5 min read

Are tech solutions the secret your competition is using to beat you?

Even if you aren't a competitive person, you likely know the sting of loss. Whether it’s coming in second in the race or going bankrupt in Monopoly, you have some frame of reference for what it’s like not to be on top.

But the stakes change significantly in business. Competition isn’t optional. When two businesses offer the same essential services to the same group of clients in the same places, they compete. Like it or not. Winning here means more than just bragging rights over dinner. It also means more revenue, better clients, and more opportunities.

In that same vein, losing here is no joke.

So if your accounting firm has its eye on some competitors—or even just firms you admire but don’t compete directly with—you might wonder how they’re doing so well. How are they managing growth? Where do they find the time for new services? How can they handle all that business? Oftentimes, the answer is technology.

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Have you been taking tech for granted?

It’s easy to dismiss tech without even realizing you’re using it. But suffer one short blackout, and you’re sure to get a painful lesson in just how much of your life is enabled by it.

One challenge tech poses is its changeable nature; not SO long ago, FAX ruled the world for getting documents, thoughts, and ideas out to others. Today, it’s a footnote. Keeping up with technology in business is a must, simply to stay ahead of the security curve. But productivity, capacity, and accuracy all benefit from technology as well. Get too far behind, and they’re sure to suffer as well.

Take a good, hard look at the tech stack your firm uses. How many tech solutions are you using just because they “get the job done?” Have you explored whether it could be done faster? Better? With less human input?

Taking your technology for granted means overlooking performance in favor of adequacy. You might not want to rock the boat by shaking things up, but this is an instance where doing so could set you on a far better course.

That doesn’t always mean replacing tech you’re using—sometimes it just means making sure it’s been fully updated and is still actively supported by your vendor. But there’s no harm—and a whole lot of good—that comes from asking the question, “if we used something else out there, would it do a better job for us?”

If you aren’t sure if you’re taking your tech for granted, ask yourself if you can name all the apps and devices your firm uses to get the job done. If you can’t, there’s surely something somewhere in your firm that you’ve overlooked. It might be time to dig in.

 

How is tech a competitive advantage?

You might be like many folks out there, who think of technology only as a tool. It’s how you use it that makes it valuable, right? In part, yes. But the technology itself can make a giant difference. A perfect demonstration of both these truths can be found in a quick analysis of the moon landing in 1969.

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A great deal of the mathematical work done to get us to the moon was manual. But ultimately, computers played a crucial role. In the “how you use it makes it valuable” column: NASA scientists and engineers made it to the moon using computing power that was more than a million times less efficient than the phone that’s likely in your pocket. In the “the technology itself can make an enormous difference” column, they’d have been able to accomplish the moon landing in a fraction of the time using today’s computing power.

So chalk one up for modern productivity; technology offers a clear benefit there. But the accuracy technology offers is another clear competitive advantage. Today’s apps effectively eliminate mistakes—assuming they’re programmed to know where to get the best information from. Standards change, which is why apps are always being updated, refreshed and improved. Keeping them up-to-date ensures you’re getting the biggest benefit in accuracy.

And then there’s capacity. Technology offers a huge competitive advantage here, too. How? By freeing people up to do the things only people can really do. Automating the things that can be automated saves time for everyone in the firm, creating space for more clients, more services and more revenue. It’s worth noting too that very few people are happy spending significant parts of their work week entering data or doing repetitive tasks. Here, technology also makes for happier staff.

 

ROI is king, both in life and in France.

None of this is to say your competition is heavily invested in technology in such a way that it wouldn’t make sense to anyone looking in from the outside. Your competition has done what every responsible business does: analyzed the return on investment for their technology purchases.

It doesn’t make sense for you to lay out huge sums for hardware or software featuring tons of bells and whistles you’ll never use—if there’s something less expensive out there that does what you need just as well. The process of understanding your tech needs and evaluating solutions is a topic all on its own (and one we’ve discussed here!), but one thing you’ll want to make sure of is that the ROI makes sense.

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It isn’t always a clear cut thing to estimate a return on your investment, so be certain about what you need to gain from the tech solution. Do you need more time? Faster turnaround? Better accuracy? Higher margins? It could be all of the above. Be sure to understand just what you would accomplish by implementing a new piece of technology, and weigh that against your current situation.

There are some basic questions you can ask to make some sense of your estimated ROI:

  • What does it cost? Obvious, right? Price greatly mitigates benefit, so do the math here to be sure it all makes sense.
  • What does it enable? Are you freeing up your staff for higher dollar-value tasks? Eliminating errors? Refocusing your hiring to concentrate on bringing in more business? How you use the increased time/money/resources will be one of the greatest contributors to your ROI.
  • Does it save us money/time/resources continuously? Pay attention to the phenomenon of benefit over time. Something that might look expensive or complex initially can save you tons in the long run. Project out how the tech will benefit you for a few years.
  • Does it need lots of hand-holding? Technology that needs constant attention isn’t often a great deal. Your savings quickly evaporate in time spent feeding information to the technology, or patching it to work correctly. Choose tech that has solid support and minimal downtime—this is something vendors can usually share with you. The less time you need to spend with it, the bigger your benefit.
  • When will it need to be replaced? This might seem like a bigger question for hardware than for software. But take stock: will you still even be doing the thing you need the tech for in 5 years? 10? Does the vendor have plans to update the software? Can you imagine anything you might need it to do down the road that it doesn’t right now?

If your competitors are succeeding beyond you, there’s a good chance that technology is at least part of the reason why. And that means you have a chance to catch them.

If your clients’ bookkeeping is still largely a manual operation in your firm, it’s time to put your trust in technology and save tons of money while opening up capacity for higher-value services. Botkeeper works with QBO and Xero, automating bookkeeping using industry-leading artificial intelligence and machine learning. Our partners often save thousands of dollars just in the first six months of use, not to mention the fact that it frees up staff to bring in new business and pursue new services.

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