Turning off timesheets and rise of the machines: planning for a future fit practice in 2020 and beyond

While we’re not ones for predicting the future, we do like planning for it. That’s why it’s always nice at this time of year to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we are going. With a new decade ahead of us, in 2020 we’re preparing for the adaptation and evolution of tech, trends & behaviours we suspect will continue to gain momentum; and we’re excited by the possibilities not only for our business and team, but most importantly for you, our clients, and your clients too!

So, here’s what’s on our radar for 2020.

The war on time
While there have been murmurings for a while, there’s been a lot of talk this year on firms turning off timesheets. In fact, 20% of practices have already flicked the switch and no longer use timesheets, according to this year’s Good, Bad, Ugly Report. With our reports also revealing that a majority of firms price services based on last year’s fee and increase by a certain percentage, and more compliance elements becoming increasingly transactional, we expect this trend to gain momentum.

Disconnecting time and value makes sense: the time it takes you or your team to complete a job bears little to no relation to the value you create (and therefor the price you charge). Imagine being charged for hours in the chair at a hairdresser! Focusing on the input – time – can lead to the creation of “busy work” to pad out the day, and extra stress over WIP levels when jobs don’t go to plan (and no conversation with the client has been had).

If you’re thinking of taking the no timesheet route, instead focus on your outputs: what you’re billing and the value you’re creating. You likely still want to understand what your team are doing in a day, so combine this with a simplified approach to tracking how you and your team INVEST your time (rather than time spent on the job) & the costs involved with delivering a job, and you will find yourself with the best of both worlds and more likely to stick to your new “no timesheets” initiative.

Keeping up with compliance
Speaking of time, do you know how much time your team are spending maintaining your internal workpapers, or reviewing and fixing mistakes because they are working on out-of-date material? With new legislative changes coming through thick and fast, it can be difficult to stay on top of everything – let alone ensuring your internal systems and documents are correct and updated in a timely manner. How certain are you that your internally updated templates and policies will stack up in QA review?

In a world of increasing complexity, and increasing pricing pressure on compliance, it will be more important than ever for practices to embrace technology that frees them up to focus on the strategy and implications for their clients rather than dotting Is and crossing Ts. Check out solutions like Smart Workpapers that are maintained by qualified CAs & CPAs and combine robust integration features with smart AI predictive technology to cut down data entry and reviewing time.

AI: Already In
Which leads us to what we’re most excited about – the advanced development & potential of AI tools into the technology we’re already using. How many times this year have you seen a headline akin to “Accountants need to embrace AI”. It’s a phrase usually followed by vague statements about machine learning and cloud accounting, with little insight as to how we leverage this technology in practice. At Business Fitness, many of our solutions (like Smart Workpapers mentioned above and HowNow) already utilise machine learning by offering suggestions / rules and auto-populating fields based on existing data to cut down on double handling.

With our newest version of HowNow, HowNow (cloud hosted), set to be available in the first half of 2020, we’re excited to develop these features more extensively – exploring the potential for advanced predictive, contextual automations. Just like your Spotify playlist – imagine working on a CGT tax paper and being given recommendations for similar files colleagues have already prepared, being directed to the required templates and file notes based on an email subject or document title, or being able to ask a chatbot to help you locate the information you want. We’re already utilising AI features like this in our personal lives outside the office, and practices need to start thinking about how they can take full advantage of the latest technology available to them in a business context. We’re excited to be able to provide the capability and opportunity to help you to do so in our newest version.

Of course, the world won’t be dramatically different when you wake up on January 1, but things are changing. Tiny incremental shifts in the way we work and live are happening each day – evolution and adaptation is what keeps us moving forward after all. While none of these ideas are new or ground-breaking, we’re excited by shifts we’ll see in each of these areas over the coming year. We’re planning for them, and you should be too.

We cover more insights and impacts in the 2019 Good, Bad, Ugly report – you can get $50 off the full report using the code GBU2019 at the checkout – get the report now. Interested in how HowNow and Business Fitness can help your business be future fit for 2020 and beyond? Book an online discovery session to learn more.