Cloud-based accounting has rapidly developed and advanced in the past seven years within Australia. Part of that advancement is the construction of mini-ecosystems that have derived naturally from cloud-based software over time as users have looked for new and unique ways to solve business problems.
PwC Private Clients Director, Dyean Moodley is an accountant who has witnessed the benefits of cloud accounting and its related ecosystems first-hand.
We recently had the chance to catch up with the veteran chartered accountant to learn more about the current state of cloud-based accounting and how its related ecosystems are disrupting business as we know it.
These are the key things we discovered and what you need to know:
Cloud accounting has evolved into an ecosystem
Cloud-based accounting products are an easy and effective way to handle your accounting needs. But it really is the next step of evolving it into an ecosystem that fulfils all your business administration needs that makes the switch to the cloud worth-while.
When we say ecosystem we refer to the add-on software options that complement and integrate with the cloud-based general ledger. Mrs Moodley says software integrations such as invoicing tools, inventory tools, CRM and ecommerce tools are enhancing the way business is being done, from small and medium enterprise, all the way to big corporates.
“It’s the functionality and utility provided by the add-on community that can solve many problems for small businesses,” she says.
Internal processes can be incredibly streamlined if the ecosystem is the right fit for the specific business.
Mrs Moodley says PwC is developing its own cloud-based platform called PwC’s Next, with the engine provided by Sydney start-up Maestrano.
PwC’s Next combines multiple cloud accounting tools and integrated cloud applications, many of which have been developed by local start-ups, as well as its own unique PwC tools to give businesses the best cloud-based solutions, all in one place.
Information from various software solutions will automatically sync, moving instantaneously between software, which means business owners can see all their business and financial data in one place (on their own customisable dashboard).
Cloud accounting has changed the way business works and the role of the accountant is changing
Data stored in the cloud means the ability to work remotely. As a mother of two young children Mrs Moodley couldn’t agree more that flexibility is one of the many benefits of cloud-based accounting. When she was a business owner, being able to work from anywhere online, helped her balance work and family.
But it’s not just for mums and dads. Businesses now have greater choice of who they work with - if they want to work with an accountant or advisor in another state, there’s no reason why they couldn’t. Or if a business owner wants to log onto their smartphone to see how the day at the store went while on holiday in Bali, they can.
- Peace of mind
Without a doubt, having real time business and financial information at the click of a button provides a sense of relief and peace of mind. Mrs Moodley has witnessed it with several clients.
“CEOs are less stressed - they can redefine the way they manage their business and as a result, have a richer life,” she says.
A client of Mrs Moodley who is a CEO of a building company in Sydney had a number of off-site workers and he never knew in real-time what construction location they were on and how many hours they were working, as the company had manual timesheets.
The company implemented a cloud-based accounting system that integrated with a time-sheet cloud solution, meaning the CEO could access timesheet data at any time and see which staff were at which site in real-time. While not every business needs this solution, it’s an example of how the right ecosystem can improve internal processes.
- Visibility and better informed decision making
There’s something about seeing data presented in the form of graphics that makes it a lot easier to ingest and comprehend. The personalised dashboard of PwC’s Next allows business owners to make quicker and better informed decisions at a glance of the real-time data.
Mrs Moodley says an example of this is for investors who need to make a quick decision. They need to be able to see at a glance investment opportunities, whether they have the capital to invest and from which entity within their group.
Small, family-run businesses are another example of how the technology can help. Cloud solutions make it much easier to get a better understanding of where their money is coming from, where it is going, and whether or not the business is doing well at a particular time.
- Accountants are moving into a more advisory role
Business owners will have information at their fingertips and demand proactive advice. While an accountant's role has always been to advise their clients, the relationships will be much deeper and effective due to the sophistication of the data the software displays and helps to surface. Accountants will be able to provide future-focused advice based on business trends, helping clients find new ways to grow their business.
Compliance is in the hands of the accountant & internal processes are necessary security measures
While Mrs Moodley found it hard to pinpoint any real disadvantages of a cloud-based accounting ecosystem, she says that compliance is the responsibility of the accountant. Not the software company. And it’s the accountant’s responsibility to be up-to-date with the latest developments through their relevant industry associations.
As for data security, keeping passwords safe, monitoring staff movements, and restricting access, should be regimented through a regular internal review process that is guided by the industry standard code. Ultimately, the business (not the accountant) will make the final software decision. It will be up to those businesses to develop their own internal security processes.
Not adapting to this new way of business is going to be detrimental
“Cloud accounting and building related ecosystems is a game changer,” Mrs Moodley says.
“Businesses need to adapt or they’ll be disrupted by agile competitors.”
How to move to a cloud-based accounting solution
Mrs Moodley says there are three main pieces of advice she has for CIOs looking to transform their organisation by embracing cloud solutions:
- Aim to become a strategic partner to the business
Any business looking to change needs input and support from management, and they need support from leadership. Change management is key to make it successfully through the transition. They will need to conduct a thorough needs analysis to identify the problems that need to be solved.
- Embrace integration
Gone are the days of disparate systems that do not talk to each other. Businesses should review their current systems and processes, and the interdependencies between the processes, so they can be streamlined and work in harmony. An API strategy should be considered.
- Create capabilities and not projects
Digital transformation and the adoption of cloud accounting and ecosystems is a long-term game based on your growth trajectory and business goals. The business is evolving and so are its processes so an API strategy shouldn’t be seen as a once off project.
“It’s not just a set and forget it,” says Mrs Moodley.
Cloud-based systems are the future for many industries. The benefits cloud-based solutions provide to businesses large and small far outweigh the disadvantages. Cloud-based accounting is an example of how the continued integration between cloud-based tools can create a diverse and effective ecosystem, and ultimately save businesses time and money, and create new opportunities.