Guest blog by Liz Waterson, Professional Services Manager at Thomson Reuters
Fit, healthy, in good shape? No, I’m not talking personal fitness, but the general health of the data you hold as part of running your accountancy practice. After your people, your data is probably your most valuable asset. Good data is the foundation to managing change in an integrated collaborative environment, so I’ve put together some points to consider when contemplating the current state of your own database(s).
Why the need for healthy data?
What if your data is not reliable? How much time is wasted on checking that the information held is correct? And where information is found to be conflicting, how do you establish which piece of data is correct? Getting your data in order is crucial and should be the foundation to both reducing risk in your business and achieving improved organisational results, such as increased customer satisfaction, enhanced operational efficiency or revenue growth. The big question is how to implement a good strategy for maintaining the health of the data you hold, within the fast-changing climate that we are all experiencing.
Points to consider:
- Review your existing data processes
Can you honestly say you have a robust and standardised process for on-boarding new clients? How many databases do you have that need to be updated when a client informs you of a change of address or a recent marriage? What process is followed when a client (unfortunately) decides to leave? Any data cleansing exercise is of limited worth unless the process for capturing and amending data is not first reviewed for risks and weaknesses, and those issues addressed.
- Good impressions count
With the advent of cloud-based software, your clients will also actively participate in your processes for capturing and maintaining data. Have you considered how this will change the way you operate? There will be no place to hide with bad data once it is visible to your client.
- Everyone plays a part
Responsibility for keeping your data in good shape requires the vigilance and participation of your entire accountancy practice and should become part of your organisational culture. There is a need to create an environment in which data is treated as a company asset that must be inventoried and protected.
- Compliance is never-ending
No matter how robust, there will always be another piece of legislation that will require at least a minor tweak to your data management processes. Modern businesses need to be agile and adaptable; this means building solid foundations that can be easily reviewed and amended when such changes occur. Recently, GDPR has caused the biggest overhaul to businesses’ data processes, and although painful for many, it means that any future change should result in considerably less disruption.
- Remember your business goals
Growth is an example of a key goal for many organisations. Have you considered how your data processes may have to change over the next 5-10 years to accommodate your business goals? Considering these factors when designing your long-term processes helps to create the right foundations and future-proof your business.
Responsibility to get your data fit should be part of your practice’s culture, so I would encourage you to take a holistic look at your data. Start by creating an inventory of what data is held where, identifying potential for conflicting information. Change such as legislation or organisational growth may require speedy actions, and there is no time like the present for putting those building blocks in place.
Liz has over 35 years’ experience working in the tax and accounting industry, with over 30 of those in software and technology. She specialises in training and implementation and helps practices review the quality of their data to enable them to build best-practice and automation into their operations.
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