Being spoiled for choice can have both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand you are sure to find what you are looking for, on the other hand, having too much choice can be time consuming and confusing.
For many small businesses, the rapid acceleration to a digital future brought on by the global pandemic put them in exactly this position. With a raft of digital tools and software platform options out there, choosing the right one was more important than ever as businesses struggled to adapt to changing conditions.
The good news is that with the help of their trusted advisor, many small business owners are emerging from the past two years with an arsenal of digital tools driving their business towards growth, according to the State of the Industry report from cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses, Xero.
The report, which was released in March 2022, is based on a survey of over 500 accountants and bookkeepers, and looks at how they have responded to the disruption, current industry trends, and the outlook for the year ahead.
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Survey respondents attributed the pandemic as the reason for small businesses to consider how they use digital solutions, with 49 percent saying they have seen a change in clients’ attitudes towards technology adoption.
With this switch of attitude came a reliance on advisors to lead their clients through the digital options to help them implement new technologies and workflows.
Shaping digital decisions
For tech expert Beau Gaudron from accounting firm Growthwise, narrowing down the choices is one of the first steps to take when working with a client looking for digital solutions.
“The two biggest challenges our clients face are usually the choice of product that’s available in the market that might address a problem they are having, or if they are already using digital tools, the challenge is often the change management process of moving to a new product,” he says.
Gaudron says in an environment where there is so much choice, being able to pinpoint the client’s problem and help them see how it can be targeted by specific tools is crucial to the final decision.
“We have a discovery session where we map the current processes of the business and talk through the pain points to identify where they may be able to find efficiencies and which digital tools they might need. We are looking for the areas where there will be the most impact, rather than digitising 100% of operations,” says Gaudron.
Gaudron is not alone in guiding client’s software choices. The Xero survey indicates that three fifths (63%) of advisors influence the software decisions of their clients, and those who did so were found to have 40% more small business clients than their peers.
Freeing up time
As the pandemic has shown, the efficiencies of digital tools are vast and can be adapted to suit any business. From invoicing and payroll solutions, to project management and inventory software, more and more small businesses are either making the switch, or starting off in a digital world.
“People that are entering the market now aren’t going to run their business on paper. They are on iPads, they are using the cloud and they want to be set up from the start where they’re not reliant on non-digital records. Digitisation has been a key goal from day one,” says Gaudron.
Gaudron also says the benefit of working with a client to help them discover the best way to manage business processes means you can adapt the software and tools as needed throughout the business’s growth.
So, where should small businesses start?
“It might be tempting to do a thousand things at once, but in practice, it’s very difficult. It’s often better to start with a key function that really needs to be solved now, knowing that there are some other issues that may take a bit longer to implement the change needed,” says Gaudron.
Being realistic about how quickly your company can improve its use of technology is one important step. It is also helpful to clearly understand why you want to switch to a different process, it may be to improve efficiency, or because you need to free up staff to do other tasks. Whatever the reasons, knowing why you want to use the technology will ultimately guide which platform or software you choose.
Finally, doing the research and seeking expert help if needed can ensure your business doesn’t waste time or money – and set your business on the path to growth in a digital age.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 3 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners.