I have been fortunate during my entire career to have had “write-up” services in every firm I have worked for. When I first started my career I was trained in that department which gave me the accounting fundamentals that I never knew would be so valuable as I stretch my career into the high value of business consulting.
Over a decade ago, curiosity got the best of me as I wandered into the “internet” world and the accounting profession. Not much was going on other than a couple small companies with trial balance services. A company called “NetLedger” and another one called “Intacct”. Today these same companies are the market leaders in the “cloud accounting”. NetLedger is now NetSuite a very progressive publicly traded company and Intacct is still Intacct but with a robust offering that is slowly being adopted by the public accounting firms around the country.
Over the last several years there have been numerous stories and studies predicting a comeback of “write-up” services now being referred to as “Client Accounting Services” or CAS because of the enhanced services that can be delivered using the internet based accounting systems of NetSuite, Intacct, QuickBooks Online, Xero and a host of supporting applications built to streamline operations and serve the needs of today’s remote and mobile workforce and business leaders. Seems like this all makes sense but is remote access to accounting data enough to really drive value to bookkeeping services?
I’m in the camp that says absolutely NO! Business owners are much too wise to take that bait. So what is all the hype about CAS being potentially the biggest growth driver public accounting firms has seen in years? The answer lies in the capabilities of these fascinating accounting platforms and all the other cloud based tools that can be seamlessly integrated into the accounting system easier and better than ever before. Think about where the information used to make business decisions comes from. You know what I’m talking about. Where does the information come from that companies use to compute their metrics or key performance indicators (KPI’s), or critical success indicators as some people call them?
Most of that data is buried somewhere in the accounting data as it arises from business transactions that ultimately get recorded in the accounting system. The power of these new platforms and services are that they have the capability of easily reporting information much more robustly than just the common balance sheet, income statement and cash flow like most of the “old” accounting systems. Now they can combine information from different areas of the system to compute things like average sales per customer or sales per square foot or even combine elements from the balance sheet and the income statement to create custom reports that might compute net income net of debt payments. You can now slice and dice your data to report by fund or department or location without have a 10 to 50 digit account number and go through a mental bootcamp every time a new location or division is added. Now we’re talking about delivering valuable information to our business owners and key levels of management.
The value of CAS isn’t in the production of the basic financial statements but in delivering meaningful operational data based on the accounting data and during the same process used to create the financial statements. Could this be done before? Of course it could, but not in a timely manner which is what makes it meaningful and valuable to the business owner. Now this information can be delivered as soon as the data is in the system which can be as quickly as it happens in “real time”. Throw in a real-time dashboard and business owners have real-time snapshots of their KPI’s whenever they want them and accessible from where ever they may be as long as they have internet access. This is value they are willing to pay for and that’s how you deliver true value with the new “write-up” service.