March 18, 2021

“The need to connect digitally has been both brought into sharp focus and amplified over the last year”  Dan Richards, Business Development Director, MyFirmsApp 

The past year has forced a sudden economic pivot from physical to digital and accountants, like all other businesses, face a challenge that hasn’t existed before – to find the right tools to connect digitally with colleagues, clients and prospects.

This shift is here to stay and there is no doubt that what has happened in recent months is radically accelerating the digital future with connectivity the best and most natural way to bridge the divide. 

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time….

But where to start? This is where knowing how to eat an elephant comes in handy. The answer ‘one bite at a time’ holds true with any project that looks overwhelming and certainly, creating a digital working environment is no different. 

This is something we discussed at length with leading voices from the sector in our recent ‘How to Create a Digital Bridge’ podcast. We were joined by Jennifer Brazer, the CEO and joint founder of Complete Controller – a completely cloud based company doing performance reporting for clients across America, James Byrne, CEO, Accountancy Manager and Sarah Douglas, Entrepreneur and Founder of HouseTree Business. 

Jennifer posed the question early on ‘how do we arm customers with tools and make it super easy to communicate with us?’ The lively sharing of ideas that followed looked at whether accountants need to give their clients access to digital tools that make the day-to-day running of their business easier.

She is a passionate believer in giving her clients tools such as mileage trackers and receipt capture tools they can access from their mobile devices. She asked: “Do we give them a document scanner, so they can do it right there on their phone and not stand in front of a machine? Is it about giving them mileage trackers or time sheets or writing them a template? What can we do that’s super quick and easy and then the final piece of the puzzle – how do we leverage digital information to give customers advice?” 

Jennifer practises what she preaches: “We are in a new century and have been for 20 years. Bring your customers along so they get used to new practices and once you have a digital platform and they trust you as someone who understands technology then you can be in a position to suggest ways of gaining efficiencies.”

Complete Controller and other firms like it have effectively bridged the digital divide and are making simple tools available to help their clients capture receipts, track mileage and scan documents on the go. Instead of using a branded tool that incurs a monthly subscription for the client and is often ‘overkill’ for the task in hand, there is a growing need for a simpler way to give clients all of the tools and features they want in one central place. These can be provided as a ‘value add’ part of the firm’s service and are contained within a layered mobile platform or as we refer to it, within a custom App. 

Clients do not pay to use the ‘capture’ tools and in offering them as free add-ons, it effectively removes a payment barrier and encourages them to utilise the firm’s full range of services. The tools are instantly valuable as they allow each business trip to be recorded and an immediate record is then sent to the accountant so there is no backlog at the end of the tax year to sort through.

A receipt scanner on the client’s phone means they can record their purchase straight away and there’s no risk of forgetting about it. Progressive firms of accountants like Complete Controller and MMNT mentioned below, are ‘gifting’ these tools to their clients that are available through their own Apps and finding themselves in a win-win situation with both parties able to make efficiency gains and the firm also able to make meaningful cost savings. 

Take for example the Connecticut based Certified Public accounting Firm, MMNT, LLC, which finds that the inbuilt scanner in its own App is proving extremely helpful in its bid to increase productivity.  During the busy season, at least one member of the administrative team would typically spend the entire day scanning.  But the App is changing that and it now takes just seconds to drag and drop the client file and get rid of a ‘very tedious’ process. The team tells clients, ‘It’s okay if you don’t have a scanner, if you’ve got a smartphone you can scan your documents and send them to us securely.’

Business Apps expected to see a 4 year Compound Annual Growth Rate of 57% in 2021

With no imminent return to normal until vaccines have been more widely rolled out, the time spent on mobile is expected to increase in the coming year along with the time spent in business Apps. 

Accountants can benefit from this increasing reliance on mobile, which saw users spending on average 4 hours and 20 minutes per day on their mobile devices in 2020, and make these easy to use ‘capture’ tools readily available to their clients today and save hours of data input each week. And remember, going digital doesn’t have to be done all in one go. One small step at a time will help your firm become more productive and profitable in this new digital world. 

For help on how to ‘How to Create a Digital Bridge’, you can download the podcast here:

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How to Create a Digital Bridge with your Customers, Colleagues and Prospects