Sam King does not like to miss out. As Head of Xero at UK digital accountancy Thorne Widgery, he uses technology to stay ahead of the curve, and competitors.
“I like to think we’re ahead of most firms, but I don’t want us to rest on our laurels,” he says. “If we’re two years ahead at the moment, I want us to be three or four years ahead. To me, tomorrow is never far enough away.”
It’s a mindset that’s clearly spread across the business. Thorne Widgery may have a proud 75-year history, but their focus is firmly on the future.
The practice believes so much in the power of technology to transform accountancy, they partnered with Xero to put the software into schools. They’ve embraced a full-time developer on Sam’s team. And they recently had their innovation recognised as winner of the prestigious Total Xero Award 2023.
They also took their processes a huge step forward when they implemented FYI.
More than just a document management system
“Four or five years ago, how we used to do things was very monotonous and a lot more manual,” says Sam. Having adopted a competitor document management system early on, he realised they were spending far too long on certain tasks, and needed a more reliable solution.
“For the size of firm we were, it just wasn’t ready for us – there’s limitations there,” Sam laments. “Once we got FYI,” says Sam, “I realised there’s a hell of a lot more to it than just making sure that things do what they should do.”
Luckily, FYI did what it says it does, and then some.
“Documents are at the forefront of everything,” says Sam. “And literally everything we do in the profession, FYI’s got a trigger for it. So whether it’s an email, a phone call, a meeting… those document types are all on screen, so you don’t need to worry about it.” But to Sam, the platform has delivered so much more.
“It’s super reliable,” says Sam. “I can honestly say, hand on heart, there have been no occasions where I’ve been disappointed with losing something, or not sure what’s happened with this or that.”
Reliability aside, there are more reasons Sam thinks other firms should jump on board FYI.
File it under efficiency (and cost-efficiency)
“A couple of years ago, we had literally loads of filing cabinets. And the space they take up! It’s probably two or three account pods to us – it’s absolutely huge.” Repurposing all that space was just one benefit of implementing FYI.
“It’s amazing that even big firms are still using filing cabinets,” says Sam. “There’s a firm that asked us how they could be more efficient – and they’ve got four full-time people who scan in files. They produce all their accounts on these files, then once it’s been scanned, it’s shredded. I’m going, guys – just ignoring the environment for a second – from a cost point of view, you’re employing four people full-time!” And often, it’s more than just human filers.
“A lot of firms don’t realise that file servers and remote desktops cost a lot of money, and going to true cloud would save them an awful lot.” And the truth for Sam is clear.
One team, one source of truth
When it comes to FYI, Sam says, “The key selling point to me is that there’s that single source of truth. I think that cannot be underplayed.”
The other benefit was the tight integration with XPM. Explains Sam, “I’m not a big fan of integration where it just integrates on such a low touch basis, it’s almost pointless. But the integration with FYI delivers so much more value to us – it fills the gaps on things, which is so, so good for us.”
Unlocking possibilities with automations
Another highlight? “Automations,” says Sam. “That’s gigantic. That just unlocks infinite possibilities for us.”
It’s something the firm takes very seriously.
“Every Friday about 3:30, we do Automation Hour. It sounds geeky, but it’s really cool. We sit down, we reflect on what’s been done in the week, what things we maybe didn’t want to do as humans… and then try to work out if it’s automate-able.” If it is, you can bet they will.
“We’re only at the tip of an iceberg with automations”
Tasks are no hard ask with FYI
Another aspect of the platform that Sam likes is tasks.
“Every single thing we do in the profession is a task,” says Sam, which is why his team were “blown away” with this function. “The vast majority were sold as soon as I said we can do tasks, because that’s a huge part of our practice.”
Now everyone in the team can easily create, display and delegate tasks for emails, all file types and any interaction.
The Email AutoFile function has been equally valuable.
“I’m a big fan of it – I sell the t-shirt!,” laughs Sam. “The team that does accounts finds AutoFile really valuable because they used to find it quite a chore to file things. Now, we don’t need a human to go and push things through – FYI just does it for us.”
For Thorne Widgery, it’s basic features that can offer huge benefits.
Small changes make big differences
For firms intimidated by automations, Sam has this advice.
“Don’t try and do a huge automation and go, ‘Geez, where do I start with this?’ Just do a little bit, often. Focus on one or two areas that are big for your firm, and literally do something that’s going to save you a minute. Then start building it out and share the knowledge with your team internally.
“We’re big fans of the Kaizen approach,” says Sam of the Japanese idea that small, ongoing changes can reap significant improvements.
“It’s really just 1% here, 1% there. To be honest – it’s 0.1% a lot of the time, if that.”
Changing systems, and mindsets
Before implementing the platform, Sam used a free trial to test the value of FYI. “That was initially how I got hooked on it,” he says.
“If I compare the transition to FYI with other software, it’s an absolute breeze. It’s intuitive – exactly what technology should be.”
For firms looking to make a move to the platform, Sam recommends talking to one that’s already done it – including Thorne Widgery.
“I’m more than happy to share our experience and how we structure things, because they could take six months to learn about it, but that’s six months wasted for them. If somebody else has done it, why reinvent the wheel?”
And why stop at document management?
“Most systems can do a good job of filing documents,” says Sam. “But where FYI is different is that it’s a whole practice changeover. A whole mindset change. If you’re genuine about being innovative, about being proactive with clients… then if you’re not on it, you’re missing out, in my opinion.”
Form your own opinion, and start your free trial of FYI today.