As I’m sure you’re aware, big data and data analytics has the potential to transform the profession in analysing financial results and providing new insights to clients regarding the performance of their business. Projects like Chartered Accountants Australia+New Zealand Kairos are attempting to apply the data/data analytics theories to real world small businesses. There is a lot of potential but many commentators feel that we won’t see big data & data analytics reach its potential until the 2020’s.

Report as Though You Are the Client

One of the by-products of the world of big data has been the rise of digital dashboards. Big data manipulates huge data sets. In many cases, entire populations (every transaction in a business) are analysed. Data scientists have realised that to make sense of all this data, visual dashboards are necessary to enable readers to quickly interpret the results and drill down to the important issues without becoming distracted by the overwhelming volume of data.

PWC’s Halo project is one initiative that is attempting to provide these visual insights. Its application is primarily in audit. One example relates to journals where every journal in a business has been analysed. Dashboards quickly reveal journals that may require further review such as where there may be a high number of postings just below authorisation limits or people outside finance posting journals. In a matter of moments users can drill into the detail of these potentially suspect transactions or filter them further based on additional criteria.

It does lead me to wonder whether we don’t have to take the same mindset when we’re reporting to our clients. In the world of accounting we tend to produce a lot of reports. A typical small business owner will have multiple entities for tax minimisation or asset protection purposes. Most accounting firms deliver to these clients, thankfully mostly electronically these days, individual financial statements and tax returns for these entities. While necessary for compliance purposes they exhibit the same problem as big data – a lot of data of which much is quite meaningless to the client. 

What is needed is for firms to take a different approach – a digital dashboard approach.

Put yourself in the mind of the client. How do they view their business and personal financial affairs? For many everything is wrapped up together – it’s all just part of the same family group. Yet most firms do not provide this type of analysis for their clients – where everything is grouped together in one simple report.

It is for this reason that we developed some years ago a One Page Client Report Excel template, and made it available for free to all Smithink members. Any firms that are not a member can purchase for a nominal $375 (gst inc). (See www.smithink.com/resources)

What does a client want to know?

  1. What is their income broken down from all sources?

  2. How does this compare to last year?

  3. What is their asset position broken down by all their assets?

  4. How does this compare to last year?

  5. How much tax was paid this year and how does that compare to prior years?

  6. When are tax payments due?

What we have found is that many clients then print this report in colour and then laminate it so the client can pin to the wall of their home office.

It is also an important tool in having a broad-based discussion with the client about their business and personal financial affairs – a needs review, which, as many of you are aware, we promote as critical component in developing additional service opportunities and improving clients’ experience with the firm.

So perhaps you should take a moment and put yourself in your client shoes. What would you like to receive, how would you like it presented? Have a look at our One Page Client Report to stimulate your thinking here.

Or come to our Young Guns Workshop 30-31 March, to consider other ways that you can leverage technology to improve your efficiencies and service offerings. Click here for more information.

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David Smith Smithink