Finding better ways to connect and collaborate with our clients has always been our primary objective as accountants and business advisers. Being seen as truly proactive and partnering with our clients is a long held goal that simply makes good business sense.
For many years we have worked with clunky solutions which were not simple to use, nor cost efficient to us as a firm or to our clients. Often we found ourselves developing our own “spreadsheets” to provide business advisory services to our clients which was not the best solution.
Adding to this pressure of providing a highly valued advisory experience to our clients is that the relevance of traditional accountants is being challenged due to the commoditising of the industry. No longer can we expect to rely upon compliance income streams as our major revenue source
Much has been talked about this “disruption” currently occurring in the accounting profession, most of which has been caused by the rapid adoption of cloud technologies by accountants and businesses.
Leading this disruption is Xero; the web based accounting solution that is bringing accountants and their clients together on what is known as the “Single Ledger”. It is a beautiful place where adviser and client view and work on the same data in real time “in the cloud”.
This single ledger has changed the game for accountants when it comes to providing real solutions for business clients and becoming what is termed the “trusted adviser”. We now have access to our clients live data which means that we are no longer focusing on the past. Time is not wasted re-keying data from our clients accounting program into our own general ledger software.
And it is this paradigm shift that has allowed us to provide advisory services in an efficient and cost effective manner to our clients, particularly to some clients where previously what we were attempting to provide using legacy solutions was cost prohibitive and despite them needing this advice they just could not afford it.
What we use to provide these value add services are the tools now available through Xero’s Add-On Partner network. The Xero Ecosystem as it is known has over 130 solutions that all talk to Xero and extract the financial data of a business seamlessly and effortlessly into their own programs. This is done through Xero’s Open API which allows other cloud solution providers access to Xero’s backend.
This partnering approach with other cloud solution providers is also replicated by Xero in how it deals with its Accountant partners, of which we are one. Over the past month Xero has been on the road promoting its latest plans for the accounting profession and releasing details of its Practice Studio, its cloud based practice management solution.
Quite simply, it is a collection of best of breed cloud products, provided by Xero to its Accountant partners for free. Xero, WorkflowMax, Xero Payroll, Spotlight Workpapers & Report Packs, all Xero owned solutions. And now, rounding out the Practice Studio suite are partnerships with enableHR (online HR & WHS) and Microsoft (Office365, SharePoint Online and In Tune).
Why for free? Xero doesn’t believe in monetising the accountant side when it comes to these practice management tools. This is unlike the incumbents who are happy to charge fees into the tens of thousands of dollars per year for these same tools, as well as charge our clients for their desktop based accounting products. Seems like a bit of double dipping to me.
As stated earlier, we are now able to provide advisory services to our clients for the same or similar fees as they used to pay for compliance only services. Some may say that this could be de-valuing our advisory services however in today’s general market across all industries clients are demanding better value for money and so by using Xero’s Practice Studio as well as the range of Add On partners in the cloud Ecosystem we are able to meet market demand.
As we have embarked on this journey we have disrupted our own business in an effort to provide a true advisory service to our clients as well as benefit internally from increased efficiencies available by using cloud solutions. Ultimately, Xero was our driver for change to embrace new technologies to ensure that we could better service our clients. The accounting profession is no longer protected from general and so to remain competitive and profitable we need to constantly evolve and find better ways of connecting with our clients. Xero provides us with the tools to do this.