From XU Magazine, 
Issue 20

Why standalone software is holding back your practice

It’s a question as old as the industry itself: How can we reduce the amount of dead, non-billable time? Practices have spent considerable time and resources trying to find the answer. In today’s market there are also new questions to consider. How do we create a practice fit for the future? How to remain competitive in a market with new, tech-savvy practices entering the market? How do we keep up with the demands of clients and the speed of data today?

Wolters Kluwer have noticed a trend of practices with standalone software products, moving to an integrated software suite to optimise processes and drive efficiency. The move to digitalisation is firmly in motion and remaining competitive is key. Moving to a centralised suite of software that drives efficiency and helps to differentiate your practice from the competition will enable you to grow as the market changes.

With that in mind, why are so many practices reluctant to make the move and choose to stay with providers they are dissatisfied with? That part of the conundrum is all too easy to understand. The time and resource cost of migrating multiple products to a centralised suite seems an impossible barrier to overcome. When you are working to meet deadlines and the software you have works, with some or a lot of manual intervention from your team, why fix what works now?

What is often overlooked in this consideration, is the cost of not moving to an integrated suite.

Weighing up the cost of staying with the devil you know

Every practice partner will task their teams with the objective to find efficiencies and reduce time wastage in the practice. Their goal is to improve the productivity and profitability of the practice and that’s where an integrated suite software comes in, helping the whole team to work more efficiently.

Everything about maintaining a client’s data, from onboarding them to changing an email address to sending the correct billing information is laborious if there is more than one system to manually update.

Let’s take a practical example: a change in address. Have you worked out the administrative overheads for that unbillable action?

Start by working out how many databases you have across the practice, say 10 for our example. Even if it takes a minute per database to change the address, multiply that at least 10 times and you have close to ten minutes work just to make this simple change. If you have multiple offices, each with their own databases, the more time consuming and expensive the exercise becomes.

Now take the average charge rate of the people making this change and the number of address changes that you make each year to work out how much those changes cost your practice. The changes on their own seem insignificant, but when you start to add up the true cost it can be staggering.

Beyond the cost in resource and time wastage, is the cost to your reputation if there is an error. If multiple teams must manually change the address in multiple databases there are multiple chances for genuine human error.

You can scrutinise every inch of a tax return and record every detail, but if you send that tax return to the wrong email or physical address, clients will start questioning your practice’s competence and attention to detail. There are also the GDPR breach implications. Reputation damage is poison in an industry built on detail.

Changing an address is just one example of dead time and the damage it causes your efficiency levels. The danger with dead time is that it is small pockets of wasted time and resources cost go unnoticed.

Client’s today expect more from their accountants

Clients’ expectations are changing and becoming more challenging. They are looking for greater collaboration and more proactive services that they place higher value on rather than routine compliance tasks. More and more tech-savvy clients are already completing simple tax returns themselves using the software now available, however this does not provide them with the expert advice that comes from an advisor.

Businesses across the board are trying to manage complex growth and regulation challenges and need advice to help them navigate these challenges. Up-to-date information to gain better insight has never been more important for the accountant to remain competitive.

What’s more, the speed and quantity of data as well as the added pressure GDPR compliance has necessitated the need for futureproofed systems that produce accurate data in real time.

The difficult question many practices are also left asking is: When you have to be right, can you definitively say that the data you have in front you is correct?

One source of truth

Clients trust their accountants to perform their tax and accounting tasks in a meticulous manner. Accountants by nature are data driven, meticulous professionals who scrutinise every number. You therefore need to be able to trust the data you are using without needing to question its accuracy.

Without a centralised data entry point that integrates data across the suite, there isn’t a single source of truth. One staff member might trust your tax software over the accounts data while another will consider the accounts data the primary source.

Digitalisation has thrown accountants into a period of evolution and it will become about the survival of the fittest. Spending time validating data can cause wasted time and resources at your end and frustration with the client.

There is little room in today’s rapid pace market to be wrong when you must be right.

Digitalisation is here – the time to prepare is now

Practices are reviewing mundane and manual processes that have previously been managed using spreadsheets, such as workflow management. Automating these processes with an integrated software suite will eliminate manual processing and enable your practice to manage processes by exception.

Even if you are using sophisticated software to automate processes, disconnected software will struggle to keep up with growth, create process bottlenecks and productivity issues. Siloed applications leave room for wasted productivity and lack the real-time visibility across all areas which efficient practices need to operate today.

An integrated suite can drive processes like data capture across the solutions automatically, rather than you needing to update spreadsheets or standalone products. You will then be alerted to any abnormalities reducing the risk of these going unnoticed.

Futureproofing your practice with a centralised suite

An integrated suite, like CCH Central from Wolters Kluwer, can intelligently share information wherever and whenever it’s needed.

CCH Central redefines software integration delivering a complete picture of your practice and clients, enabling you to improve the service you provide.

You no longer need to open different applications, extract data, combining it and format it manually to build a snapshot of information which will soon be out of date. Instead, simply drag and drop whatever you need onto your own home page and watch it update in real-time.

With an integrated suite you will gain:

Better planning, greater foresight
Real-time visibility of your data is key to improving the experience for your clients, offering them additional advisory services and making decisions.

Improved data flow
Secure links to online sources to import and access data effortlessly for the people who need it.

Reduced errors
Eliminate wasted effort and eradicate errors with a single, central database where data is only entered and updated once.

Unlock time and drive efficiency
By harnessing the power of automation your team are released from mundane manual tasks, giving them time to deal with any exceptions and provide higher-value services that clients are willing to pay for.

Greater collaboration
Safe and secure messaging allows team members to collect data easily, allowing your team to concentrate on delivering exceptional customer service

Enhanced client service

Get a complete picture of your clients and your practice without having to swap between individual programs. Give your clients a faster, better service based on complete and current data.

The opportunities are limitless with integration

Time saved means you can redeploy staff who previously spent time managing different software systems to higher value tasks. The training overheads on an integrated suite is less demanding, with only a single centralised suite to master. That equates to less dead time learning how to use standalone software and rekeying in data.

The result is more time for teams to proactively enhance your client’s experience and offer value added services like advisory. Advisory services will play a critical part in the evolution of practices as they face the growth challenge head on.

The question you need to ask yourself: Is your practice in the best digital shape to take on the competition?

With that question in mind, here is a challenge to consider. Make the calculation for any task where your standalone software solutions require manual intervention. From client onboarding to changing an address to finding correct email addresses. Work out the cost, the time and resource wastage and the potential reputational damage from errors.

Still think the cost of staying outweighs the gains of moving to an integrated suite?

Why leave it there?

Find out more about Wolters Kluwerís fully integrated suite

Straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter for updates as they happen
We hate spam too. We NEVER sell our mailing list.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.