The way in which accountancy firms are using technology to manage client engagements is becoming increasingly fragmented. It’s leading many in the industry to believe quality is suffering under increasing time pressures and the need to juggle multiple applications to keep work on track.
This is the key finding from a new study published by Huddle, comprising interviews with more than 250 partners and senior executives across the US to understand how firms are using technology to work with clients.
The findings reveal that although 88% of US accountancy firms have a client engagement strategy in place, 35% of respondents feel that their organizations are far too slow in adopting the right technologies to accommodate client demands.
As a result, employees are becoming fatigued by the sheer number of technology solutions options available to them when working with clients, causing fragmentation in common workflows, slowing productivity and introducing risk.
The research goes on to highlight that with so many different systems available to them, 31% of employees are forced to jump between multiple applications to keep track of client updates. 35% also agreed that it was becoming challenging just to keep control of document revisions, with a similar number (33%) also reporting difficulties tracking tasks.
As a result, 27% cited increasing instances of deadlines being missed and 24% reported inefficiencies caused by duplication of effort, with multiple people unknowingly working on the same piece of work.
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“US accountancy firms are ramping up their digital transformation initiatives. However, the results suggest that teams are now being bounced between different apps to manage their client engagements. Combined with ever-growing client demands, it can be challenging on teams to keep control. Productivity is quickly damaged and the audit trail of activity is immediately broken,” explains Huddle CMO, Tim Deluca-Smith.
One of the risks presented in the report is that confusion is causing accountancy professionals to use less secure methods of working with their clients. For example, 36% of Partners and senior executives admitted to using a personal file sharing apps at work.
This can put sensitive client data at immediate risk. Others are being pushed to use new technologies such as Microsoft Teams for client engagement, despite concerns that it can present a number of issues when working externally with clients.
Other key findings in the report reveal that 38% believe the quality of client engagements is suffering under increasing time pressures, while 27% say that deadlines are frequently missed because of client delays.
Time-sapping tasks are another area of consternation, with 19% spending more than one hour per day on file admin (finding, saving, sharing electronic files).
Meanwhile, 32% agree that their IT policy makes it too restrictive to effectively collaborate with clients and 35% believe that their firm is too slow to adopt the right technology to digitally transform.
“It should be the role of the client portal to manage client engagements,” adds Deluca-Smith.
“However, the research shows that many legacy accountancy portals are little more than basic file sharing services with no ability to manage and track tasks, approvals or manage file versions. In fact, just 65% of employees had the ability to track client activity and tasks through their portal solution. Given these findings, we believe the need for a more holistic and collaborative approach to managing client engagements is paramount to delivering on the client experience and to protect the firm from potential data breaches.”
The study published by Huddle is based on interviews with more than 250 partners and senior executives across the US with a view to understand how firms are using technology to work with clients.