The best way to get all of your team working the same way is to give them great software to use

The benefits of using systemised, repeating businesses processes are obvious but most accountancy firms have found systemising their year-end accounts work to be a real challenge.

Experience shows us that computers are much better than people at doing things the same way, every time. That's why most successful systems are implemented using software workflows.

Year-end accounts work is a simple, repeatable workflow starting with collecting the client's records at the right time. Next is analysing, reviewing and correcting the client's numbers. The final part of the process is the easy bit - publishing and filing final accounts. Most of the year-end accounts workflow is easy to document and manage, but the analysis, review and correction process is much harder to pin down.

In your firm, how do you make sure that all of your staff are reviewing and correcting clients' accounts the same way? Does everyone look with the same level of detail? Do they all look for the same issues, in the same accounts? Systemising this part of the work has been hard because there has been no software to use. Until now.

Checkmybooks is the only software specifically designed to help accountants find and fix issues consistently in every client's records, every time. Now you can easily systemise your year-end accounts work.

Just picking-up some of the great tools that are lying around could make a big impact in your practice

The accountancy profession has never had a better or wider range of software available. The emergence of cloud services, particularly, means firms can easily pick up and run with great new tools. The next generation of clients will want a different relationship with you, so you'll want to stay ahead of the game.

Communication. OK, none of us can predict the future, but I think we can safely say that new clients are not going to want to fax you. Nor will they want to receive letters from you or have to post things back. Yes, you use email but you should also make Skype central to your communications. Millennials take instant messaging for granted and they find meetings uncomfortable. You might just get them to join a Skype video call though.

Credibility. You probably look at Trip Adviser before booking a hotel and look at seller ratings before buying from someone on Ebay. Your clients of the future do too, so it makes sense to make your firm's credibility public. By providing a way for clients to give unbiased feedback on the work you've done and then making the results available to business owners looking for an accountant, you can get prospects a step closer to contacting you. Take a look at Customersure.

Document Signing. It's in everyone's interests to get the job done quickly when something needs signing. Paper and the post are the enemy of speed. Electronic signatures are now perfectly legal and clients will appreciate the convenience of approving documents virtually. So let them do so, using a service such as Echosign.

The software suggested above will make your life easier and make clients much happier to work with you. If you want the same kind of improvements for your year-end accounts process, then you should take a look at Checkmybooks.

Business is Personal

Rob and Nathan showing accountants Checkmybooks in action

Rob and Nathan showing accountants Checkmybooks in action

We're all about numbers. I mean, as accountants (and accountancy software developers), we're all about business and businesses are all about numbers – right? 

After visiting Accountex this year I left with a slightly different view. It felt bigger and busier this year. There was noticeable dominance of all things online and a steady stream of accountants mingled and met to see the latest software in the industry. 

I'd go so far as to say it was a fun atmosphere and there were stands with built in bars and remote control racing cars and all kinds of competitions, giveaways and freebies. Wandering round I could see people kept bumping into those they knew with lots of vigorous hand shaking. I was reminded that business is about people as much, if not more than it is about numbers. 

Speaking to lots of startup accountants there were mixed feelings about what was on offer at Accountex. Although now dominant in presence, many software as a service businesses were still in their infancy and often didn't deliver quite what was needed. There was however an optimism about the future potential and the low price at which such innovative software could be delivered. 

My personal highlight was after explaining Checkmybooks to a new startup accountant I'd not met before. He was so delighted with what was on offer, and the price at which we could provide it, he felt the need to hug it out. Had I looked closer I may have seen a tear of joy in his eye. 

When focused on the numbers I easily forget how personal business is. It's all about relationships. 

Software beats people on predictable work

Ten years ago, the right decision for your practice may have been to outsource your routine work, like year-end accounts production, probably to India.

Facing unrelenting downward pressure on fees for compliance work, accountancy firms realised that employing cheaper people to do most of their year-end work was the way to maintain profitability and outsourcing boomed. Now, the strategic move is to use software as technology will always be cheaper than people and will always be more reliable. Software is poised to replace outsourcing as the smart way to produce accounts.

Let's be clear, a computer can't replace you. It can't replicate your years of experience, your detailed knowledge of accountancy and tax or your understanding of your clients' businesses. What it can do though is free you from the predictable, repetitive work, leaving you to focus on the clever stuff that only you can do.

Checkmybooks is software specifically designed to do one thing: to analyse every single transaction in your client's accounting data and then, instantly, provide you with a list of review points. It knows what issues you look for in every set of accounts and so it finds and displays them, letting you go straight to the matters needing your attention. That large item in repairs might not be capital - but Checkmybooks will find and then highlight it for you, so you can decide.

Our software is the accounts clerk that doesn't want a salary, or holidays and is happy to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It always does what you expect and improves itself constantly. Why wouldn't you give Checkmybooks a job in your practice?

The accountancy profession is not doomed. But it does need to re-invent itself again

Reading the accountancy press and listening to the "gurus" of the accountancy media you'd be forgiven for thinking that you and your practice are staring into a technological abyss. As ever, in the real world, there's more to it than that.

As with every business, the accountancy profession is being profoundly affected by new software services and the internet. The new generation of business founders think differently and expect to work differently to their parents. But, and this is the point often missed, they want the same results.

The challenge for today's accountant is to re-engineer their practices to deliver the same results but in new ways. When clients have the means, via cloud software, to do their bookkeeping and their payroll, and even file their own accounts and tax returns then they need different things from their accountant. They don't need their accountant to handle their compliance processes they need their accountant to monitor, supervise, advise and intervene where necessary.

The future becomes less about producing accounts and more about analysing, correcting and optimising accounts. Since clients won't really value the mechanics of compliance, firms need to be ruthlessly efficient in how they deliver compliance work.

Because Checkmybooks analyses every single transaction in a client's accounting records and then automatically produces a set of review points specific to the clients transactions, it is software that will allow accounting firms to re-invent their year-end accounts work and continue to thrive in the brave new world.

Many small business owners are used to waiting months to get their accounts back. You can be different

Clients used to drop their records off in a big carrier bag. They would go on a shelf in your office and, eventually, an accounts clerk would pick them up and try piece them together into a set of accounts. Typically a season could have changed before the client got their final accounts. Times have moved on.

In a world where almost all businesses now use accounting software of some kind there is an expectation of quicker turnaround. After all, the client has supplied figures up to trial balance haven't they?

Certainly the new generation of business owners, used to instant communication and internet shopping, are very reluctant to wait for services to be delivered. The firms that can turn around year-end accounts quickly will delight clients and get recommended to others in their circle.

Checkmybooks automatically collects, analyses and reviews clients' accounting data. It provides a list of review points as soon as you login to the job. From there it's a simple matter to drill into the detail, make corrections and finalise the numbers.
How great would it be if you could complete all of your clients' accounts in a couple of weeks?

It's the small problems that steal your time and profitability

timestealers1500.jpg

We've all been there: you fire-up your computer to do a simple task and then it seems the whole of the technology universe conspires to frustrate you. That quick job ends up taking hours.

It's year-end time and your client emails their Sage backup. So far so good. But then you try to restore it and find that they emailed the desktop shortcut to the file, not the backup itself. Or you start to restore the backup only to be told that you need to upgrade your version of Sage (at a cost of hundreds of pounds - again). Then, when you think you can finally start earning some money, you can't login because the Sage password you have on the client's file from last year is not the current password.

Downward pressure on fees for compliance work means it's hard to make money on annual accounts work these days, so the small time-stealers make a big difference to your profitability. They also make the work seem like a real chore.

Thankfully, there is now new software that can take this pain away from you. By automatically collecting on your behalf, a client's Sage or QuickBooks data directly from them, via the Internet, Checkmybooks let's you get started on the real work quicker. It does lots of other really clever stuff for you too. You should take a look.

So, what did we learn at a busy Xerocon London?

Jonathan and Rob on smooth-talking duties here

Xerocon 2016 was much more grown-up this year, with more stand space, smoothie bars rather than coffee bars (my vote is to go back to the baristas) and an incredible 1300 attendees.

It makes it very hard work talking to delegates in the relatively short breaks. With so many people around it's difficult to be as personal as we would like. Despite this there was a lot of enthusiasm for Checkmybooks with some visitors bringing their team members back for a second look later. If you need a more relaxed personal demo please book one here.

From existing customers we had some great suggestions for new features, review points and schedules. Please keep the suggestions coming, we want to help you complete your year-end jobs as quickly as possible.

Shock horror, we even came across Xero accountants willing to admit they still had some Sage customers! They were delighted when they realised that with Checkmybooks they could stop messing with backup files, throw away their Sage software and work with client's Sage desktop data in the cloud, just as conveniently as with Xero data.

All in all a very successful event with visitors even taking the opportunity to sign up for their free trial whilst they were sitting in the auditorium.

Roll on Xerocon 2017.