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UK cloud accounting at a tipping point

As our UK managing director, Gary Turner, pointed out in a recent blog on accountingWEB, cloud accounting is now at a tipping point in the UK with a recent surge in adoption among UK accounting and bookkeeping firms.

Grant Smith of Armstrong Watson talking at Xerocon 2013

Grant Smith of Armstrong Watson at Xerocon

In the survey we commissioned last September, 55% of practices we spoke to had either already adopted the technology or intended to do so in the near future. And of the 28% which have already made the switch, 42% reported that it’s helped them boost their service standards and increase client satisfaction.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re a new startup practice or one of the old school. Armstrong Watson, one of the north of England’s longest established accounting firms, is a great example at one end of the spectrum. The firm has an 145-year history of providing accounting services and now has 15 offices spread across the UK. And they’ve just taken that next step into cloud accounting by graduating to the highest Platinum status of Xero partner.

Changing the face of accountancy

Paul Dickson, Managing Partner of Armstrong Watson, clearly underlines why the cloud was the right choice for their firm as it continues to grow across the north of the UK:

“Technology is changing and will continue to change the face of accountancy services in the future. Xero allows our clients greater access to financial information and allows Armstrong Watson to work with our clients, allowing us to support, protect and advise our clients more in real time.

We’re starting to see more of our clients embracing the benefits that Xero provides for them. And I’m also noticing that business owners are talking about the value Xero brings to their business, making managing their finances much easier.”

So, if the cloud works even if you’ve been established since the 19th century, what about start-up practices?

Simon Kallu founded his own practice, SRK Accounting, in 2011 and has used Xero from the very beginning. And he’s very clear that collaborating with clients in the cloud has made it much easier to expand their services.

“We’re a 100% cloud practice with Xero. Everyone is on board with the same system, that system works and our clients like it. That means we can much more easily sell our services to potential clients. I can’t imagine running a practice without Xero and Workflow Max.”

Getting closer to your clients

Maintaining your client relationships is a fundamental part of the business cycle for any accounting practice. Giving clients an accounting experience which they truly love is probably more of a rarity. But that’s the experience that Grant Smith, partner at Armstrong Watson’s Carlisle practice, has had when introducing Xero to his client base:

“The client reaction to Xero has been fantastic, the most common phrase I hear is ‘I love it!’. Going back over the last ten years that really isn’t something I’ve heard with regards to desktop-based accounting software packages. In fact I can see that clients are accessing Xero significantly more often than those using legacy accountancy software packages.

Because Xero is a single ledger platform this has enabled us to get much closer to our clients, allowing advice to be provided based on up-to-date information that can be retrieved in minutes from anywhere in the world.”

A standardised experience across all offices

When you’re delivering services from several different office locations, it can be a challenge to make the client’s experience consistent. Having a standard platform for your accounting services can really help to improve this consistency, and gives any firm the ability to scale up its operations as the business grows. Grant Smith, has seen a clear improvement in Armstrong Watson’s efficiency since moving to Xero:

“Having so many clients now using Xero allows us to share work around offices during busy periods, which enables us to provide an efficient and timely service to our clients. Also, with the number of Xero clients increasing, we have a standardised format for the information we’ve received, allowing for a standardised training process for our team members.”

And for smaller practices, Simon Kallu explains how the demand for Xero amongst his clients has really let SRK grow:

“We’re riding on the wave of the increased demand for Xero and Workflow Max. And if we didn’t have that we wouldn’t be able to achieve the levels of growth that we’re seeing. We’re really grateful a product like Xero has come about at the right time for us. There’s a lot of luck in us setting up SRK Accounting at the right time, because it’s in line with when Xero really started pushing the UK market.”

Setting the benchmark

With firms like Armstrong Watson and SRK Accounting leading the charge, the benchmark has been set for the rest of the UK accounting industry to start bringing the Xero experience to their clients in the UK. We’ll be revealing the results of our 2014 cloud adoption survey in the near future, and it’s likely that the figure of 55% adoption will have made another leap forward – we’ll let you know as soon as we have those results.


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