a software provider, that there’ll be bits of their service that you love, and other parts that you really don't like.
With Silverfin, this is just not the case. With their help we have created something that was just what we were looking for as a firm. From start to finish, the entire customer experience has been second-to-none.
About Edmund Carr
Founded in 1953, Edmund Carr is a well-established firm of Chartered Accountants in the UK offering a comprehensive range of business advice and accountancy services to individuals and businesses throughout the South East and beyond. With over 60 years of experience, there are now more than 50 people working together with the seven partners of Edmund Carr, applying a variety of skills to the financial and taxation affairs of businesses and individuals. Their approach is simple; professional but friendly alongside the personalised client care service provided by each partner.