Plugging accounting employment gaps through tech innovation and cultural evolution

With the volume of eligible candidates falling and staff turnover increasing, accounting firms must leverage technology to continue in their success, according to Courtney Kunzig, Industry Solutions Manager, Accounting at M-Files.

Accountancy practice management software has come a long way. Today, features like automated billing and reconciliations are easily integrated into the day-to-day practice workflow of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK customers.

Our employees work side by side with our customers to create and manage these solutions – driven by a deep understanding of their needs and addressing the rapid changes in their environment.

However, it’s often hard to look beyond improving performance in day-to-day operations. Amid Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions, accountancy practices and their clients are dealing with an unpredictable economic landscape. Future business planning can appear daunting.

However, technology can support accountancy practices (and their clients) in making informed business decisions, and planning for the future. In the first part of our Accountancy Practice Management for Future-Fit Growth series, we’ll explore how they can use technology to define and easily track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Doing so gives practices closer control of performance tracking, and deeper insights that will inform strategic growth plans.

Saving Time

For several decades, business technology platforms have enabled practices to track performance metrics that they have customised. This highlights areas that qualify for improvement and underpins strategic planning.

Contemporary technology, such as CCH KPI Monitoring, makes setting up KPIs faster and easier for accountancy practices than ever before. This is vital today. The current business landscape demands that firms assess and amend KPIs more frequently, based on fresh market variables. KPIs such as client retention rate and business time-to-recovery have become increasingly prominent performance indicators in the past year. If clunky technology makes KPI management difficult, practices have less time and insight to plan future growth.

Reducing Risk
CCH KPI Monitoring makes it far easier to track KPIs and report on them. This is fundamental in minimising risk. For example, if a KPI is set to track and escalate debt filtered by overdue dates, the ability to easily set alerts and automatically generate reports is critical to practice performance management.

Some practices are manually running monthly reports to measure KPIs. Others are running real-time reporting engines, a key feature of CCH KPI Monitoring. This latter solution allows practices to review essential data at any time – covering both performance management and compliance requirements. They can do so remotely or on-premise.

This means that firms can assess issues before they become problems, and thus act proactively. Real-time reporting is a true asset in building a future-fit practice.

The Proof is in the Practice
A number of Wolters Kluwer customers have been using CCH KPI Monitoring for several years now. Our customers look to us when they need to be right. Ryecroft Glenton has successfully integrated CCH KPI Monitoring with its own system. This consolidates information from several sources, including CCH Central and CCH Practice Management.

“We can use the year end date to trigger a sequence of reminders. Have we asked for the books? Have they been received? If a request to a client has been outstanding for a certain period, the partner will receive an alert via email. For limited companies, we can monitor the corporation tax and Companies House filing deadlines – as well as the different deadlines for pension schemes”

– Ian Smith, partner at Ryecroft Glenton

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

In recent years, a skills gap in the accounting sector has been gradually widening, as firms have had fewer applicants to choose from and interest in a career as an accountant has dwindled.

The number of accounting applications dropped by 36% between 2021 and 2022, highlighting the scale of the challenge partners and firm owners are faced with. There are even concerns that rising vacancies could destabilise the accounting industry as a whole, with some firms reporting that they have reportedly had no choice but to refuse work due to a lack of skilled staff.

To tackle this issue before its impacts become more pervasive, accountancy firms must look for new strategies not only to attract and retain employees, but identify ways they can support incumbent staff in doing their jobs more quickly, efficiently and accurately.

Driving progress with innovation
Firms of all sizes are demonstrating a forward-looking view on technology and growth. Innovation officers and digital transformation teams have been tasked with evaluating their current tech stacks to determine how compatible they are with future firm growth strategy. Scalable solutions and a congruent appetite for progressive innovation will guide firms to select the right partners. The continued development of new technology has shone a spotlight on the development of end-to-end knowledge work automation for firms looking for new ways to remain competitive. A key initiative for digital transformation teams has been the exploration of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other advanced technologies that can automate tasks and increase efficiency.

However, automation is not being introduced with the intention of replacing accounting professionals. Instead, this technology will be used as a tool to compliment the work they already do that can make them more productive and efficient. Ultimately, finding the right balance between automation and human expertise will lead firms to success.

When implemented thoughtfully, knowledge worker automation results in a higher quality of service for a firm’s clients. Automating routine tasks and developing workflows to streamline communication and information exchange frees up staff to channel their efforts into more complex and high-value activities, allowing firms to even broaden their revenue streams into more profitable lines of business such as Client Advisory Services (CAS). As an added benefit, automation enables firms to provide better and faster service to their clients while reducing manual error.

Building spare capacity through automation

During periods of high employee turnover, firms are finding it more difficult than ever to find experienced and new talent. Automation has the potential to fill the skills gap currently impacting the accounting sector. Supplementing staff shortages with built-in automation reduces knowledge loss and improves speed to delivery for clients boosting the efficiency of their employee onboarding and engagements.

A prime example of how automation can enable knowledge workers to streamline workflows and save time in the accounting industry is through the use of AI. This technology can automate entire processes, from document creation and management to workflow automation through identifying key metadata points and applying predefined rules. Other time-saving features like AI-powered technology include the increased ability of accountants to ask questions of their data, summarise documents or even translate content into other languages quickly.

Such applications of AI and similar forms of technology reduce the administrative burden on accountants, as it automates tasks, workflows, and content creation that would otherwise be manual. As a result, firms can complete engagements more quickly and efficiently.

Technology exists to make work simpler

As a professional services organisation, accounting firms manage many thousands of documents each year which can be overwhelming for staff without the right resources. Adding layers like the remote work-from-anywhere world or travelling to client sites means firms need to ensure their employees can access client information no matter where they are working.  

As innovation officers and IT directors evaluate the future of their tech stack, they must include a robust document management system. These systems allow for peace of mind for technology leaders that their employees can freely work while compliance requirements are embedded into their solutions to reduce risk of data loss and breach. There are several ways of automating documents (which is where accountants spend a majority of their time producing and updating) that can enhance the reliability of the data and efficiency of a short staffed or new engagement team. The ability to arm employees with the tools they need to do more with less will enable firms to perform more consistently by eliminating some of the manual work. This will allow them to more accurately measure utilisation resulting in more accurate staffing and the ability to take on more clients.

Finally, automation supports accountants by easing the compliance burden and preventing them from compromising sensitive information. AI can scan documents and update metadata tags, trigger workflows and automatically assign permissions even as teams change, meaning that files are only viewed by the right employees or clients. As a result, accountants no longer have to worry about classifying documents or datasets or applying access controls themselves.

Communicating culture clearly

According to recent research, 42% of accountants claim to be overwhelmed by the pace of technological change in their role. With the hype around AI and tech advancements, some employees are feeling uneasy about what this means for the future of the industry and their career. This emphasises the importance of delivering messaging clearly and providing proper training and education for all employees when new technology is introduced.

It’s also essential that firm leaders communicate to staff exactly why a new piece of technology is being introduced, what challenge it is solving and how it will make employee’s lives easier. For example. a problem that knowledge workers face, especially in the accounting industry, is finding and retrieving historical documents related to their prior year engagements. More and more firms are introducing technology that enables accountants to access the client files or datasets through simple keyword searches instead of laboriously navigating folder hierarchies.

Firms that prioritize upskilling to ensure their employees are developing beyond their accounting skillset will create a more flexible and adaptable work force. These firms will be able to introduce future technologies more quickly and improve time-to-value beginning at implementation.

Establishing clarity and transparency regarding your tech stack roadmap and objectives fosters trust between staff and leaders. This, in turn, creates an open forum for ongoing discussions about enhancing both the organization and employee development. Investing in ongoing education will cultivate a more knowledgeable workforce, with employees undergoing cross-training, thereby mitigating the adverse impact of knowledge loss resulting from turnover.  to new ways of operating and lessen the challenges skills shortages present.

About M-Files

M-Files is the leading platform for knowledge work automation. With the M-Files platform, knowledge workers can find information faster, work smarter, and achieve more. M-Files features an innovative metadata-driven architecture, embedded workflow engine, and advanced artificial intelligence. This enables customers to eliminate information chaos, improve process efficiency, and automate security and compliance. For more information, visit

Dec 2023

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