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Many small and medium-sized firms want to work more efficiently, and are looking for ways to reduce the time it takes to complete a financial audit file.

Accounting | Tools

How technology can help firms get their time back

Auvenir allows accountants and their clients to upload documents, follow checklists, instant message each other and facilitate financial audit work

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For Mahyar Hansotia, accounting is more than number crunching. For nearly two decades, the president of Mississauga-based Sobel & Company has been advising clients on how to run a more efficient business, how to manage cash flow and, ultimately, how to grow a company into a successful operation. It’s this kind of consulting work the long-time CPA likes most. “It’s a lot of problem solving,” he says. “Our clients rely on us for our knowledge.”

If Hansotia had his way, he’d be doing a lot more advisory work. However, most of his time is spent on tax and audit jobs—and everything that comes with them, such as gathering paperwork, emailing clients and countless calculations. He’d like to find a way to reduce the time it takes to do the more repetitive tax work. “If we could free [up] staff time to do more files, then that frees up my time for consulting work,” he says.

Hansotia is not alone. Many small and medium-sized tax and audit firms want to work more efficiently, according to Auvenir, a Toronto-based company that’s developed software specifically designed for the needs of smaller firms. They surveyed hundreds of smaller firms and their clients and found that many of them are looking for ways to reduce the time it takes to complete a financial audit file.

Smaller firms are using so many systems that aren’t talking to each other, when things should be flowing across an entire engagement

“Firms feel pressure from clients to provide more value, which I believe could more easily be done if they are able to do their audits in less time,” says Neeraj Sharma, Auvenir’s chief marketing and product officer.

Fees are a big challenge for Hansotia. Even though clients need audited financial statements, many still want their accounting firms to charge less. “[Clients] are always looking at their budgets, so we need to think about how much time we can spend on something versus the fees we charge,” he says, “That’s always a dilemma that practitioners have.”

Time-Reducing Technology

Up until recently, smaller firms didn’t have access to the same kind of tech that the bigger firms use. Larger companies run proprietary software that can help them do repetitive tasks, such as filing paperwork or communicating with clients, far faster than they would otherwise, Sharma says.

Smaller firms have had to use a makeshift combination of accounting, file sharing and communication programs and tools. While that can ease some burdens, using multiple programs makes it difficult to keep track of everything, especially during busy season, says Sharma. Unfortunately, these firms can’t create their own programs. “They don’t have the R&D budgets like the bigger firms have and so it’s hard to justify the return on equity for building a solution in-house,” he says.

Auvenir, a Deloitte Venture run by tech entrepreneur Peter Myers, is trying to ease the many pain points smaller firms have by providing them one place for all their accounting and communication needs. The software allows accountants and their clients—both sides have access—to upload documents, follow checklists, instant message each other and facilitate the financial audit work. Everything related to one file is kept in a single place, which cuts down the need to use email, excel files and other programs. “Smaller firms are using so many systems that aren’t talking to each other, when things should be flowing across an entire engagement,” says Sharma, adding he hopes to incorporate artificial intelligence into the program, which could help manage the data needed for the financial audit.

It’s still early days for Auvenir, which plans to launch its product later this year. The company continues to refine its software and add new features, but firms in Canada can test out the program now and provide feedback. “Customers that get in early can have a direct influence on the future of the product,” says Sharma.

For Hansotia, a program that can help him do more with his days—and give him more insights into his clients—is something he’d be willing to try out. “I want something that can give me more time to determine the issues and help my staff learn more, too,” he says. “Efficiency will help us.”