Workflow Processing

Cloud-based workflows and the changing role of the accountant

Sustainable business growth starts with operational efficiency and workflows that create consistent financial health. Darren Buckley, Cloud Director at Macalvins Group, comments.

To achieve all-round efficiency and remain on the cutting edge of their industry, business owners will need to review their processes and identify areas where cloud-based workflows could be beneficial. 

As this trend becomes a mainstream industry practice, the role of the accountancy sector will also change.  

We look set to take on the role of business advisers as well as financial experts, facilitating business excellence with an in-depth understanding of interpreting and using the data provided by cloud-based structures.

Darren Buckley, Cloud Director, Macalvins Group

When working processes work against you

At any point within business operations where there is a manual, paper-based process, there is the potential for a bottleneck that puts a stopper on efficiency.  

Some of the most common issues faced by businesses include: 

  • Invoicing and order processing 
  • The approval process 
  • Stock management and reporting 
  • Financial tracking and reporting 
  • Managing customer data and relationships 
  • Data migration and communication

No matter what the process is, a cloud solution can improve efficiency and support better communication between different teams.  

This is because leveraging technology can create systems that are highly scalable and flexible, with apps and integrations for most business functions.  

To their credit, businesses seem to be recognising this, with spending on cloud infrastructure rising by 25 per cent in the last five years.

Embracing the power of workflows

To optimise the results from workflows and cloud accounting, a solid client journey is vital – accounting primarily for the individual needs of each client.  

From day one, our client journey considers how each business owner wants their business to look and how we can take them there with cloud technology.  

Through business process mapping, we get to know the intricacies of their daily operations and what bottlenecks they face that obstruct total efficiency.  

We then identify how our clients can address these issues in partnership with our in-house solutions architects, ideally leveraging existing systems and workflows to keep costs down and reduce the disruption to operations.  

It’s important to avoid looking at finances in isolation. So much efficiency can be gained from placing invoices, payroll, tax, expenses and other financial process into a wider context, particularly how these things overlap with operations.  

For this reason, we look at the whole system, identifying opportunities for using a cloud-based integration.  

For example, stock management and order fulfilment are often done manually by SMEs, resulting in errors that directly impact consumer confidence and their ability to grow.  

To create solid workflows, we would look to introduce a streamlined operation that could tie sales data, invoices, customer payments, internal financials, purchasing and inventory into one system.  

This enhances communication between systems, allowing team members to access real-time data from anywhere – including business advisers, accountants and auditors.

Solutions architecture

An effective app-led solution can integrate data from a range of different sources, allowing for the seamless flow of information across boundaries of any kind – app products, business partners and national borders.  

Upon reaching its end points, real-time data can be accessed from anywhere. This makes accounting, year-end reporting, international sales and compliance, customer communications and expansion much easier than doing tasks manually.  

This also supports one of the major benefits of cloud-based accounting and workflows – scalability.  

In simple terms, when a business achieves growth, a cloud accounting system can grow with it. What may be the perfect solution for a business on day one may not be suited to them as they grow.  

We can help clients to build the most appropriate app stack at every stage in their lifecycle.  

With expertise in all major types of cloud-based accounting systems, we can also manage any migration while minimising disruption to your business.

Looking forward

Moving into the new year, it’s important that business owners understand the value of app-led workflows.  

Training is going to be an important part of fully embracing app stacks and workflows. By removing much of the onus on the business owner, it presents an opportunity for individual and collective responsibility towards business operations.  

It has also proven highly empowering for staff, providing opportunities for upskilling and opening the door for future employment and professional development.  

This will be particularly true as new applications are continually developed and brought to market to meet evolving requirements.  

The evolution of cloud accounting systems presents an incredible opportunity to the accountancy sector too, freeing up experts’ time to provide more proactive services as true business advisers and partners. 

One area where this is particularly true concerns AI, which can be integrated to automate mundane tasks and analyse data.  

This is likely to be a significant trend as AI becomes more sophisticated, capable of processing complex datasets and reporting on trends.  

However, it is also true that client needs and individual working styles should direct how generative AI is used within accounting and business operations – making it a useful tool as opposed to a replacement for genuine, dynamic expertise.

Why seek support?

As tech-leveraged workflows go from trend to must-have, it’s important for business owners to consult with industry partners to fully understand this new way of working.  

Seeking support from a cloud accounting expert is vital to find a partner that understands the wider app ecosystem. This is the best way to promptly identify app-based solutions to any problem.  

Requiring a shift in mindset, the payoff of this approach is potentially vast. 

For us, we always seek to take an increasingly active role in our clients’ operations and make teams aware that this is an entirely new way of working.

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