The very real ability for accountants to go paper free has been a key discussion point at this year’s Accountants’ Technology Showcase Australia (ATSA). And so it should be: cloud-based accounting is changing the landscape of accounting firms across the world.
The physical effects of having fewer piles of paper around the office is only the tip of the iceberg: a paper-free future will enable firms to unlock more time, freedom, security, data-driven insights – and widespread value to its employees and clients alike.
The potential in paperless
Scores of accounting and bookkeeping partners across Australia and New Zealand are making the transition toward being a paperless firm, and the available upsides they experience are proving as unique as they are universal.
Andrea Cunniffe is the Practice Manager at Leslie & O’Donnell Chartered Accountants. “With Workpapers and Xero General Ledger, there’s less paper,” she told Xero. “The year-end tax files are now compact as all the documentation is scanned and filed online with the workpapers.
More importantly, the transition has enabled the Marlborough-based company, located in the heart of New Zealand’s wine-making region, to maximise the value it offers its clients. “We have to know about the wine industry and what’s affecting them both regionally and internationally. We have a grasp on everything from supply and demand, profit and loss, to weather patterns,” Andrea said.
“We have the skills to do that sort of work, and with the systems getting quicker, the compliance work is taking up less time so we can do the fun stuff, helping clients grow their businesses.”
In Canberra, Jennie Smith and Jacqui McMillan took a clear stance with their firm, Figures Matter. “Three or four years ago, we essentially said to our clients, ‘Use Xero or you can’t use us’,” Jennie told us. “That consolidation gave us so much time back, because we could work much more effectively – from anywhere. It’s amazing to think we used to wade our way through paperwork.”
By ditching the piles of paper we used to depend on, firms are capitalising on a new sense of freedom and flexibility – but in ways unique to their particular circumstances.
“I’ve been 100% Xero since I came on board, and it’s easy to forget how I worked before then,” said Gabrielle Osborne, the Practice Manager of Premium Business Group, in Hobart, Tasmania. “I had to go to people’s work in order to be of any use – now I can assist someone 20km away just by logging on, from home or the office. The continual innovation is amazing.”
While Gabrielle was empowered to stay closer to home, the transition enabled Scott Lynch, from online-only firm Beanstalk Accountants, to travel further afield. “The cloud is the reason I’ve been able to move to London and have the business continue so seamlessly,” he told us. “All our phones are diverted through a cloud PABX system, so everyone has their Sydney landline number and mine comes through to my computer. There are no physical files so we don’t even have a printer.
“There’s nothing clients can’t do with a PDF document, and because there’s no paper I can access just as much information from here as my staff in Sydney or Canberra,” he said. “The cloud has given us options and flexibilities standard accounting firms don’t have.”
Feel daunted, then try it anyway
The move to a paper-free future can be daunting for accountants and their clients, which is why the discussion still has an important place in industry forums such as ATSA. But make no mistake, it’s coming.
As more and more firms chart their path into paperless processes, and younger generations take up the accounting mantel with technology at their forefront of their minds, the progression is natural. And thanks to its inevitable arrival, there is a plethora of educational tools waiting to equip every accountant willing to embrace the change.
So put that shoebox of receipts down and discover something new.