What is the Fully Integrated Practice?

There are lots of words to explain integration including combining, amalgamating, incorporating, unifying, merging, fusing and assimilating. But, perhaps it’s more helpful to consider what integration isn’t; separation and segregation.

Think about your firm’s information and data, is it separated and segregated?

Here are are some common data sources which are often not fully integrated:

  • Accounts and tax software
  • Practice Management
  • Spreadsheets
  • Email
  • Cloud Accounting
  • Payroll software
  • Email marketing systems
  • Marketing databases

In many accounting firms the tax, accounts and practice management might sit in one back office database. Marketing lists probably exist in another database and there can be data in spreadsheets and email marketing platforms. Meeting records are likely kept in each person’s Outlook mail system. New business opportunities, networking contacts, referrers and onboarding processes locked away in spreadsheets or standalone CRM systems.

If your data is not fully integrated there is a cost in terms of wasted time and lost opportunity. The Fully Integrated Practice is about bringing everyone and everything together around the customer. To enable this to happen, firms are putting Integrated CRM at the heart of the practice.

The four core benefits of being fully integrated are:

  • Automation
  • Compliance
  • Engagement
  • Intelligence

They are in alphabetical order because different firms have different priorities, however, let’s start with automating repeating tasks because this is a key objective for many firms looking to be more efficient.

Take for example the chasing of paperwork. Think about how much time your firm has wasted every day, week, month and year chasing clients for information. How many years has this been going on? How many years could it go on if you don’t do something about it? What will that cost?

With a fully integrated approach reminders will go out automatically to clients. Not only does this save time, it eliminates frustration with your team and reduces bottlenecks by smoothing out the workflow. Less time and hassle and a happier working environment which all boosts productivity.

A Fully Integrated Practice is able to more easily cope with compliance demands.  Content management, data anonomisation and automatically purging data reduces the risk of fines and reputational damage by not complying with GDPR.

Having personal contact information and data centralised in one location is essential if you are to effectively control and maintain GDPR compliance. Personal data spread and buried in personal Outlook folders or excel spreadsheets across multiple desktops is a nightmare to control and manage.

Customer and market engagement is more effective when everything is integrated.

It is likely that your marketing function has various marketing lists covering different segments for targeted communication. For example, companies over a certain VAT threshold, or landlords, or VIP clients that don’t take payroll service etc.

Maintaining these various lists can be a chore if the practice is not fully integrated – and there is a genuine risk of inaccuracy or lack of synergy across the lists. Lists are either out of date, information is sent to the wrong people or people are just not included in mailings.

In a practice that is not integrated everyone has to spend time checking lists, or they just don’t bother to communicate in the first place. A Fully Integrated Practice is able to create lists that are self-maintained, and always up to date. For example, when a client reaches 55 years of age they’ll automatically get added to the Email Marketing “Over 55’s” list. They might also submit a tax return that specifies they now have a second property, so they get added to the “Landlords Target List”.

In terms of practice intelligence, making sense of data, this comes at different levels.

On a day-to-day basis, we find that most partners like to live in their Microsoft Outlook mail system. Generally they would prefer not to have to log into multiple systems to find and update information. And that is a perfectly logical way of looking at it. So, in this situation it makes sense to integrate Outlook with the rest of the practices line of business applications.

For example, when clicking on an email from a client in Outlook, Outlook highlights the amount owed by a client, or what tasks are in progress, or what meetings are scheduled by others within the practice.

At a higher level, Integrated Practice enables powerful reporting and analytics so data can be visualised with graphs to help creating actions. As firms add new services, as transitional revenue dwindles, practice intelligence helps partners identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell to maximise revenue and practice value.

Practice intelligence helps a firm become data driven and make informed decisions rather than using assumptions and guesswork. Do you have real-time recovery rates by partners and manager? Do you know what clients are not buying new services? And, are you aware which clients have not been contacted in the last 60-days?

The benefits of full integration are vast, firms find they experience benefits they perhaps didn’t expect.  Without exception, all of the benefits help to streamline the practice and create a platform to build profitable relationships that makes everyone’s lives easier.

And, with Making Tax Digital looming, building the Fully Integrated Practice has become more important, possibly essential.

To find out more about the Integrated Practice, and to see how integrated CRM for Accountants can make your life easier, get in touch for a demonstration.