Accounting firms and data: getting started in your own backyard
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
As accountants roles expand over time, there is increased enthusiasm for leveraging automation and efficiency. Whilst enthusiasm is great, a structured and consistent approach is necessary. Let’s face it, all the cool dashboards in the world won’t help change behaviour if they are never delivered.
For this reason, when I am asked where to get started with reporting and analysis, I will always suggest starting in your own backyard. The reason for this is simple - it’s a known quantity and it’s easy to start small and grow big.
As with all projects, we need to have a plan in place. Too many times we have seen firms get all geared up, identify where to get started … and then get busy.
The thing to remember about data advisory services is they are a skill, and the old “practice, practice, practice” paradigm still holds true - if you can’t dedicate time to learning a new skill, and then continuously apply it, you are going to lose that skill.
The second hurdle most firms face is the delayed cost of not getting the project done!
Let’s just say you’ve got a hunch you are getting wayyyyyyy too much pick-up and put-down across jobs, so you do a data discovery (see our blog post: https://www.pt20.com.au/post/getting-past-the-you-don-t-know-what-you-don-t-know-barrier) and identify there are several thousands of dollars of waste each week. There are a few ways to tackle this problem:
Do it internally
Outsource it with a training plan
Let’s wipe out ignore it, as that’s not going to solve anything. Second is do it internally - now we are on the right path, but the problem we hit here is the training required will take time and priority to get it started. With a number of firms we have talked to, twelve months have passed before this project hit the top of the priority list, and in this time there has been tens of thousands of dollars of waste and lost productivity.
The next option is to outsource it. While it costs more to get it done, you know it will get done, and it gets done more quickly. The lost productivity in this instance is reduced significantly and the saving in waste is many multiples of the cost.
The problem with the outsource option is that you don’t actually build capability within your internal team. We have come at this problem from a different angle with a few firms - we help with the data discovery, problem identification, and any data manipulation and engineering, then work with your team to do the reporting and visualisations. The benefits here are significant:
Quicker to get done, as we have worked on dozens of these problems with dozens of firms, so we can short-cut any potential trips down rabbit holes
The team can build their data advisory skills whilst leaving the more technical skills to experts in that area
The team can learn how to start having data conversations, which can then lead to discussions with clients
Of course, there are also disadvantages:
It costs more than doing it internally (in raw $ terms)
It costs more than purely outsourcing
It will take longer than purely outsourcing, as time is still needed to train your team in the process
Either way, if it is automation, reporting, analysis or even identifying the root cause of a problem, delaying the solution is only going to cost you time, effort and money!
If you need a hand taking your practice forward, please reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help you get hours of your life back!