From XU Magazine, 
Issue 27

Can technology actually make us more human?

James Byrne, AccountancyManager’s CEO, is a big fan of both tech and humans. He is a former accountant and now heads up a software company, so has insight from both worlds.

You might be surprised to hear that accountancy and bookkeeping are well ahead of many other industries in terms of technology adoption. So, as a pioneer of the digital age (yes, you), you’re among the first to experience the benefits - and the barriers - of things like automation. One of the biggest concerns, of course, is technology replacing the personal touch.

In his late teens, James, AccountancyManager CEO, joined his father’s accounting firm. Once he’d taken on a number of his own clients, James became increasingly frustrated with inefficiencies across the business. 

James recruited the help of developer, Alex Hawke. “Alex actually sat inside the practice with me. As problems arose, he’d build a solution. It’s probably why we’ve had the success that we’ve had, because AccountancyManager very much works in the way that an accountant would expect it to.”

Out with jargon. In with informality

Far from creating AccountancyManager to replace conversations, James is all for having a chat with clients - especially if jargon is left at the door. 

“The accountant/client relationship is very different now in comparison with say, the 60s. Gone are the days when clients would put a suit on to go and see their accountant and we no longer impress clients with our broad understanding of the English language.”

“Rather, we adopt a less formal, more conversational type of communication that clients feel comfortable with. I still get calls from old clients asking me to explain something, so that built some really solid relationships.”

Automation: Enhancing, not replacing, your personal service

To maximise this ‘quality’ time with your clients, James recommends minimising your more functional, repetitive interactions - such as asking your clients for their records. He and Alex designed AM to automatically send these record requests and reminders, controlled by your clients Companies House accounting dates.

“Being able to do some of the repetitive jobs automatically also means your clients are going to get a better service.” 

Give your team efficient internal organisation 

The quality time vs functional time concept applies to your team’s filing systems and communication methods too. Minimise the time they spend on functional actions, like finding documents and keeping track of conversations in different places, so they can spend quality time with clients - or collaborating with colleagues in more productive ways.

“It’s all about having a consistent process of saving documents in one place. I cannot tell you the nightmares we had over this at the firm. The way we did it with AccountancyManager is to have a document storage file on every client name.

Digital transformation is all about people and their mindsets

We’ve all formed new digital habits, whether it’s using GoogleMaps, Netflix or Zoom calls. Using systems like AccountancyManager is the same - but crucially, everyone across the firm needs to adopt the technology to see the optimal benefits. 

“You do get used to doing things a certain way, but it’s about breaking old habits to stay relevant - especially with how fast technology has moved the last 20 years. It’s insane the way things have changed. With the younger generations of clients - and talent - coming through, it’s about adopting technology they would expect.”

“There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that technology today is essential. You simply can’t compete with your competitors if they’re doing everything three times as fast as you’re able to and providing the advisory services that increasing numbers of clients are looking for.”

Why leave it there?

To find out more about AccountancyManager

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