The accountancy profession is awash with talk of cloud adoption. Indeed, many firms have already recognised some of the tangible benefits that the cloud can bring. However, with digitisation of services competing with traditional accounting processes, there may be fears that cloud adoption could threaten the very existence of the traditional accountant. If your firm is questioning whether the transition to the cloud is worth the new opportunities it may bring, here are five potential benefits to consider.
- The Cloud: Delivering New Opportunities to the Role of the Accountant
Cloud adoption and automation go hand in hand and, for some practices, this has sparked fears that the cloud may render people obsolete. However, it’s worth taking a deeper dive into the potential opportunities that may come with cloud automation.
First and foremost – what is cloud automation? The term refers to the various processes and tools that reduce or eliminate manual efforts used to manage cloud computing workloads and services. While practices may be wary that cloud automation will get rid of many of the activities that accountants normally do, the potential for automation to liberate the accountant is vast. Automation enables software to carry out the same task repeatedly and accurately. While existing systems can deploy automation, the cloud drives the use of more intelligent tools which require a dynamic data set to learn, adapt, and improve in the form of Machine Learning and the application of Artificial Intelligence.
Moving to cloud automation can reduce the processing time for the repetitive tasks, helping advisors to focus on working practices that enrich their lives and those of their clients. They’ll derive learnings about their clients using a broader set of data than any single practice alone, which may help practices to support their people in exploring more diverse career paths, and switch focus from compliance to new business development.
- Data in the Cloud: Opening Opportunities in the Advisory Space
Simply put, the cloud is a great opportunity to consolidate data and bring it together to fuel new services in the advisory space. Most cloud accounting platforms can use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to connect to data, which means that advisors can bypass manual data entry and move directly on to data analysis. It’s an opportunity to move past number crunching and to manage data on a larger and more granular level.
- The Power of Real-Time Data in the Cloud
The cloud is giving advisors a 360-degree business view of their clients’ accounting landscape, and it could open up new opportunities in the advisory space. The power of real-time reporting, and having that data at your fingertips while you speak directly to clients is extremely powerful.
In a sense, the cloud is driving this new data-driven approach to client relationship management and helping advisors to improve relationships and get to know their clients better. Having real-time data to make informed decisions is a big differentiator. For example, in the past, you may have had to wait for quarterly billing data to come in to report on what may be impacting a client’s revenue streams. With the cloud, that data could be available in real-time, giving you instant access to pivotal business insight that advisors can interpret for clients.
Another important point surrounding real-time data is that having it readily available greatly reduces the possibility of unwelcome surprises. With real-time data, advisors can observe trends gradually, and give pro-active (rather than reactive) advice. There will always be exceptions, however, real-time data can help to introduce foresight into advisory advice, which is once again a strong competitive differentiator for any practice.
- Introducing Agility, Flexibility, and Scalability with the Cloud
For small and medium-sized practices, scaling is often one of the biggest challenges. For these practices, the cloud may be the answer simply because of the time savings it introduces. If you’re not taken up with data entry and manual number crunching, think of the additional hours you’d have left in the day to take on more work and more clients.
The agility and flexibility the cloud delivers are also critical for business growth and resilience. If practices want to be agile, they need to be able to adapt and change quickly and easily. They need to be able to flex during busy periods such as a financial year-end, or during holiday season. Being able to adapt and be nimble as an organisation is absolutely critical, and the cloud is quickly becoming the most practical way to introduce this flexibility into businesses of all sizes. Even the ‘pay as you go, for what you need’ model is indicative of the cloud’s flexibility. It’s a completely different paradigm from the way organisations paid for infrastructure in the past, and it puts the power back in the hands of business operators.
- Company Culture and Cloud Collaboration
One cloud benefit that is often overlooked is the power of collaboration that the cloud drives. By nature, the move to the cloud has got to be a collaborative effort. No one person can be the sole driver of change and everyone across a practice must work together to make the move successfully. Practices may worry that cloud-enabled remote working may dampen a company culture, but what is overlooked in this view is the communication and sharing culture driven by the cloud. The technology encourages data sharing and transparency where appropriate, encouraging advisors to engage and collaborate.
Future-Proof with the Cloud
Change is constant, and the pandemic has been a pivotal event that has forced companies to change and innovate. As organisations look to the cloud, there are many opportunities for accountants to ready their practices for the future. By starting small and moving to a cloud-based model in a considered way, practices are well positioned to unlock a host of transformative opportunities, paving the way for new lines of business and increased productivity.