At a glance
Accountants have shouldered more than their share of the COVID-19 burden. Tasked with guiding their practices through the sudden shift to remote operations, they’ve simultaneously supported clients in managing cash flow, navigating government-led stimulus packages and keeping businesses afloat.
The critical role played by technology during this period cannot be overstated, with practices turning to cloud-based solutions, in particular, to maintain connectivity. Data from Telsyte reveals “cloud first” policies are now adopted by 59 per cent of Australian businesses, compared to 46 per cent prior to lockdown, as organisations seek to become more agile and resilient.
It’s a trend that’s set to persist, as businesses retain many of the structural and operational changes brought about by the pandemic, says Andrew Russell, CEO and managing director of Class, which includes cloud-based documentation and entity management platform NowInfinity in its product suite.
“The pandemic has indicated the importance of cloud-based software to ensure business continuity,” he says.
“Hybrid working is now the new normal and all good firms must have appropriate technology solutions to ensure they have ‘anytime, anywhere’ solutions.”
Even without the pressures of a pandemic, accounting and finance professionals face a number of challenges – chief among them rising compliance obligations, which can consume an estimated 80 per cent of their time.
Yet compliance needn’t be a bugbear, with automated products such as NowInfinity streamlining previously arduous processes.
The software allows users to choose from over 70 prefilled legal document templates to form companies, partnerships, trusts and other entities. Data is then shared across integrated platforms, including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Business Register and Xero Practice Manager, to eliminate duplication and avoid discrepancies.
“Another direct benefit is the avoidance of late fees from ASIC, as the NowInfinity system has inbuilt notifications for clients,” Russell adds, explaining that this function reminds clients when to complete certain tasks, such as updating or signing documents.
For Russell, the key advantage of saving time (not to mention costs) on such administrative tasks is the opportunity it affords accountants to focus on value-adding products and services.
“What NowInfinity does is put time back into the accountant’s hands,” he says. “Whether it is the drawing of data through our data feeds, or the generation, sharing and remote signing of more than 60 types of documents, NowInfinity saves time right across the entity management timeline, from creation to closing an entity down.”
Adapting to the next normal
As automation and cloud-based systems continue to grow in importance for the business community, Russell says Class is developing its product suite to meet evolving needs. In the past 12 months, the company has added corporate compliance and documentation provider SmartCorp to its portfolio, alongside documentation service ReckonDocs, delivered an enhanced deed printing/stamping service, and expanded its legal capabilities with Russell saying the latter encourages “greater collaboration between accountants and lawyers, which is a result of the use of increasingly complex structures”.
Meanwhile, established functionalities are experiencing a surge in uptake, with tools such as DocuSign – NowInfinity’s integrated e-signature platform – satisfying client demand for convenient, rapid and responsive solutions, particularly during lockdown periods.
As Russell explains, “There has been an increased acceptance of digital signatures and these will become part of the financial services hygiene evolution.”
By embracing these and other technologies – and maintaining the momentum of digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic – practices stand to gain a competitive advantage, not only improving efficiencies, but future-proofing their business for the digital age. Russell adds, “NowInfinity is committed to working with our customers to ensure our product strategy progresses in lock step with the post-COVID-19 environment.”