From XU Magazine, 
Issue 35

Is not engaging in the latest tech holding you back?

This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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We frequently talk about the use of technology being the key pin and centre point to anything that bookkeepers and professional advisors provide for small business in 2023, the digital age. Recently I had the privilege of travelling overseas from Australia visiting Chile, Peru, Columbia, Panama and then to spend some time in the United States of America.

As both CEO of ICB Australia, and a very passionate bookkeeper at heart, even a magnificent holiday like this often means that your brain doesn’t completely switch off.

I found it amazing to watch how technology, that we consider mainstream use in Australia, is approached very differently in different countries around the world, and that’s assuming it’ in use at all.

At times I wonder whether we live in a micro bubble here in Australia. The effective use of up to date technology to help us achieve the results that we are aiming for our clients as advisors, is central to the way in which professional bookkeeping, is conducted here, as in many other parts of the world.

Many of the tools available have been developed in countries other than Australia, including those I mentioned above, yet the adoption and use of these technologies, in a business sense, has been approached and applied somewhat differently.

Given the globalisation of business, globalisation of tech company presence, I was nothing short of astonished at the lack of technology enablement in (mostly) small to medium businesses that I observed and researched. Astonishing, given every second person (in the USA in particular) appeared to have the latest mobile phone, the latest technology on their wrist or on their finger, the latest technology in cars and in homes.

Now let me preface what I’m about to say, by I understand government regulation, red tape, and reporting requirements of a jurisdiction, often impact technologies we use and how we use them. The journey we take business owners on to increase productivity and efficiencies is often reflective of the environment we operate in.

What I’ve come to realise is Australia’s use of technology in small and medium business is, in many ways, at least decade in front of some other countries across the world, including the USA.

Whilst visiting beautiful state of Texas in the USA, I was fortunate enough to spend several days with a lovely lady who has built a successful career in her own professional bookkeeping practice. Never one to miss an opportunity, I asked if I could interview her about the ways in which bookkeeping and the business environment in the USA is different, or similar, as to what it is in Australia.

Whilst there are a significant number of similarities, and at the end of the day, with application of International Accounting Standards, the result of which is that core services we provide are almost identical. The way in which we utilise technology (or don’t) to achieve these outcomes, is markedly different.

For those of you that may not be aware, across the USA, each state is responsible for setting the rate of, and collecting, its own sales tax. It also differs state to state as to as to which goods and services attract the tax, if at all. This creates an interesting set of dynamics when you have, for example, a business owner in California, being serviced by a bookkeeper or adviser that’s located in, for example, Texas.

The non-harmonisation of tax rules and tax rates across America, clearly presents a unique set of challenges that we don’t face here in Australia. As a result, many advisors work with SMEs inside their own jurisdiction, or perhaps across only one state border.

The setup and environment of the American banking system, much simplified industrial relations systems, and the lack of regulation over who can call themselves a professional bookkeeper and provide bookkeeping and advisor services, also presents both relief and challenges that again are not seen here in Australia.

In speaking with my newfound Texan friend, whilst she acknowledges that processes are changing and automation advances over the next 5 to 10 years are likely to significantly impact the way in which she works as a bookkeeper, there appeared to be little urgency to incorporate, particularly automation related technologies into her bookkeeping practice.

According to her, there is little appetite from the small business community to make, what for some, is clearly a significant shift in technology use. The uncertainty around how accurate would data generated by automated technologies be or how that data might be used, or seen by regulators, clearly plays a significant role in adoption rates and use. It reminded me of starting my bookkeeping practice all over again in 2005.

What these conversations did do, was to get me thinking about the untapped potential of these small businesses. What would their level of success be if they were to take a more proactive approach on getting the right technologies in place? A continuing conversation with many, including in the Australian business landscape.

The technology exists, so why are small businesses reluctant to invest in these technologies and how does a good bookkeeper or advisor assist?

The potential benefits of enabling the latest technology are often underestimated by small business owners, or there is a perception that they are too small to benefit from these advanced tools and systems.

When this is coupled with some resistance to, or fear of change, a perceived lack of need, and or nervousness about the complexity and learning curve that will come along with implementing these new systems, it can be a difficult and often stressful conversation encouraging business owners to look at viable options.

It’s important that as advisors we are well versed on the benefits of having these systems in place, so that we can be ready for the conversations help dispel some of the myths and the fears that business owners may have.

Many business owners have a fundamental lack of awareness of what solutions are available to them. A skilled advisor not only helps implement solutions but should be integral in the design of the ecosystems that would be of most benefit to a business.

We can agree that the use of the latest technology provides significant benefits to a business. It’s important, however, that all businesses assess their needs and explore how technology can address their pain points, enhance their operations, and stay competitive in today’s digital market. After all, the wrong technology can create just as many problems and pain points as if there is none in place at all.

A quick reminder of some of the many benefits that can be obtained by utilising the latest technology:

  • Implementing efficiencies and improving productivity reducing administration time and resources.
  • Providing competitive advantages by offering better customer experiences, faster response times or more innovative products and services.
  • Attraction of employees, particularly those from younger generations who expect businesses to adopt modern technologies and who value a tech savvy working environment.
  • Improved data management, including tools for data collection, analysis and insights that can drive informed decision making.
  • Improved security over our systems, processes and data, by utilising proper security measures to make you less vulnerable to data breaches, hacking attempts and other cyber attacks.

I ask again, is not engaging in the latest technologies holding you and your business back?

Why leave it there?

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