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Digital Plumbing: How accountants can step back from data entry and make huge leaps in productivity

Accountant | 6 mins read | Last updated on 01 November, 2016

Let’s imagine that a man named John owns a company that builds and sells custom-made furniture. When his new leads request quotes, John has to first add these leads in his CRM app and then re-enter the same data in the Contacts section of his accounting solution so he can send these quotes. Once the quotes are accepted, he then needs to update this information in his CRM app. He must repeat this process every time he acquires new leads.

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As John’s customer base grows and the number of transactions he has to record increases, he realizes he cannot single-handedly manage the amount of manual data entry he needs to do to keep his company running. He decides to hire additional staff to manage his data across all his applications for him.

Although this seemed like a great idea at first, after a few months, one of his customers, who earlier had placed a large order for furniture, changed their shipping address. The new shipping address was updated in the CRM app by the sales team, but it was not passed on to the accounting staff. As a result, the invoices and delivery notes had the wrong addresses on them. Dissatisfied, the customer complains about their furniture not being delivered, then proceeds to cancel their orders and demand a refund. John realizes that if errors like this continue to happen, he stands to incur some pretty serious losses in his business.

This may just be an example, but going by John’s case, we can see that a business’s productivity and profits can be severely impacted when team members can’t access accurate, real-time data across all of their systems. However, with the help of a digital plumbing system, these situations can be avoided, and businesses can run at the highest efficiency level possible.

What is digital plumbing?

As the name suggests, it works similarly to the plumbing system that you find in a house. Just as a traditional home plumbing system improves water flow through pipes, a digital plumbing system connects all the apps that organizations use to run their businesses in order to automate and enhance the flow of information between them. This can help you gather crucial information for your clients about their customers, including yearly churn rates, net profits, and more, without having to collect information from each application separately. With this seamless flow of data, you’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of your client’s business performance.

Why should accountants focus on a digital plumbing strategy?

As advances in technology have increased, businesses have had to change how they operate, and the accounting world is no exception. Many businesses are turning to online accounting tools that help automate tasks like filing taxes, preparing financial statements, and more.

With these changes, it has become more important than ever for accountants to take on new responsibilities that provide more value for their clients. By setting up a digital plumbing system, you can manage your client’s finances as well as focus on advisory services that go beyond the work of a traditional accountant.

Here are some of the ways in which digital plumbing can help you:

Gather data in real time

As an accountant, much of your work involves generating reports, preparing budgets, and lots of other tasks that require access to data from different applications. If you can’t gather your client’s data in one place, you’ll have to manually collect it yourself, which can waste time and leave you with information that is no longer relevant.

A digital plumbing system can help you here by syncing all of your client’s business applications together. Now, you’ll be able to view and analyze data in real time, as well as provide relevant business advice for your customers.

Become a strategic advisor

By streamlining your clients’ business technology, you will not only have easier access to their data, but you’ll also become more familiar with various aspects of their businesses. This provides an opportunity for you to position yourself as a strategic advisor, especially for small businesses who may not have the resources to hire a full-time consultant.

In this role, you will still need to manage bookkeeping and help your clients control expenditures, but you’ll also be able to provide additional services like financial planning and growth analysis. Thanks to digital plumbing, your increased knowledge of your clients’ businesses will help ensure that you remain a relevant, valuable asset for years to come.

Helping accountants help their clients

In addition to helping accountants themselves, a digital plumbing system can improve your clients’ businesses in the following ways:

Reduce errors and increase data consistency

When a client’s data is isolated in separate applications that don’t communicate with one another, it’s much easier for teams to lose track of changes made to customer information and make mistakes in data entry. Even the slightest errors, like mistyping an email address or a customer’s shipping details, can reduce effectiveness in marketing campaigns or cause customer dissatisfaction.

Digital plumbing brings all changes made to customer data in one place, where any of your clients’ teams can access it and view updates that have been made. By connecting their applications and automating data entry, businesses can cut down on the number of manual errors and avoid these management nightmares.

Streamline business processes

Businesses need to have access to real-time, relevant data in order to perform essential tasks like generating reports, contacting clients, resolving customer complaints, packing and shipping products, and so on. Without it, they’re at the mercy of whatever data is available to them, which is at best irrelevant and at worst inaccurate.

By investing in a digital plumbing system, team members can get immediate access to all the accurate information they need on any platform, which allows them to work more efficiently and make precise, well-informed decisions on the fly.

More efficient accounting, more successful clients

The enhancements in technology have undoubtedly caused a lot of changes in the accounting profession. However, with a digital plumbing system in place, these changes can become opportunities for accountants to use to add more value to their practices. Helping your clients set up such a system will allow you to spend less time on entering data, removing duplicate entries, and minimizing errors.

With the help of a digital plumbing system, you will gain your clients’ trust and become more than an accountant–you will be a business advisor and a partner in achieving success.

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