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2nd September, 2019

How MCI & Associates are embracing AI-led advisory

Just a short while after migrating their clients online, the team at MCI & Associates continue to update their processes by rolling out advisory services with a little help from MYOB.

With offices in Dannevirke and Pahiatua, MCI & Associates is an accountancy firm led by future-focused individuals who certainly aren’t afraid of a little hard work.

Speaking at MYOB Partner Connect 2019 in August this year, Principal Neil Ivamy and Associate Aaron Karena revealed to attendees the trials and tribulations involved in bringing their entire complement of clients (now numbering over 1000 different business entities) into the cloud.

And those clients are nothing if not diverse. As a result, MCI & Associates already had their work cut out for them when it comes to understanding the various challenges and concerns of the agriculture and agriculture services sector, as well as general business clients, before coming to grips with the quickly evolving accounting solutions space.

Yet they persevered, and as they demonstrated at Partner Connect, they’ve now succeeded in bringing more than 1000 businesses onto MYOB Essentials.

Now, with more than 12 months of transactions data uploaded, they’ve begun their journey towards realising The Connected Practice Vision.

What is The Connected Practice?

Back in 2016, MYOB introduced the concept of The Connected Practice to show how transaction processing, compliance and business advisory is transforming.

That change was already occurring back then, and it’s had serious ramifications for the way accountants and bookkeepers work.

Thanks to automation and other digital innovations, time spent on once labour-intensive tasks has reduced. Things like reconciling financial records using bank feeds. This automation then enables accountants to spend more time on value-added services, such as advisory.

It’s this vision that the team at MCI & Associates recognised as the key to their future growth and sustainability as a business, and it’s this vision that motivated them to bring their client base online.

A 3-step journey to AI-assisted advisory

In a quick-fire discussion with Ivamy and Karena following their presentation at Partner Connect, we asked a few questions about the team at MCI & Associates and their plans following their mass migration to online accounting.

“Having gone through the switch to Essentials, we’re now able to look at building out our service offering with things like advisory,” said Karena.

As hoped, the shift towards automated compliance and more streamlined transaction processing is giving the team better access to data, while features of the practice solutions they use allow the team to use that data in more meaningful ways.

“Now that we have 12 months or more of transaction data for each client, we’re able to use MYOB Advisor to generate bite-sized financial insights for them,” said Ivamy.

“If you’ve got a client with cashflow problems, then you can dig into their debtors data and show them, for example, that it took them 60 days on average to recover that revenue – and you can show that to them in a way they find quick and easy to understand.”

That’s because MYOB Advisor uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to generate natural language descriptions of a business’s financial position, as well as engaging visualisations of that information – all at the click of a button.

“In the past, we’d have to undertake in-depth analyses that would take around two hours each time for the same result,” said Ivamy.

“For that reason, we would only offer that service to clients that required it at an absolute premium.”

Now, the team at MCI & Associates can all run the kind of high-level reporting that used to be handled by senior staff members – and they can do so in an instant.

“Once the junior accounting staff start using the basic reporting functionality, they’ll start to see the trends developing across multiple client cases in a very practical way – it’s a very effective way of upskilling staff, really,” said Ivamy.

For Karena, there are additional benefits for new members of the team.

“Millennial workers are demanding software like this – solutions that are powerful, engaging and easy to use – and as we continue to bring on more staff from that generation, tools like MYOB Advisor help us to become a preferred employer in their eyes.”

As such, MCI & Associates are only just scratching the surface of the value they can see in AI-driven data insights, but it’s clear they’re excited about the path they’re on.

“The biggest challenge was the initial migration to Essentials,” explained Ivamy.

“Before we could begin to look at things like MYOB Advisor, we really needed that first 12 months of transaction data across our client base.

“Further value will come as we add more years of data, as this will also improve the insights we’re able to derive from the system.”

READ: How AI can make your practice even more human

Once they’ve eventually brought all staff up to speed with the use of MYOB Advisor, they’ll then be able to plan out how it can be priced as a value-added service.

The entire narrative indicates a blueprint for success in advisory that any other accounting practice might follow:

  1. Migrate clients online – Before pushing too far into advisory, the firm will first seek to solve legacy issues around transparency and a lack of automation by moving their clients files online.
  2. Onboard staff – Next, leadership and change champions within the firm need to work with other staff members to seek buy in and begin adapting their ways of working to new solutions, such as MYOB Advisor.
  3. Restructure pricing – Finally, consider how these once expensive, complicated services might now be offered and priced into your standard service offering.

Next steps for MCI & Associates

“SME owners have the work they do, and that’s what they spend their day doing,” said Ivamy.

“They don’t want to get home of an evening to a four-page email from us filled with tables and figures they need to spend a few hours deciphering.

“If we’re able to deliver a graph or two with a few key lines explaining them, they’re more likely to see value in their relationship with us.”

But at that level of service, Ivamy and Karena can only envisage offering those insights as a free service – but it won’t be long before they’re in a position to step things up.

“If we were to implement the full MYOB Advisor reporting suite – the overview, cashflow, expenses and debtors, and so on – then we could look at pricing it as a service on a monthly, quarterly or six-monthly basis,” said Ivamy.

More about MYOB Advisor:

The accounting and bookkeeping industry is transforming rapidly, bringing new ways for MYOB partners and their clients to evolve and, in turn, to redefine their success.

By leveraging the best of AI technology, MYOB Advisor allows our partners to scale up their advisory services quickly and easily.

Features and advisory insights available via the platform include:

  • Automated management reporting and a reduction in reporting time
  • Quickly and easily create a snapshot of clients’ financial positions
  • Deep integration between MYOB Advisor and MYOB means no need to leave the online platform when generating reports