How can marginal gains transform accountancy?

As Sir Bradley Wiggins prepares to strike gold at the Olympics later this summer, I believe accountants should observe the hypothesis behind his training to transform their businesses. This is the power of marginal gains.

Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford, also known as the ‘guru of marginal gains’, implements the philosophy by breaking down his team’s operations into parts and testing for improvements. He notoriously looks for minor alterations to give his riders a significant advantage over rivals. The tactics behind his riders’ victories over the years, including Sir Bradley Wiggins, can also be applied to the world of accountancy.

The marginal gains strategy, which states improving 30 factors by one per cent gives the same result as improving one factor by 30 per cent, can be applied to the accountancy sector. Accountants can learn and apply the theory to transform their customer experience and boost productivity levels simultaneously. The innovative business strategy of marginal gains can progress and develop businesses when forward-thinking technology is utilised and incremental improvements are made.

Accountancy firms should find areas where this technology can aid operational efficiency to save time and cut costs in the workplace. But where exactly can accountants apply these changes to feel the benefits?

Placing the customer at the heart of accounting

Consumers are tech-savvy and digitally confident as new technologies infiltrate the accounting industry. In order to attract new customers and retain existing clients, accountants must meet and ideally surpass the expectations of those utilising their services and ensure they are running accurately and fluently on a daily basis.

The customer experience is paramount, with consumers easily being ‘turned off’ if technology systems are slow, inefficient and unattractive. As competition increases, accountancy practices must ensure their customers’ desire for a collaborative online relationship is fulfilled. Businesses want their finances to be in safe, reliable hands. They want to access their accounts quickly and easily, and feel satisfied their financial and compliance requirements are being met.

I believe marginal gains has the potential to transform the accountancy sector and firms should therefore embrace the strategy. Improvements throughout an accountancy business can connect the company with its employees and build a stronger relationship. Accountants’ roles are evolving as HMRC moves to implement digital tax accounts. By demonstrating the mindset of marginal gains, accountants can minimise time wastage, focus on their workload and adhere to their clients’ needs.

Where can accountants look to make gains?

Technology is a vital tool to help realise marginal gains. Reliable, progressive software enables both the accountancy business and its clients to manage a myriad of accounting functions, as well as support greater collaboration.

Having access to resources, such as client dashboards, allows all users to share access to accounting files and complete tasks when and where it suits them. Employees are kept up to date with changes made by one user instantly visible to others. Time is saved as users no longer need to chase others for updates and client document management is simplified.

Automating tasks where the ‘human touch’ adds little value can be highly beneficial. Storing practice and client data in a single, centralised database omits wasted time spent manually inputting information and potential human error. An integrated platform increases accuracy of these actions, while storing multiple accounts and documents in one accessible place.

Significant time can be saved when users can quickly access files, track jobs and tasks and oversee the progress in ongoing accounts. By using a shared online system, companies have a 360 degree view of their clients’ past and present accounts and files. Accountants can achieve more in less time and using fewer resources. By mapping their workload through the technology, employees can also benefit from the online ‘to do’ list and ensure time is being spent wisely in the workplace, priorities are enforced and deadlines are being met.

Turning a business paperless is also an efficient way of speeding up accounting processes. By collaborating securely, accountants can avoid wasting time printing and posting paperwork. As we all know, a paperless audit can save a significant amount of money in terms of stocking paper and postage fees, as well as being environmentally friendly.

The customer experience is also enhanced when these online processes are accessible on mobiles and tablet devices. Visually, websites can entice new users and satisfy existing clients who want their accounting processes to be displayed clearly and concisely. Clients are offered a first class service around the clock with critical information accessible in one place, while the accountancy firm in question can reinforce its brand through customisation.

The benefits of marginal gains

Shrinking the time consumed by administration and practice management allows businesses to spend their time wisely and effectively. This time can be spent attracting new clients and forging closer relationships with existing clients. Accountants can focus on developing their businesses, building the company’s reputation and growing their practices using the same resources. The extra time also enables accountants to offer additional services, such as business advice and tax planning. All of these benefits could be deemed impossible without gaining efficiencies in a variety of different ways.

Undoubtedly, marginal gains can have a powerful impact on accountants’ businesses and operational efficiently. I believe accountants who strive to succeed in the changing landscape of accountancy should adopt the marginal gains mindset in order to transform their businesses and become more successful.

Once the philosophy of marginal gains is fully comprehended, accountants can implement changes and improvements to their own practices and benefit from better client communication, reputation, more effective time management and a stronger business overall.

Steve Cox, product director at IRIS Software

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