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Critical Software skills for the modern practitioner

When hiring, after technical competencies, experience and personal ‘fit’ one of the most important issues a public accounting firm will look for in potential new recruits is their software skills.

The PC is a critical business tool for all practitioners in the twenty-first century – even the sole practitioner working form home – and reliance on I.T. will only become heavier in the years ahead.

So what are they key tools that you will need to be au-fait with?

Well, the key ones would be considered, by most, to be:

· Excel
· Word
· Caseview
· Caseware, and
· Tax preparation software

Pretty obvious, huh?

For most, yes, but there are other programs that, as time goes by, will become highly sought-after software skills.

Of course, there are a number of bookkeeping programs out there, and for the smaller firms, mostly looking after owner-managed businesses, the main ‘players’ would be:

· Quickbooks
· Simply Accounting & Accpac

But there is a new business tool for the forward-thinking/valued-added minded practitioner that I feel is going to be a new ‘must-have’ in time to come as it becomes an industry standard, and that’s Accpac’s CFO and KPI programs.

CFO and KPI will give the modern practitioner a huge advantage over their competitors, and I have been lucky enough to meet with the developer of these tools when recently on a speaking engagement in the USA.

I saw the programs in action during a two-hour presentation that was so ‘in sync’ with my own thinking that I got talking with the guy from Accpac after the seminar and I am presently conducting an in-depth ‘test drive’ of the product to be included in a future issue of my newsletter for practising accountants, ‘LEDGER’.

So what’s so great about these tools and what do they do?

Well, simply put, it’s a tool that systemizes and standardizes value-added business planning services and helps the practitioner turn their client ‘from compliance to relaince’ for want of a better phrase. It also produces a wonderful return on the professional’s time (how does $400 or more an hour sound?).

They are tools that allow you to import last year’s financial results and then sit down with your client and say… ‘now, what would your business look like if we could speed up the time taken to turn receivables into cash?’ Click a button and BOOM – there are the results.

Or how about ‘What plans for growth do you have in the coming year?’ BOOM – this is the effect on cash flow. But it gets better, using KPI you can break down the client’s cash flow and produce a ‘working capital requirement per dollar of revenue generated’ and explain in detail where the clients cash resources go.

This helps the client to understand, if they’ve made $140,000 net profit and drawn $90,000 over the year, why they don’t have an extra $50,000 in the bank at the end of the period.

For some it’s quite alarming. I have already seen cases where a client requires $1.40 of additional working capital for every $1.00 additional revenue generated.

By breaking the issue down to its most basic concept, in many cases the ‘typical’ client (if such a thing exists) suddenly ‘gets it’ and has a far better understanding of what makes the finances of their business tick.

This type of value-added consulting project, for our better clients, is easy to ‘value price’ rather than price by the hour, and the return on your time is way higher than the traditional method of hourly billing.

It’s also easier to sell. From the clients’ perspective they can see benefits of ‘X’, investment of ‘Y’, and they can make an informed buying decision, usually in your favour, pretty quickly if you can explain the concept and benefits well to them.

This type of project is, in my opinion, the way forward for the modern practitioner, and people who learn how to use this program and present the results to the client, will be in high demand before too long.

© 2004-2011, Steve McIntyre-Smith.