Donna Hannaby is the founder of Accrual World Accounting Solutions.
I was perfectly happy in my previous role but when I was tasked with becoming the cloud champion for the practice I was working in and rolling out MTD across the client base, it sparked an interest in technology – how it can change both the customer experience and the accountant’s working experience. Having helped that practice digitalise, I set up my own practice last year and now have an online client base that ranges from landlords and CIS contractors to steel fabricators and cafes.
My preferred cloud software provider is Sage – I find the support brilliant and the software user-friendly. I see digitalisation as the natural progression of practices. Excel caused a stir back in the day when people were still using paper, so new technology will always cause a stir but the efficiencies it brings makes it a no-brainer – so much so that I can’t imagine working any other way now.
For me, digitalisation means that I am able to work from home, I’m not surrounded by mounds of paper, I can service more clients even though I’m on my own, I can turn a piece of work around more quickly, and I can actually add value to my clients because compliance work is performed more quickly by the software.
That said, I love getting my hands dirty sorting out a client’s mess – like a year’s worth of bank reconciliations that aren’t reconciled. It’s a good feeling when you sort out a mess like that.
Whilst I am very pro digitalisation, there is still a key skill that I believes future accountants need but often don’t have – and that’s understanding where the figures behind a trial balance come from. It may sound old school, but you don’t want to be too reliant on software because if there’s a problem, you need to understand the numbers behind the trial balance to be able to solve that problem. I firmly believe that you should start with the basics so you can understand what the computer is spitting out. Software providers will tell you that the software can do it all for you – and maybe the profession is guilty of giving the same impression to clients.
On the role of the profession in society, I noted with interest that the Government told accountants that they could not help self-employed clients claim grants, yet now accountants are expected to clear up any incorrect claims. So, accountants are not empowered by HMRC to help those clients get it right in the first place, yet they are expected to ensure correct reporting by clients afterwards. That approach needs to change to ensure that the profession can play its role more effectively.