By Mike Martin
Some accounting practices seeking to boost revenue and efficiency have been turning to business intelligence (BI) solutions. BI tools can perform a variety of key functions, including data mining, benchmarking and process analysis to help you uncover areas for improvement. But they can also be difficult to customise and configure correctly because they’re not designed specifically for the accounting industry.
This is where the concept of accounting practice intelligence solutions comes in. Practice intelligence tools are designed specifically for accountants and auditors looking to gain a competitive edge from the rich pools of data associated with their practice, clients and engagement files.
Accounting practice intelligence solutions are able to comb through current and historic data to monitor the health of your practice. They allow you to better manage risks, discover new growth opportunities and give you the insights you need to become a strategic advisor to your clients or stakeholders.
Automated data mining
Practice intelligence solutions have several key features that make them ideal for progressive accounting practices. One of the most important is automated data mining. Practice intelligence tools are built to allow you to automatically import all your historic engagement data with no manual intervention.
They also automatically synchronise to the data from your ongoing engagements and can extract, transform and load information to external reporting tools, eliminating the risk of errors occurring in a data transfer.
A single, centralised data warehouse is another key practice intelligence feature. This allows you to store and access information from all your engagements in one secure location, enabling your team to analyse data from throughout your entire practice and engage in cross-engagement analysis.
A centralised, cloud-based practice intelligence solution also means you don’t need to worry about upgrading or deploying software. Updates will roll out automatically as they occur, saving you resources and time. And you’ll always have access to the newest features and functionality.
Having access to a huge pool of data is a great first step in boosting practice efficiency and revenue. But data is only useful if it can be understood. Data visualisations in the form of graphs, charts and maps are a core practice intelligence pillar because they help clients, executives and team members see at a glance what the data is telling them.
These visualisations ideally should include an on-demand option, allowing you to offer effective visual aids quickly without any additional work. They should also provide the ability to build your own custom visualisations to meet specific needs your clients or executives might have.
Strong security is critical to any accounting firm. Practice intelligence tools not only adhere to international information security standards, but include controls that ensure information isn’t accidentally altered or viewed by users who don’t have the correct permissions. In a large accounting practice, you need to ensure that important information can be seen only by those who need to access it.
A competitive edge
Practice intelligence is transforming accounting practices by giving them quick and simple access to massive historical engagement databases. The ability to see important information at a glance, such as engagement quality, time spent on each engagement, and profit per engagement, can give organisations that turn to practice intelligence a competitive advantage.
At the same time, practice intelligence helps accountants and auditors deliver more strategic advice to their clients by giving them access to data that can compare current performance against historical performance, compare clients to industry benchmarks and help clients optimise their operations.
Discover how accounting practice intelligence solutions like Caseware Sherlock can help your practice harness the power of data-driven insights.
Mike Martin is a Content Marketing Writer at Caseware International. He is a former IT magasine editor with extensive experience researching and writing about enterprise technologies. At Caseware, Mike reports on today’s top issues affecting auditors and accountants and how advanced technologies are helping them drive better results.