Case study – Sian Kelly, ACMA, CGMA
Background: Sian Kelly, ACMA, CGMA, is the founder and director of Inform Accounting, a 20-person firm based in Sutton Coldfield in the UK. The firm serves small to mid-size businesses.
Problem: Limits on what was available
I previously worked in industry, so I was used to having technology and project teams at my fingertips. In setting up my own firm, I had trouble finding the same level of digitization for a small practice.
Solution: Rescale big-company technology solutions
We incorporated technology solutions often used by large companies and adapted them for our small firm. We went digital with products such as Xero straight away, for example.
Why it works
Our approach was successful for several reasons:
We considered the fact that big businesses are really made up of lots of smaller units. We use tools like cashflow forecasting applications, and digital links between different pieces of software, to help clients understand their data and make us more efficient as a business.
Every business in the world buys and sells things. For every purchase that you make you will either have a paper receipt or an email invoice, or either an electronic or paper trail. There are applications that will perform electronic data transfers, or you can photograph receipts and upload them into an accounting package. A retail site might have an EPOS system that can link into its accounting software. An E-commerce business will have WebFronts, which will link into an accounting system, so sales are digitally transferred across. Perhaps a manufacturing business might be raising invoices in its accounting software. For any of those types of businesses, all that information can get into the accounting package electronically. Those digital records can be reviewed directly by the accountant, so that's the input side of it. On the output side, you can produce management accounts, forecasting, budgeting and make financing decisions. It’s a much smoother, customer-first experience.
In terms of choosing software, there are a number of options, depending on how savvy you are, including working with a consultant or doing your own research. There are online videos and reviews as well as software-provider demonstrations to help you decide what you need and how to use it. You’re not on your own. There are experts who can offer help.
What's been very apparent in the last 12 months is that nobody expected the COVID situation to happen. It sort of flipped the world on its heels, and a lot of people who were paper-based and choosing desktop applications have now seen the value in digital transformation. It's forced them down the road on it. It's always much better to be in control of what you want to implement rather than forced into a situation. It may be an easy thing to keep putting off, but the sooner you do it the sooner you'll have the rewards of the better information and better decision-making tools.
Visit www.aicpa.org/digitalforward for additional resources.