51 % of EU businesses use cloud-based software applications for their financial and accounting tasks, customer relationship management and other business applications. And this figure is steadily increasing as cloud is adopted more widely across the business world.
With your business clients using an increasing number of online solutions and cloud apps, this results in a multitude of different data sources that your accounting firm must connect to, process and collate in order to pull the right numbers into your clients' accounts and reporting. So how do you integrate with these multiple sources and make sense of their numbers?
The problem of complex data
Good quality business data is what drives your firm’s ability to produce accurate accounts, insightful reporting and key strategic analysis for your valued clients. But there are a number of areas that make the collection of this business and financial data into complex challenges for many practices:
- Increased use of technology – the average business uses 13 different cloud apps, with widescale adoption of a range of different business solutions.
- Multiple sources of data – with customer information, business data and financial numbers spread across these varied apps, there are multiple data sources to collate.
- Legacy paper-based data sources – Paper-based businesses spend up to 35-50% of their time searching for information, so locating paper documents is still a big issue.
When combined, these challenges create a significant problem when it comes to accessing and organising the data needed to get client's accounting work completed. What's needed is one core platform that has the connectivity, tools and functionality to pool these multiple data sources in one central solution.
Centralised data with instant access and reporting
A fundamental advantage of cloud is the ability to quickly upload data and store it online for easy access and analysis. The answer to the problem of complex data is pull these multiple data sources into one centralised database, with access to the best possible workflow tools. When these data sources can be aggregated and controlled effectively, you have better control over bookkeeping, day-to-day accounting and reporting for all the firm's clients.
Using a centralised solution to collate client’s data sources means your firm is:
- No longer drowning in data – with all the information you need held in one central database that can then be pulled through into your relevant accounting software tools.
- Saving hours of manual data entry – with all client data automatically connected to your central system, and no need for hours of keying-in and mundane financial admin.
- Reducing time spent searching for information – as all the relevant data and documentation needed to complete tax returns and year-end accounts is freely available.
Time is saved, your systems are more organised, your people can be more efficient and (most importantly) you can deliver a better experience for your business clients.
Silverfin: your solution to complex data
Our open, vendor agnostic platform is a centralised data hub designed specifically for finance professionals. We help you connect to multiple data sources and implement truly proactive workflow processes that lead to good financial data, and added value for your clients. Find out more about Silverfin at silverfin.com
If that Guardian headline is the question, then 2017 was the year the market definitively answered: “yes”. Here in 2018, the question isn’t whether we ‘should’ use cloud or not. It is: What’s going to happen now that cloud is increasingly the new normal?
The cloud services company BCSG recently estimated that 8 out 10 British small businesses now complete some aspect of finance management in the cloud. With new applications constantly coming to market, each improving on cloud’s promise, this will shift from ‘some aspect of financial management’ to ‘all’.
Why? Because in 2017 cloud accounting became:
- More cost effective than locally installed software packages.
- Provide greater ease of use.
- Can be used across multiple devices, offering the ability to be productive from anywhere.
- Now offer robust, dependable data security.
Combine these benefits with almost universal access to high speed internet and it’s not hard to see why cloud accounting finally blossomed as a commercial trend in 2017. So it’s worth taking the time to understand how to fit it into your practice. Here’s the key question:
If cloud accounting is the answer, what is the question?
Do you as an industry expert make an informed decision to choose the cloud as your accounting platform going forward based on industry trends and future proofing your firm? Or do you choose the cloud to help you become established as an industry expert in the first place? Chicken or egg, which comes first in your thought process? The famous research psychologist Gary Klein made a career out of studying how experts make decisions. For Klein, it was important that experts should never totally trust their gut. Instead, they should “take their gut as an important data point”. But then, he told McKinsey Quarterly in 2010,“you have to consciously and deliberately evaluate it, to see if it makes sense in this context. You need strategies that help rule things out”. Accountants, as experts, have the ability in 2017 to move far beyond just intuition. Of course, professional insight is vital - but it’s not the only pillar of connected accounting.
The move to the cloud isn’t just another client fad to deal with, it’s the biggest, most potentially lucrative opportunity you’ve had in years.
Picture it: cloud accounting creates an automated, real-time supply of financial data from your clients.
When you plug into it, you move into the realm of expertise that Klein envisions. With cloud accounting, your intuition and professional experience become data points among many others. And that’s great news. All of that information can breed a level of insight that has never existed in accounting, not even a year or two ago.
So what’s the next step?
All of that information creates a commercial hinterland just waiting to be explored. No more begging tardy clients for their papers, no more unkempt records.If you empower yourself with seamless access to that data, you are free to become a trusted advisor. The challenge is that the cloud market is much more diverse and dynamic market than the old accounting software world. It’s not just dominated by a few legacy systems. There are many offerings, allowing clients to indulge in a wider array of offerings. That’s why you, the accountant, will need to be more flexible than ever. It’s crucial that any software you use integrates seamlessly with your clients’ diverse offerings so you can connect to your client.
Otherwise, the promise of cloud accounting for accountants won’t live up to its potential.