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Say No To The Spreadsheet

Posted 4 years ago in Advisors by Colin Timmis
Posted by Colin Timmis

The finance chief at tech company Adobe recently said that the widespread use of spreadsheets mean that his teams struggle to keep on top of their jobs.

In South Africa, I’m always interested to find out which accounting firms still depend entirely on spreadsheets to manage their practices, and how this impacts growth.

When we get new Xero Partners on board, at our “Welcome to Xero” events, I always ask if the prospect of instantly getting 300 new clients on their books fills them with excitement or dread.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most say dread. Of course, increasing your client base is good for business, but not necessarily for an accountant’s workload.

So, what’s holding them back? The majority of firms I speak to say they still rely on spreadsheets to manage their jobs, deadlines and responsibilities, but is this the best use of time?

Time to move on?

In this day and age I’m surprised by how many people are content to stick with spreadsheets rather than explore great cloud based alternatives for practice management.

One accountant told me that he was thinking about selling his job management spreadsheet complete with macros and pivot tables to other accountants so they could replicate his work.

When managing content, spreadsheets can be a massive time drain. They are static, prone to error, don’t allow you to generate internal reports and don’t enable a collaborative approach with your client. Most importantly, they’re not scalable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying spreadsheets are completely obsolete, they can still be useful for some data insights.

Cloud software vs Spreadsheets

Cloud based Practice Management software maximises efficiency and give firms the chance to scale up using API’s and other tools that are designed to create a better client experiences.

As a practice grows, there will be more jobs, deadline and responsibilities to consider. The margin for error is minimal, and it’s essential that the client experience is second to none if they want to continue on this trajectory of growth.

Rather than worrying about what hasn’t been done, whether it’s an email that they should have sent for an EMP201 or gathering the right data for an IRP6 – firms need to standardise procedures. That’s why it’s crucial they implement the right cloud-based practice management platforms on which these can be implemented.

What to look for in Practice Management Software

A good Practice Management platform on which accountants can manage systems and reports for their clients should:

  • Integrates with other websites, proposals and systems to prevent duplication
  • Attaches emails, documents, notes and timesheets directly to jobs
  • Creates projects when they are due, and allocate them to staff members with no manual intervention
  • Stores client data, showing relationships, groups and potential or risks
  • Ensures staff members follow the same steps when completing client engagements and returns
  • Allows managers and partners to access and view job and client data from anywhere, at anytime
  • Builds recurring practice reports so practices can manage on an exception basis
  • Gives time back to accountants and bookkeepers so they can focus on client experience and value

Before Xero, I founded and ran my own practice. It was tough going it alone in a rapidly growing practice. I struggled to keep track of the various jobs and deadlines, especially after we opened an office in another city. It also always took time to find correspondence and notes when clients or SARS queried something down the line.

What did help, was when we started using good Practice Management Software to track and record everything, like XPM.

Our practice management software is a great option for South African accountants who are using manual systems to manage their practice. It’s available for a minimal fee for smaller practices and is free for our partners who are Silver and up.

If you’ve never used cloud based software such as this to manage your team, deadlines and jobs, it’s probably the best time to begin planning for how you want to run your practice in 2018.

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