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Helping our SME clients navigate tech

I was on a Teams video call the other day and, when one of the participants gave a thumbs-up in real life, a 3D thumbs-up effect appeared on the screen. To all of our surprise! It turns out it’s a new feature in the latest macOS and not Teams. It is no doubt designed to increase a sense of collaboration and engagement when meeting people remotely, helped by the fact that we’ve all improved our mime game since we started holding so many meetings via videoconference.

 

All this is to say that technology moves at a rapid pace, in small and large ways. And almost none of us have time to really dig into the new features of any latest update. And very often we might not even realise an update has happened. That’s the beauty of the cloud and software-as-a-service, it is always up to date.

 

But this does mean that you can miss things easily. From a small enhancement that makes a task slightly quicker and easier, to a whole new feature that completely transforms a business process. And in doing so, improves productivity, quality of service and efficiency. And this is only considering the software you already have installed. An additional layer of complexity is newly launched products and services – perhaps customised for a certain industry, enterprise-grade services now available at an SME price point, or even a new supplier doing things in a better and more affordable way.

 

This got me thinking. In our ongoing quest to provide excellent service and value to our growing SME clients (like making the numbers more relevant, smoothing out lumpy income, and using the budget process to unlock growth), is this something we can help them with too?

 

Tech is a business imperative

Today, technology is undoubtedly a strategic business imperative, and business strategy is certainly well within our wheelhouse as accountants. And while I’m not necessarily suggesting we become IT consultants or service providers, we each have enough exposure across the breadth of our client base to pick up useful insights and relevant recommendations.

 

IT health check

This starts with ensuring your clients are making the most of their current software. It is up to date and are they using all the capabilities they have access to? Next, it means assessing whether they are using the best tool for the job. Perhaps Excel is perfectly fine for their FP&A requirements, or maybe they need a simple web interface that removes some of the complexity of budgeting and reporting.  Of course, if they are still using carbon paper invoice books, for instance, there is definitely a better tool for the job!

 

It could also mean assessing how they are accessing IT services. Are they buying software outright and installing it locally? Is everything saved locally to on-site PCs and maybe a server? It probably is time for you to encourage a shift to the cloud and software as a service. This will unlock access to modern IT software and services, reduce your client’s capex, and improve security and data backup capabilities.

 

Or perhaps you’ve seen another of your SME clients achieve great success with a new piece of software or service, such as payroll or point of sale, that you could introduce to other clients. The same goes for mobile apps. Could you help your clients who don’t sit behind desks all day to streamline their operations with mobile services that they can access on the go?

 

This can start the process of integrating and automating business processes,  vastly reducing admin time and increasing accuracy and speed.

 

As important as what works, is what doesn’t. You can save your SME clients from making expensive mistakes by buying into services that just haven’t worked well for your other clients.

 

Adding value throughout the year

The point is that, as accountants, we have exposure to and experience with various IT products and services through our broader customer base. If we formalise this (into a billable service) we can add value to our clients, save them time and money, set them up for growth and success, and entrench our strategic value as a trusted business advisor. And, come the next tax deadline, you won’t be dealing with paper receipts and incomplete data. Instead, you’ll have the beginnings of a scalable, automated, digitalised client that you can grow with.

 

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