Many firms are engaged with the challenge about how to incorporate cloud applications into well established service offerings to meet changing expectations, and also to breathe new life into their proposition. In this interview for Accounting Web, our commercial director Phil Murray explains the opportunities and challenges we face as a result of the "cloud"
Brand change and departmental evolution
Phil Murray of Harlands, describes a transformation of the practice enabled initially by an MBO “It gave us the opportunity to think seriously about who we are and what we are here to do. To refresh and totally rebrand and look to more advisory services, and we believed then as we do now that tech is not a barrier but an opportunity”
Murray describes gaining clarity over the purpose of the firm “to help clients take control of their finances to build a better business” with cloud instrumental in realising this “It speeds things up and helps us deliver more real time advice, tax and business strategy”
The all embracing approach for a compact firm like Harlands is not the only option.
Pragmatism wins, but challenging is important
“Entrepreneurs and those without a system need to have something in place and we insist on them using a cloud one” explains Murray.
But encouraging change is better than forcing it:
“It’s the clients we need to do the job for, and if they happen to be using Xero, Sage or whatever, our job is to ensure that the result of meeting their objectives is the same” he continues “For us to be in a position to challenge is important but we should be open to
Challenge also extends to staff
Phil also reflects the view of some of the internal challenges faced by larger firms, “It definitely took a while for some staff to ‘get it’ for a start Xero doesn’t do as much as Sage (especially in the view of our Sage gurus), but they’ve all had their epiphany on the way, usually when they have seen a tangible benefit or advantage for their client”
And what of the future?
For Phil the journey is clear “The idea of looking back, then to real time, and now to looking forward is a real change and means we can have better business conversations with clients, and can capture the value”
And for Harlands, where the advanced advisory and tech parts are already well fused “We’re going to invest heavily especially in people resource (technologists who can pass experience to clients), training, utilising apps”
Digitalisation is an opportunity
Interestingly the growing demands of government towards digitalisation are also seen as a real opportunity.
“RTI, digital tax accounts, cloud tech, internet of things, they all point towards helping business owners do more and provide a good opportunity for firms.” explains Murray. Not least as “An inevitable generational change over the next 510 years will see the value of pure compliance declining further. We should see the accountant resurge as a trusted advisor.”
The lesson for others out there is clear
Developing ever more meaningful engagement with clients (through a basis of compliance provision) by incorporating cloud into services, either as the general philosophy, or as major component of departmental process plays to the relative strengths of each firm. And while not easy thing to achieve, certainly allows for quite radical change to be done in a controlled and logical way.
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