Almost unlimited digital choices in our personal lives have led to so many apps on our smartphones and other devices there’s now an active movement to unplug.
Digital overload for business owners is just as dramatic. The level of choice is overwhelming, yet using the right tools is critical to the successful future of a business.
Despite the rapid acceleration of digital take-up driven by the pandemic, many SMEs are being left behind.
Nearly half a million Australian small and medium enterprises have no digitisation or only a very low level, according to MYOB’s Closing the Digital Gap paper last year.
It found that increasing digital adoption among SMEs could lead to a 1.8 per cent increase in the sector’s contribution to GDP, equivalent to a $10.5 billion gain for the Australian economy.
While closing the digital gap is essential to future growth of both SMEs and the economy, it is important to recognise the difference between good and bad digitisation.
More is sometimes less
In the race towards digitisation, businesses have been led to believe that simply using lots of different online tools to replace manual processes will make their business run faster and better.
However, the reality is this approach creates issues from the cost of multiple subscriptions, time wasted checking data between systems, and the deflection of valuable human resources. In many cases, digitisation has simply not lived up to the promise. This is bad digitisation.
The cost to businesses is substantial. Last year, research by MYOB and Forrester Consulting found businesses with 100-plus employees wasted an average of 12.5 hours per employee each week due to bad digitisation. That’s effectively a day and a half each week, or 75 days in a year. If you were to put a value on that lost time, it equates to an extra cost to each business of around $2.78 million a year.
A major concern is that many businesses believe they have digitised and reached their limit, but are in fact being held back by bad digitisation and the use of apps that fail to work in unison or lack functions the business needs.
Aim for harmony
Good digitisation should be simple to recognise – it’s when everything works seamlessly together.
Forrester found that businesses using future-fit platforms are growing 3.2 times faster than their peers. The value is felt quickly, with more than one-third of those making changes to their business and people management software achieving productivity increases within the first year.
It means that workflows are automated, all data centralised alongside business intelligence and an ability to collaborate digitally from anywhere with your clients and team. In addition, good digitisation provides transparency and insight across the business, improving accuracy and informing decision-making and strategy.
Accountants, bookkeepers and advisers are in a uniquely influential position where they can play a huge role in helping SMEs shape their digital journeys, particularly as 20 per cent of SMEs are only just getting started. The case for change is compelling and one that will benefit both your practice and clients.
Before advising SMEs on smart digitisation, though, it’s crucial that practices lead by example and focus on reviewing their own digital journey.
The signs of digital success
If a practice is correctly focusing on its key business functions through good digitisation, it should be able to:
- Make decisions with confidence
- Provide great client experiences
- Be more productive
- Grow the business
More is not always better in digital transformation. The key is simplicity. A platform needs to work harder for you, so you can work smarter.
Good digitisation allows accountants to increase their efficiency and gain better insight into their practice. It will provide advice to clients through workflow automation, centralisation of data and business intelligence, and the ability to digitally collaborate.
They will also be able to attract and retain the best talent, because staff can collaborate from anywhere using the latest tools. These are all hallmarks of a thriving practice.
There has never been a better time to reflect on how your practice is digitising and what you’re doing to help encourage that journey with clients.
It’s time to get started on a journey to good digitisation and instead of talking the talk make sure you’re also walking the walk alongside your clients.
Daniel West is chief sales and support officer at business platform MYOB.
Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.
Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.