AdvanceTrack catches up with its new APAC General Manager Craig McKell. Craig’s tech and accounting experience will hold him in good stead to drive AdvanceTrack forward in both Australia and the wider Asia Pacific region.

 

Current role and responsibilities

I’m driving marketing and sales for AdvanceTrack in Australia and New Zealand, as general manager Asia-Pacific.

What is your background?

It’s fair to describe my career as split into two. Firstly, I worked as a chartered accountant in Australia within professional services and consulting firms. I started as a trainee at Price Waterhouse (before it became PricewaterhouseCoopers and later PwC) and eventually became a partner at EY.

And then second part of my career: in the early 2000s, like a lot of people, I got headhunted into an ‘e-business’ start-up. Following a second stint at PwC, I found myself driving sales for this organisation, living on airplanes and in airport lounges, flying around Asia selling telco technology to the tier 1 organisations.

The transition came into effect because at PwC I had spent time in its risk management (GRMS – Global Risk Management Solutions) and e-business divisions, giving presentations and educating clients on e-business (remember that??!). A company called Teradyne was funding an internal start-up and they asked me to join to head up their new Australian business. It was all very exciting, but I found myself leaving an accounting world of numbers, rigour and process for a sales world where there was absolutely none of that. And in that absence, came the idea for what is now RevenueTEK.

I started RevenueTEK in 2005 as a consulting offering inside EY’s Strategic Growth Markets business. When I left in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis, the firm was kind enough to allow me to take the IP that I had created with me. Essentially RevenueTEK is an organisation that applies mathematics and process optimisation disciplines to business sales pipelines – combining my two areas of expertise and quite frankly, passion.

How did you get the role?

A friend of mine, Ian Briggs (a recruiter), contacted me out of the blue and said: “I think I have someone you should talk to.” That someone was Vipul Sheth, CEO and founder of AdvanceTrack. Ian was right.

In August 2023 I heard Vipul give a talk about his belief in the trusted adviser status of accounting practitioners, and the immense value they provide – when they want to. It really resonated with me. We then chatted and just clicked. Those who know Vipul know that he has a very engaging style – full of integrity, humility, and honesty. While I wasn’t looking for a “job” per se, I was interested in getting involved in something compelling and making a difference. I could almost immediately feel Vipul and I could work well together.

I have a pretty good network here in Australia and 35+ years of experience across professional accounting and technology. It’s already proving to be an interesting challenge for me because it turns out there’s a lot more to outsourcing accountants than meets the eye… as the entire global accounting profession is beginning to realise.

Tell us more about Australian accountants and the software industry?

Australians are big embracers of technology. We’ve always been enthusiastic early-adopters. Accountants, while naturally and professionally conservative, aren’t dismissive of new things, providing someone else has done something and proved it works. Many of them have tried offshoring – but generally those experiences have been poor. So naturally, as a cohort, they’re sceptical now, even though they accept the need to do it.

Few here in Australia have explored outsourcing (versus offshoring). There are two main reasons for that. Firstly, because very few of the “providers” here have the capability to take on outsourcing. They’re recruiters really; they source people in India or the Philippines (or elsewhere) and they ‘employ’ them on the accounting firm’s behalf. But basically, they’re recruiters. By nature and definition that whole model is very transactional. It also depends for its viability on the opportunity to arbitrage the salary differentials between countries. For any number of reasons, it’s a world away from outsourcing.

So, unlike places like the UK, Australian firms’ experiences have most come courtesy of recruiters effectively acting as the outsourcing arbiter – however, recruiters are transactional and won’t support the practices through the consultative and integrative aspects of utilising ‘dislocated’ staff.

A lot of firms struggle to run their own HR processes effectively. Parachuting in offshored staff won’t help if that’s the case – and while it’s an elephant in most rooms, it’s nonetheless the truth. Handing a HR mess off to an offshore recruiter may find you people, but it’ll end up making the underlying problem worse rather than better.

Practices have looked to the major accountancy tech platforms to provide answers. But they’re selling transactional accounting engines, not people management solutions.

I’d certainly challenge the practices and ask: Do you want to be a reseller of tech, or a client-driven adviser? With the waves of compliance that clients and firms face, outsourcing – if used effectively – can be a boon, as seen by AdvanceTrack’s UK practice partners.

What do you expect it to entail? How have the first months gone?

It’s been good. The first few months have been a learning experience, and now we’re into the new year we can push on. I feel like I’m in a good place; I’m working with an organisation with integrity, and they offer a genuine, well-thought-out solution to the acute shortage of accountants. A problem, incidentally, which isn’t going away any time soon.

What does success in your role, and for AdvanceTrack, look like?

AdvanceTrack is actually an accounting firm itself. What we’re offering that sets us apart from just about every other provider in the market is an extension of an accounting firm. It’s like bolting on another firm, just one that’s in India rather than Australia or New Zealand or wherever. I think that’s a big reason for why it has been so successful in the UK in recent years. Vipul invested in technology and process – to make sure that it works and scales, alongside great people with good technical and communication skills… as I said, like a great accounting firm. I’ll consider myself a success if I help make AdvanceTrack the outsourcer of choice for top firms in ANZ. If we continue to grow, we’ll earn the reputation that AdvanceTrack has earnt in the UK and Ireland. When you do good things, good things then follow!

 

Driving change in an accounting practice is notoriously difficult. MD Vipul Sheth runs through the change aspects that you’ll need to grasp to make outsourcing or offshoring successful.

 

The metronome that is accounting and tax work often makes for a workplace and culture that is change-averse.

This is not a criticism. All organisations have rhythm and some order to what they do: whether farming, construction or indeed accountancy.

But a lot has changed, and is changing, in the world around us – more quickly than ever. That means the rules by which practices operate, the technology they use, and the needs of the clients, are shifting.

Utilising outsourcing or offshoring requires change. And for practices, looking to move their critical production work away from the confines of their office (or indeed the country in which they operate) can be a scary and risky proposition.

A step change

So, what changes will an accountancy firm go through when outsourcing or offshoring? As previously stated, you will have people potentially far away undertaking work on behalf of your firm. And if they are isolated, they will never be able to support your firm effectively. So, you must understand that you and your service provider will need to keep collaborating with each other.

Wish list

Your accounting practice will then need to run a procurement process, and starting that off requires you to set out a ‘wish list’ of what you are looking for from your provider. This could (and should) include: physical and IT security accreditations; values and cognisance of the law relating to employment/privacy/IT security. There are also ethical questions too; as a profession, accountants should be beyond reproach – your outsourcer should mirror that.

Outsourcing vs offshoring

It sounds counter-intuitive that offshoring (the setting of someone to work on your firm’s behalf, full-time) is a slightly easier change process to manage than outsourcing (where multiple people could work for you as required). Basically, if you have someone new to work for you, they are trained and utilised – which would effectively be the case with an offshored member of staff. But if the project presented is ‘AdvanceTrack is supporting us with outsourcing’, then more structure is needed in place. In the latter, it’s vital to remember that outsourced provision is still ‘human’.

Good signs

We’ve discussed the traits of practices that work well with us before (click here to read more). But it’s worth pointing out that any kind of change project requires senior support – leadership must be upfront and clear about what the project is looking to achieve, why and what change it is likely to involve. Of course, involving those most affected by the change early on is a great way to to achieve buy-in.

What’s missing?

Outsourcing and offshoring projects, like all other projects, sometimes fail. We have seen some not work out. Open communication and collaboration, as mentioned before are crucial.

If those lines shut down then it will fail… you will see staff that are meant to utilise the support just not bother (‘we told you it wouldn’t work’). And that’s more likely to happen if they weren’t involved enough during the earlier stages of the project. Remember that change is scary for those directly involved – particularly if is framed around their roles changing or disappearing. Secondly, if metrics aren’t put in place to measure the project’s success then it can’t ‘stick up for itself’.

Improvements in work turnaround, lock-up, and revenue per head should follow the use of outsourcing or offshoring, so they’re core metrics to gauge the project’s success.

The outsourcer’s role

AdvanceTrack doesn’t sit quietly on the sidelines while these projects unfold… we have world-class processes and delivery models. It is inevitable that a firm working with us will have to modify what they do in some way shape or form. This may even come down to the fundamentals of the work that your team undertakes: if we pick up lots of production work then that usually frees up your team members’ time to undertake evaluation and review work, or have more client communication.

Secondly, many outsourcers see themselves as offering ‘extra bodies’, where we see tech and systems as integral in making this work as smooth and efficient as possible. Good systems and processes should support you in your measuring and benchmarking too.

While tax and accounting rules develop annually, the fundamentals of how accountants work has been relatively stable since software became widespread in the 1980s. But the ability to operate in the cloud, AI, outsourcing, the digitisation of compliance, and increasing client requirements are driving accountancy forward. Are you and your people willing and ready to meet change head-on?

 

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack

If you’d like to chat about driving change in your accountancy practice, please get in touch by clicking here.

Chatter about Making Tax Digital is picking up, but this is a situation where allowing compliance to drive change might put you behind the curve, rather than in front, notes Kevin Reed.

The trundling (some may say stumbling) juggernaut that is Making Tax Digital saw some new information come to light in the last few days… but whether the pace (or) direction of its delivery has changed is very questionable.

First-off, the most-publicised titbits came via a new policy document from HMRC. The tax authority set out some more detail about MTD’s introduction for sole traders and landlords in the income bracket of £30k to £50k (from April 2027).

While more of a summary of recent thinking and announcements, what did catch the eye was the whooping £561m transitional cost of moving to MTD for this tranche of micro businesses; with an ongoing annual cost of £196m a year. And between 2027 and 2029, the increased tax take from digitising these businesses’ records will equate to around £1.3bn.

Talking tax

Just a few days’ earlier Intuit held a very interesting webinar with HMRC director general of customer strategy & tax design Jonathan Athow, which hasn’t received the same level of interest. The webinar (or ‘fireside chat’ as it was badged) aimed to discuss HMRC’s modernisation plans; MTD; and ‘putting the customer at the heart of HMC’s agenda’.

Did Athow throw any metaphorical grenades out there? Within a well-managed webinar (‘fireside chat’) that was unlikely. But it was interesting to hear him say the quicker information is received then the more accurate it’s likely to be… that may seem counterintuitive but makes more sense within the context of digital transactions flowing in real-time into accounting/tax records. And digital transactions are more likely to have a level of automation (and less chance of humans getting things wrong).

Athow then said that this change would lead to “more timely payments”. This was a bit of an eyebrow raiser as it could be taken as ‘payments closer to the time of transaction’. That doesn’t have to mean quarterly – though we all suspect that’s a goal for the medium-term. In fairness, paying tax in January that occurred months and months before is a strange one (I whispered that in my head as I wrote it).

Digital communication

Further digitisation is to follow, Athow added. Again, a bit of a no-brainer but you do wonder how this would work in an increasingly complex tax environment. Perhaps AI will be the layer of computational excellence that helps taxpayers get to the answers they want? Of course, this may put tax advisers’ role at risk, which made me think mischievously about an arms race between HMRC’s AI and that of the accountants themselves.

Perhaps, even more surreally, we can have tax disputes communicated between the adviser and tax authority with their respective AIs chuntering to each other? Who knows, they might even fall in love – though one suspects the adviser’s AI will get frustrated at HMRC’s tardiness at replying to (digital) letters.

While Athow (thankfully) didn’t explicitly go down the direction of AI, he did say that MTD was “exciting” because of the potential to use third-party data to help pre-populate tax forms – however, that will need to be managed very carefully. An alternative would be to use that data to help ‘nudge’ someone filling in a form to double-check the answer they’ve given i.e. ‘are you certain that’s right?’

Performance anxiety

Athow also addressed the elephant in the room: HMRC service standards are not being met. While “hotspots” such as VAT registration have been targeted, it’s all in the context of growing tax complexity, and a resource-constrained department.

Digitisation, particularly where it can support people to self-serve, will help – but that requires investment and Athow notes that decades-old legislation can “constrain” modernisation.

He also notes that the stars must align somewhat for this to all work, namely: HMRC; the taxpayers; the software industry; and the accountancy/tax profession. “It’s a challenging delivery but we’re doubling down on efforts to get to April 2026 (for qualifying income over £50,000).”

The upshot

One can’t help thinking we’ve been here before (we have). Admitting that the latest MTD deadlines are “a challenge” and that “we want to work with all partners on this to make sure we’re aligned” doesn’t build a system that can handle millions of quarterly submissions. It hasn’t built one before.

However, the direction of travel is set. It is an inevitability that, at some point down the line, we will end up with a PAYE-style self-assessment system – or even real-time tax. It’s a question of when, not if. MTD is step down that path… albeit a tentative step we’ve been waiting for a while.

Yet the ‘when’ is not to be underplayed. In these circumstances, it could make a huge difference in terms of software companies’ focus, or even the efforts that a practitioner makes in pushing their clients down the route of digitisation.

It is, after all, a sad inevitability that regulation and compliance drive technological and operational change in business, rather than those changes initially made to produce meaningful insight to increase profits, or be more efficient.

Market forces

The irony is that, despite the excruciating wait for MTD, many practices have grasped the nettle and pushed their clients down various technological and digital pathways. The ease with which new practices can set up using a basic app stack has seen many formed in recent years, alongside a plethora of mergers and consolidations in the accountancy market that has seen a steady flow of accountants and tax advisers then leave to control their own destiny.

The likes of AdvanceTrack have supported new and existing practices to improve processes and support resource, particularly as the pandemic drove home to accountants’ clients their need for help beyond compliance.

Perhaps then, after all, it will be the market that drives the digital, automated and intelligent back-office, rather than the government’s desire to close the tax gap. Much better this way around than explaining to clients that their tech costs are to increase and, perhaps, their tax bill too.

Kevin Reed is a freelance journalist and editor of Financial Accountant magazine.

AdvanceTrack’s conference gets a new name and new approach… join us at our ‘growth booster’ event!

At AdvanceTrack we never stay still. As a business that has existed for 21 years, and whose growth is still high, the only way to achieve is through a continually evolving plan alongside investment in people and technology.

Our new ‘accounting practice growth booster’ event, GBX is our investment in developing our conference into a series of sessions designed to support you in growing your firm.

We have gathered some of the best and brightest to deliver our event!

Almost needing no introduction is Dragon’s Den star and business investor James Caan CBE. James founded his own recruitment business, Alexander Mann, which he would sell for £95m. Investing in himself, James then attended Harvard Business School before starting a recruitment investment organisation, Hamilton Bradshaw.

Again, a familiar name to accounting practitioners is our next keynote speaker, Xero co-founder Hamish Edwards. In his role at Xero, Hamish has played a pivotal role in revolutionising the way businesses manage their finances, and this has had a  big impact on the practice community too.

Hamish is executive chairman of Firmcheck, an AML management system for practices which launched in 2022.

Our founder Vipul Sheth and CTO Ian Gregory will update attendees on the future of AdvanceTrack, and where we all fit in a world which continues to develop at a rapid pace.

Other guests include:

  • Anneli Thomson, Sandler
  • Aynsley Damery, Clarity
  • David Hassall, XU Magazine
  • Louise Walpole, Moneypenny
  • Paul Shrimpling, Remarkable Practice
  • Matt Flanagan, Bluehub

 

Final point… save the date! We’d love to see you on 14 May – we will be at the British Museum. If you’d like to find out more please contact us by clicking the link here.

 

If outsourcing works so well, shouldn’t my practice just set up its own unit?

 

The outsourcing and offshoring market has grown markedly in recent years. There are many reasons why that’s the case, but the key one is a difficulty among practices to keep up with increasing workloads – they just can’t employ enough people to undertake the work.

Coupled with the take-up or remote working during the pandemic; utilising technically competent people from other parts of the world has become more better understood and attractive.

Many practices have struck out on their own, employing staff abroad. Therefore, it is understandable that some practitioners will ask us the rhetorical question: Why wouldn’t we set up remote working abroad ourselves?

Time, money, expertise

What AdvanceTrack and its people bring to the table is years of experience of running an outsourcing and offshoring operation. Our people are our most vital resource, but they are underpinned by a huge investment in the best and most secure technology, supplemented by robust processes and workflows.

Increasing your resource, particularly in other countries, is much more than a ‘recruitment’ challenge. We have seen practices employ individuals abroad only to see them left to work from home, often sitting in different time zones to the UK practice – that’s a tough working environment, and sub-optimal.

We employ hundreds of accounting professionals, who work for our partner practices but also share a common bond, operating from one of our centres. They are in fact a community on their own behalf. And that’s without going into all the detail of the physical and digital security and processes that we adhere to (details on those can be found in other blogs).

Our managers can work with the teams to deal with issues, often without having to disrupt the partner practice. The team we have built is vastly experienced, has its own ecosystem and career pathways – again, this saves our partner practices from time-consuming day-to-day management and oversight.

It’s worth reiterating that our business is now more than 20 years’ old, and our people work alongside successful and award-winning practices. Rather than go out on a limb, we would suggest that working with us is a better way of investing in resource.

 

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing

If you’d like to talk to us about resource management and our people, get in touch by clicking here

What’s around the corner? Vipul Sheth predicts the direction of travel for some of the big issues impacting accountancy – and the wider world – in the coming months.

Accountancy consolidators

You only have to take a look at the Accountancy Age list of top firms to see the consolidators – generally those backed by private equity – are shooting up the charts. Growing revenue inorganically though is not necessarily a measure of success; the first wave of consolidators during the noughties all failed to develop synergies, economies of scale, or use their mass to win bigger or more valuable clients.

New practices can grow quickly but then hit scaling issues, as clients demand more time and more complex servicing. Larger practices are built on years of client and people development – but consolidation can be disruptive. I expect to see some of the private equity houses look to sell on and make a good return… how easy that will be is very much up for debate.

Election

We will have an election in the UK this year, and it’s by no means certain that the current incumbents will stay in power. Whatever the case may be, I hope for greater stability and planning in its thinking to encourage growth.

A bugbear of mine has been this government’s lack of planning to encourage entrepreneurs and investors to stay here and invest. There are EU countries ready to snap up the best people through a combination of their tax treatment and both residence- and investment-friendly policies. Can whoever forms the next government drive the economy forwards?

AI

We couldn’t have a ‘2024’ list without mentioning AI. The ‘warm glow’ created by ChatGPT still exists, but now time will tell whether AI can revolutionise how we as citizens live and work.

Certainly, there’s been concern among corporates (and governments) about making information freely available to be absorbed and interpreted into large language models. The next step could be AI platforms placed in ‘data bubbles’, with organisations then linking the platform with their own systems and information to help inform decision-making (as well as automating tasks).

Conversely, software providers are also adapting and embedding AI into their solutions.

Whether these private data bubbles will be effective or not, when information into them is constricted, remains to be seen – but it will be fascinating to find out the next level of AI utilisation in the real world.

Shared services and outsourcing

You can see in AdvanceTrack’s own growth that firms know they need resource and the recruitment market is difficult and costly. They are looking for someone they can entrust with supporting their practice. Some firms have looked to maintain control by setting up centres abroad – to varying degrees of success.

Expect to see more and more practices look to grasp the resources nettle – which will mean the outsourcing/offshoring offering will become more popular. I hope that, as firms transition towards models that involve greater automation and external resourcing, they stay laser-guided on developing their existing people while keeping a keen eye on what their clients want from them.

It is by no means easy to undertake that task, but resourcing is a means to an end. Without understanding what you want your firm and its people to provide (and to whom), then everything undertaken is done without foundation.

I wish you all the best during what is likely to be another busy and exciting year.

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing

If you’d like to chat about developing your accountancy practice, please get in touch by clicking here

We chat with operations director Arjun Brahmbhatt about his journey with AdvanceTrack, and how accountancy practices have come to appreciate our outsourcing values.

Current role and responsibilities

I’m director of operations here at AdvanceTrack. As the senior team member for our Indian operations my role is to manage client relationships, delivery standards and ensure that quality is maintained.

What is your background?

I joined AdvanceTrack back in 2008. It was my first assignment! I’d completed my Indian chartered accountancy qualifications and then joined AdvanceTrack directly after doing so.

When I joined, UK practice and business was new to me – I had good accounting knowledge but needed more. AdvanceTrack founder Vipul Sheth supported me in developing my accounting, bookkeeping and payroll skills – and of course we still deliver these services today.

Since then, my role has changed to become the teacher, and managing the team. Training is an ongoing process, as is reviewing work.

What is the future for you and AdvanceTrack?

At AdvanceTrack we’ve always been very particular about how we undertake our work – strong processes and with robust security.

Before Covid we would often find resistance from practices that were not so concerned about some of our ‘checks and balances’ – wanting things done quickly or in different ways.

But, as things have developed, clients now appreciate and value our way of working – Referrals are growing and we are becoming bigger. We are also a ‘pure’ outsourcer/offshorer – it is our only focus, which is not always the case in the market.

Our next step is growing the business in other regions – it is an exciting time!

 

A demanding and challenging year – but a rewarding one for both AdvanceTrack and its accountancy partners.

In a stuttering economy, one held back by high inflation and interest rates, AdvanceTrack celebrated its 20th year in business; a highlight was our annual conference at the British Museum.

Despite the tough conditions, we have seen outsourcing and offshoring appreciated as a key plank of the operational and strategic direction for accountancy practices. And not just in the UK, but across the world.

Practices’ services have been in demand, and we have worked more closely than ever with them to work through resourcing bottlenecks or, more often the case, as the backbone of their core services. In doing so we’re very proud to have maintained compound growth of 60%… Can we do that again in 2024? Well, that’s a tough ask – but not too shabby for a 20-year-old business!

Opportunity and investment

Keeping such a level of growth requires investment, opportunity and ambition. Seasoned accountancy tech pro Dermot Hamblin joined the team in the spring as sales director, and our longest-serving team members were awarded with a five-day trip to Dubai.

Staff numbers have increased, as have our office locations. We expect numbers of both to rise again in the next 12 months.

Speaking of our team – it seems a great opportunity to announce that former EY partner Craig McKell has joined AdvanceTrack. Based in Sydney, Australia, the chartered accountant will support our growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Craig has run a tech business for more than ten years and understands the steps to scale an organisation. AdvanceTrack has a core of experienced professionals managing at both strategic and operational levels. As important, we’re ready to take things to the next stage.

Our conduct and service

What we don’t expect to change at AdvanceTrack is our commitment to both service and our conduct. We consider ourselves as values-based, and we like to think that our accountancy firm partners would vouch for us as living to our principles.

The practice market

It’s been spoken about in recent blogs, but we will say it again: the inner workings of practices must be streamlined, efficient and provide insight to the clientele. Without these things in place then everything becomes much harder for the practice to operate day-to-day or to make a good profit. And, inevitably, margins erode.

Even though the working world is tough, practitioners are in a great position to support their end clients through the sharing of important and timely financial or business information – whether it’s cashflow advice, debt restructuring, credit control or more. My biggest concern is practices not grasping the nettle of automation, process improvement and tech investment to streamline and make efficient their core compliance services. Perhaps more will come out in the wash during 2024.

We see audit as a huge area of growth for practices and, therefore, us too. Our audit services offering will grow in the next 12 months as firms look to manage resources. Management accounts and bookkeeping will also be critical. We will make another big round of investment in our tech – and no doubt there will be more chatter and developments in the AI space too.

The next 12 months will be transformative in the way we deliver services to clients, and perhaps your firm is looking to achieve the same thing too. Let’s see what we can do together.

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing

Short-term and populist policy-making is failing those that drive the UK economy, argues Vipul Sheth.

So, another Autumn Statement is announced, and chancellor Hunt has attempted to partly row back on the huge tax take caused by fiscal drag through reductions in National Insurance.

As an ‘entrepreneur’, I found the announcements underwhelming. Capital allowances expensing at 100% in the first year was welcome, but there wasn’t much beyond what was an extension of existing tax rules.

Broadly speaking, and without getting into tax minutiae, I feel that the way entrepreneurs and business owners are taxed is usually driven by political, and therefore short-term, thinking.

We’ve seen in recent years how Entrepreneur’s Relief (now known as Business Asset Disposal Relief) was slashed (by our now-prime minister Rishi Sunak during the 2020 Budget). And the way inward investment, and investors, are treated is inconsistent and not hugely competitive.

There has also been discussion about changing Business Property Relief (which is relief against IHT when passing a businesses’ assets onto a beneficiary). There are numerous successful, family-owned, businesses that would more than likely end up in the clutches of private equity if this relief was reduced.

In an economic slump, we won’t improve it by letting entrepreneurs either leave the country, or by disincentivising their efforts.

As someone who grew up in Coventry and saw the importance of manufacturing to the local ecosystem during the 70s and 80s, I do wonder who will create the businesses to support the myriad of new-build housing developments popping up along out-of-town A-roads around the UK.

Let’s be a nation that encourages investment, entrepreneurialism, and drives the economy forward. Not one that is short-termist, and where politicians prey on envy to misdirect the public.

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing.

Another tranche of practitioners is considering the cloud, but are they doing it for the right reasons? asks AdvanceTrack MD Vipul Sheth.

We all know and appreciate that once you’ve ‘been around the block’, you usually come back to the same point but at a different time.

For us experienced in practice, tax and/or technology, hearing similar conversations or seeing similar things happen is the norm. Sometimes these situations happen over many years – sometimes, for example, we get new chancellors saying the same thing every year.

There is now a sizeable tranche of accounting practices that made large, sometimes wholesale, moves to operate in the cloud over the past five-to-ten years. These early adopters could see the value of flexibility and security afforded by running their business in the cloud.

But there is a very sizeable tranche of practices that haven’t made that move – or are only now considering it (and often through their old tech becoming obsolete – or upon request of their clients). Certainly, at numerous events this year, I’ve heard conversations about ‘tell me about the cloud’ that wouldn’t have been out of place ten years ago. 

Practitioners that feel they’re being ‘dragged into’ updating their tech stack are, in my opinion, unlikely to make the most of the change. I’d envisage they would try and replicate out exactly how they worked before any fundamental IT or operational switch-up.

While I have concerns about their approach, it is at least positive to see them attending events in the first instance – there is certainly a wealth of information that they can receive.

Full circle

The early cloud adopters, generally, understand where they’re heading – and also have a mature approach to IT investment and management. They will need advice and support from their tech providers, but this will often be strategic support as opposed to hand-holding.

There is certainly a concern that a wave of late adopters may eat up the time and energies of the major tech platform providers in the coming months and years. This may even see support costs rise across the board – which, after recent tech licence increases, would certainly be unpopular.

Ultimately, we need these late adopters to build a plan. This should start with the basic question: What are they going to deliver and to whom. Even if there is no alteration in that plan, asking the question should precede any major tech change, because those answers must be clear before asking: ‘how am I going to deliver?’

Certainly, a poorly planned update to platforms and systems will end up failing – clients will simply walk. As mentioned earlier, there’s tons of good content out there – whether at Accountex, trade shows or the ACCA and Xero roadshows that AdvanceTrack has partaken in.

Invest your time, and your thoughts, into making your practice future-proof.

Vipul Sheth is MD and founder of AdvanceTrack

We’d love to hear from you if considering your strategy. Maybe we can help. Get in contact by clicking here