5 reasons to automate client data acquisition

Automated tools and techniques now play a big part in audit and tax compliance services and have increased the use of client data by accounting firms. However, while tools such as data analytics and artificial intelligence have advanced significantly, many firms are still reliant upon traditional data processes for the acquisition of data.

As accounting firms mature from desktop applications to the cloud — a process expedited by the critical need for remote working in 2020 — several traditional working practices are straining to remain relevant.

Automated data acquisition has emerged as a critical need for firms seeking to maximize the opportunity presented by emerging technologies. But what are the key reasons firms should be investing in this area?

1. Industry niche insights
Automated data acquisition standardizes the data you receive. Instead of data being dispersed throughout the firm in varied forms, it is consistently formatted and centrally stored.

Automated data acquisition allows firms to produce differentiating insights more easily, such as industry niche benchmarking analysis.
2. Confidentiality and risk
The confidentiality of client data is paramount. Yet traditional methods of data acquisition expose many weaknesses in protecting that data. From emailing of files, through to the duplication of the data across multiple machines, the practices create unnecessary risks.

Automated data acquisition significantly reduces that risk, creating a secure transfer of data, with centralized storage and security measures.
3. Fraud
One of the most common uses of data in the audit process is journal entry testing, for the purposes of detecting fraud. Many tools are available to support this process, yet often rely on firms obtaining system reports from clients. No matter how sophisticated the tool, they will fail if fraudsters manipulate the reports before sharing with their auditors.

Automated data acquisition removes the risk of flawed data analysis.
4. Junior staff find it boring
Few new hires set off on a career in accounting to be able to manipulate data in Excel. Yet that is what many hours of junior time is spent doing. Such individuals rarely hold the data scientist skills necessary to make this an effective use of time. And that lack of skills can impair the resulting accuracy of the data.

Automated data acquisition frees junior staff from a low-value, demotivating activity.
5. Building a data asset
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The impact of data is often considered purely at the individual engagement level, with examples or efficiency gains on new analysis. Yet firms should think bigger regarding their use of data.

Automated data acquisition allows firms to create a valuable byproduct — a data lake holding detailed, reliable data from their client base. This can unlock new advisory opportunities from the compliance client base.

With such a comprehensive impact, automated data acquisition acts as an accelerant for change. A consistent, reliable pipeline of client data flowing to the firm doesn’t simply evolve the accounting services of today, it transforms the accounting firm of the future.