Industry Views

What can accounting firms learn from Formula One?

June 21, 2017

The 2017 Formula One World Championship is in full swing. Nico Rosberg raced to victory last year, pipping team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the post in an action packed finale. As the drivers pursue this year’s title, what can accounting firms learn from this fast paced, technology-driven sport?

Fuelled by technology

The F1 brand is one of a kind, with a vast international fan base and audiences in the hundreds of millions. Despite running for over 65 years, F1 is still at the very pinnacle of motor sport – an elite competition at the cutting edge of innovation. F1 is focused on staying ahead by employing the best engineering expertise, software and skills to push their cars and drivers to the limits. In its own words, F1 heavily invests in the ‘latest technology’ in order to gain a competitive edge.

Similarly, having the right automated and cloud-based tools can provide accountants with the infrastructure needed to improve the speed and quality of their own performance. With the rate of adoption of software and automated accountancy tools increasing, it will be essential that practices determine how they will integrate new technologies when planning for the future in order to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace.

Data crunching for smarter performance

It was a matter of seconds that separated Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in last year’s final lap. With a finish that close, even shaving off a hundredth of a second counts. By fitting sensors to a car and feeding data back to the pit teams, F1 uses automated insights to address faults and improve speeds on the track.

Reducing time and resource spent on traditionally labour intensive processes, such as manual data entry, should be no less vital for accountants and bookkeepers. Advances in data management technology mean that accounting firms have a powerful set of tools at their disposal to improve productivity and cut costs.

This type of software is so effective as it allows users to capture and analyse scanned and photographed paper documents, such as invoices, receipts, bank and card statements – automating data entry into your bookkeeping solution. However not all solutions were made equal and certain products will enable you to do more, faster. For instance, the capture of tax summaries, and if requested, full line item details including description, quantity and unit price. The right platform can remember how you categorise your expenses such as the relevant supplier account, nominal account and tax code without ever posting duplicate invoices in your chosen bookkeeping solution. It will even be able to match invoices to purchase orders, saving firms significant amounts of time in lost productivity.

Keeping calm under pressure

Reaching speeds of over 200mph, F1 drivers need confidence in their own skills and the quality of their car to take them to the finish line.     

Accountants may feel like they are often in fifth gear too. Navigating client requests, keeping abreast of changing legislation and economic pressures, the demands of tax season and long hours of paperwork. Like F1, the nature of the job will always be action packed, but accountants should seek new ways to eliminate unnecessary and outdated practices – such as those associated with traditional bookkeeping and manual data entry. Those that will thrive will be the ones using technology to improve accuracy and eliminate the frustrations of processing paper documents by hand, keeping employees cool, calm and collected at all times.

Performance analysis

After the closing lap, F1 teams don’t just head home. Drivers, coaches and management scrutinise racetrack performance and measure it against KPIs. It shouldn’t be different for accounting firms. It’s just as important to analyse your performance to get a true picture of factors such as time spent on paperwork, ‘shoebox clients’ manual data entry vs. profit, and from that, evaluate where improvements can be made in the practice.

Whilst there may be some obvious differences between F1 and accountancy firms, those businesses which are able to emulate the F1’s use of smart technologies will see the greatest improvement to their bottom line. Businesses which embrace the latest tools and explore new ways of working are those which will stand at the top of the podium.