Five ways a flexible ERP helps accountancy practices manage change

From clients to staff and competition to compliance, digital transformation is both part of the problem and the solution for effective change management.

In accountancy, the challenges caused by rising client and staff expectations, compliance requirements and competition are all amplified by the increasing pace of external and internal change.

Whether you run a managerial accounting firm, a financial accounting practice or an audit accountancy, the impact is the same: it’s expensive. The longer it takes to evolve and thrive in this environment, the higher the cost to your practice, and the more opportunity you stand to lose.

To navigate this turbulence, your practice needs a modern, flexible enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, which is supported by artificial intelligence (AI),  and integrated with software for people, projects, finance, reporting and performance management. Here are five ways today’s cloud-based ERPs help you do that.

1. Exceed client expectations

According to the 2020 Professional Services Maturity Benchmark (PSMB 2020), accountancies reported the most significant project overruns (14.8 percent against an industry average of 9.1 percent in 2019) when compared with other verticals including architecture & engineering, IT consulting, management consulting and software companies.

The author of PSMB 2020, SPI Research, says: “Project overruns go down as the use of standardized delivery methodologies increase,” adding that The Best (the top five percent of all PSOs) are “uniform” in their commitment to developing standardized methodologies and “focused” on measuring quality and client satisfaction.

Standardized, automated methodologies, repeatable processes and accountancy-specific project templates are all part of modern ERP platforms. And, combining your ERP with enterprise software like professional services automation (PSA) will help you increase client satisfaction levels further by assigning the right people with the right skills to the right job at the right time.

These ERPs also deliver increased data visibility through a single source of truth across the whole organization. Combined with automated processes, this helps you reduce billing delays and disputes thanks to accurate and timely information gathering.

2. Win talent

According to PSMB 2020, accountancies reported the greatest investment in employee training of all the verticals, but the lowest per-employee revenue yields and the highest levels of involuntary attrition (layoffs).

With the right ERP, integrated with people management software, every barrier to engagement, productivity and retention can be smashed by improving People Experience (PX). Better PX also helps you attract and retain the best talent while improving billable staff utilization.

By automating repetitive, non-value-added admin tasks, you transform work for your people, making them more productive and allowing them to focus on meaningful work (and billable hours), which makes a difference to their lives, and your bottom line. With improved visibility over your fee earners’ skills through a holistic talent management application, you also gain insight into every stage of the employee lifecycle, including their training and career progression needs.

3. Fend off competition

According to PSMB 2020, accountancies reported significantly shorter sales cycles but also the worst financial performance and the worst profit (7.8 percent) of all the benchmarked verticals. Accountancies also showed diminished sales pipelines (141 percent of forecast compared to the industry average of 181 percent). This, says SPI, points to increasing competition and potential commoditization.

To increase your pipeline and help you compete for more business to scale and grow, an ERP tailored to accountancy will help in a few ways.

It will help your sales teams win more business thanks to AI which scans historical data to help you build more accurate proposals based on past project success. It will help you integrate new entities as part of mergers or acquisitions due to its flexibility, interoperability and configurability. And as you scale, evolve and restructure, it will flex in lock-step with your internal business model and departments.

Also, when combined with a PSA, your ERP will help you hit more targets and execute more profitable projects as a result of improved visibility over project plan and budget, boosting overall financial performance and profits.

4. Comply easier

The right ERP platform for your business should come with built-in legislation support for accountancy practices, whether that’s generally accepted accounting practice (GAAP) rules or laws around tax filing, such as making tax digital (MTD), data protection like GDPR, and financial reporting.

The right ERP platform should come with analytics capabilities for enhanced compliance reporting across multiple entities, whether they are branches, cost centers, profit centers or entirely separate legal entities.

5. Digitally transform

Empowering your people should be a priority in every digital transformation strategy. Choosing the right ERP with integrated analytics, therefore, is a must-have. Because providing your people with accurate, real-time and actionable data through intuitive dashboards means they have visibility over all relevant metrics underpinning growth: pipeline, people and projects.

Armed with these insights, decisions are faster and driven by factual data rather than gut instinct. In a world where change is the only constant, that could mean the difference between success and failure.

Or learn more about Unit4 ERP.

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Changing the way People Engage with Enterprise Software creating the best People Experience through ERP in the Cloud with a Microservices Architecture