Accounting has long been regarded as one of the top industries most likely to be made redundant by automated technology – yet it’s an adage Brisbane-based business advisory firm O’Connells OBM have embraced, seeing innovation, particularly in technology, as an opportunity to allow for both quality client service, and enhanced team member experience.
O’Connells OBM were announced as winners of Innovator of the Year at the fourth annual Australian Accounting Awards at a gala dinner at The Sofitel Sydney Wentworth on Friday night, the 26th of May.
Adam Dierselhuis, Director at O’Connells OBM, said firms that aren’t ready to embrace innovation and change will inevitably get left behind, as clients continue to expect their accountants to deliver services beyond simply managing the debits and credits.
“It is easy for all of us to fall prey to the “do what you’ve always done” trap when we get busy with compliance work, but the reality is that innovation benefits all of us – our teams, our clients, and our businesses,” Dierselhuis said after accepting the award.
“You don’t have to be revolutionary or world changing to be innovative and to create new opportunities. As in our own experience – innovation really is about incremental changes and shifts in the way we work – and it starts with simply asking the question – is there a smarter way?” Dierselhuis said.
Dierselhuis attributed the firm’s success to the willingness of team members to embrace and adapt to change, along with the nimble and fast paced approach they take to implementing new ideas, and the support of their Technology Partner, Smarter Business Processes – led by Scott Barber, who they work closely with to design solutions that truly address the problems faced by many accountants trying to deliver innovative services to clients often within archaic systems.
“We are fortunate to have a team that embrace our continuous improvement philosophy, and that sees us constantly questioning existing systems and processes, and, combined with the IT smarts of the team at Smarter Business Process, it means we’ve been able to create solutions that don’t require us to change the way we work, but that simply help us to work smarter,” Dierselhuis said.
The most recent innovation to come from the partnership is FuseDocs®, a piece of Robotic Process Automation software designed to tap into the existing processes commonly used by professional and financial service firms to do the heavy lifting when it comes to repetitive, low value tasks – everything from letter formatting and report preparation, client checklist and document collation, through to automatically compiling client or internal management reports and statements of advice, even updating databases based on a particular trigger action.
The idea for FuseDocs® came about after Dierselhuis “jumped on the tools” to carry out a client task he hadn’t done in over ten years. The realisation from that exercise, “we were asking smart people to do dumb things, because that’s what our systems were asking them to do.”
“If you’re wondering where to start innovating – get frustrated!” Dierselhuis said. “Take the time to sit with your team, understand what’s really happening in your engine room, what processes and systems are driving your team crazy?” he said.
Director of Smarter Business Processes, Scott Barber, believes that by focusing on inefficiencies at the process level within professional service firms, firms will be able to remain competitive in an ever changing marketplace.
“Being competitive takes more than a great product or service. It takes a great team to push a company forward. But when your team are swamped with time-consuming admin processes, how can they be productive and engage in critical tasks like problem solving, client support, and business development?” Mr Barber said.
“Working hand in hand with O’Connells OBM, we’re designing solutions to simplify everyday business processes all aimed at giving professional services teams more time for meaningful work,” Barber said.
Creating time to focus on developing new products or services, enhancing customer experience, or experimenting with new approaches to marketing, should be the most important driver for business to invest in innovation says Dierselhuis.
“FuseDocs® is just one of our recent innovations that address some of the key pains ourselves and others in the industry are facing, but the truth is we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s happening in our firms,” Dierselhuis said.
“Our firms are full of unrealised and hidden efficiencies and improvements that can make us better, faster, smarter so that we can focus on what really matters – building meaningful relationships with our clients and having the time and space to help them innovate within their own businesses.”
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