28th April, 2021
The work accountants do is too often restricted to focusing on what has happened, not what will happen. Here’s how three practices are turning that around.
The unexpected disruptions of COVID and the ensuing rapid changes to the economic environment have brought home the importance of business agility.
The last year has demonstrated the importance for many practices to break out from traditional month end reporting cycles and transition to real time decision making to drive continuous business resilience and survival.
Among the increasing rate of change, practices need accurate insights to supplement their planning and be able to forecast with speed.
To enable the focus on driving business performance, there needs to be a move away from complex internal systems toward a culture of ongoing process improvement beginning with the automation of inefficient processes.
A key issue for any practice is the timely collection of their debtors. Slow cash collection is a major reason of poor business performance and even potential failure.
Faster cash collection can boost working capital, provide a buffer for difficult times and finance growth. Management of cash flow and improving cash collection timing is a crucial part of the financial management of a business.
Alexander Laureti, Partner at LMS Advisory in Parramatta, enjoyed business growth but looked for automation to bridge the gap between the MYOB Accountants Enterprise Practice Manager system in the LMS back office and the modern cloud-based business world, which his clients benefit from.
“Cerebiz Automation* is helping us collect cash faster, communicate with clients, and save team considerable time, which can be put to better use on client assignments,” explained Laureti.
“We’ve had our current staff doing more value-add services for our clients and we’ve had the technology, being Cerebiz, doing the transfer between ledgers and cross referencing of data in the background, which is where we want to be as a practice.”
The big win, as far as Laureti is concerned, has come in allowing staff to focus on the real value-based work, while his accounting software works to automate away the compliance and admin.
“We want all of our staff to be performing productive tasks as much as possible and let the software do the manual processing component in the background.
“It has been a really, really good turnaround for our business, so we appreciate that.”
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In Adelaide, Trevor Harris, partner at MRL Group has been a Cerebiz user for several years, where he’s discovered some of the biggest benefits come through in reporting.
“We used to spend a lot of time manually manipulating data,” said Harrison “Having access to tools Cerebiz provides has just been a breath of fresh air and has been able to actually relieve us from producing that data at all.
“I would much prefer to be advising the client than crunching data in the background and sending them a report every month.”
In this sense, too, Harrison sees a significant upside in drawing his staff away from the more menial task of data collation and interrogation, instead having them focus on the delivery of timely advice.
“So the clients are looking at their KPIs, looking at their reports, and if they’re doing that, they’re not bothering us for the information and, again, I say, while accountants crunch data, I don’t think it’s really where we make money.
“We’ve been able to shift our service provision to much more of an advisory model and, thereby, that can only be good for us from an economic point of view.”
Accounting, like the rear-vision mirror in a motor car, shows what’s happened behind, not what may or will happen on the road ahead.
Many practices still use spreadsheets predominantly to plug the gaps in those forecasting and budgeting processes. That’s what MRL used to do, and it was the same issue for Grant Thornton.
Grant Thornton’s Adelaide office leads on the introduction and testing of new applications in the GT Australia Practice and that’s where Christian Van Niekerk, director for Grant Thornton, has collaborated closely with Cerebiz in the development of new-age, cloud-based browser and mobile analysis and reporting for GT’s clients.
Here, Van Niekerk talks about the GT journey over the last several years in looking for a solution to replace their spreadsheets.
“One of the issues that we identified a long time ago was the amount of reporting we were doing for clients outside of the normal financial statements and tax returns.
“So one of the things we do, as most practices would do, is create a set of Excel spreadsheets to produce graphs and the like to present to clients.
“One of the issues we found is the sheer amount of time it took to put those templates together.”
No doubt many practices are still operating with the occasional spreadsheet to cover off a niche report, patch together a seldom-used workflow, or even in their own reporting and analysis. But, as Van Niekerk found, at a certain point this state of affairs becomes untenable.
“Every year something would be different and new people would come on board and we just spent a considerable amount of time putting these things together.
“The client understood but didn’t put a lot of value behind it. Therefore, the cost-benefit was really a big challenge for us to get our heads around for quite a long time.”
It was at this point that Van Niekerk and the team at Grant Thornton began to tinker with the application of a Cerebiz-backed reporting system.
“Our [Cerebiz] Automated Reporting system saves many hours and enables moving from annual meetings with clients to quarterly or monthly higher value advisory services.
“Clients really love it. It’s timely. They make better decisions and, in a graphical format, it’s easy to read; they understand it. I think that’s the most important part.”
If your practice or SME clients are still battling with spreadsheets and manually keying data, why not explore a different, more productive path and provide more value at the same time? Book a conversation with an MYOB sales specialist and discover how Cerebiz can work for you.
*The cashflow management, business performance solutions and integration products and services are provided by a third party supplier, Cerebiz Pty Ltd (Cerebiz). MYOB does not provide any recommendation or opinion regarding Cerebiz products or services and is not acting on behalf of Cerebiz. MYOB has a referral agreement with Cerebiz under which it earns a commission on any referrals to Cerebiz.