Coronavirus has forced many UK accountants into remote working – and reassessing their tech capabilities.
“It’s extremely important, particularly given the current situation, that communication is done digitally and that records are delivered digitally,” Viktor Stensson, CEO of software provider Bokio, said via email.
“Investing in AI can really streamline processes and increase your efficiency and, ultimately, as the pandemic’s impact on the economy is worsening, it enables you to give clients the support they need.”
As remote working becomes the norm, Amazon Web Services — which supports companies like Zoom and Slack — has seen an uptick in usage worldwide. Between March 9 and 15, as more citizens were forced to work from home securely, Italy’s VPN usage surged by 112 percent, according to Atlas VPN.
“It is in times like these, when remote working has become the norm across the entire country, that you really appreciate the importance of cloud solutions, which can be accessed by multiple members of staff from anywhere in the world,” says Stensson.
“Those that are going to be hit the hardest are those who are not willing to upgrade to the cloud. Moreover, moving to cheaper or free solutions can really help cut costs,” he says.
Firms are turning more to automation to add value, allowing accountants to track cash flow and handle any outstanding payments without manual intervention.
“If we look at the financial side of businesses, it’s clearer than ever that those working in accountancy or within in-house finance teams need to know where their — or their client’s — money is, and if their cash flow is healthy,” said Matthew Abbott, chief of staff EMEA SMB at SAP Concur, via email.
“Automated invoicing solutions have been proven to help with this process, allowing those in charge an ‘x-ray’ of business finances.
“With a period of significant belt-tightening underway, using these automated reports and analysis can allow business to quickly see just what their status is, as well as ensuring payments don’t slip under the radar and any future speedbumps in terms of cost are accounted for.”
These always-connected services also provide better value for clients, particularly those who require that real-time financial information. Additionally, while these services allow employees and clients to stay connected, they also provide new opportunities for the business.
Sage’s 2018 Practice of Now report showed that increased efficiency, service and customer attraction are all key factors for accountants seeking out digital solutions like AI.
“As our current crisis clearly demonstrates, corporate digitisation is going to be essential to the future of managing business continuity and continuing service excellence,” said tech firm Engine B’s CEO, Shamus Rae via email.
“Businesses are going through more change now more than ever before and they need both reassurance over the ever-increasing data sets they own and data insight-driven strategic support.”
The cost of integrating digital solutions can seem daunting during economic uncertainty; however, Abbott recommends looking at any overhead savings provided by remote working to determine whether onboarding new technology is feasible.
“To this point, financial software should be purchased on a software-as-a-service basis (SaaS), which negates the need for large-scale storage or powerful hardware to run intensive automation,” according to Abbott.
This article was written by Shannon Moyer and was first published on Accountancy Age.