On 5 and 6 April, ExCeL London played host to one of the largest gatherings ever of the UK’s SMEs.The Sage Summit brought together business owners and founders with accountants, advisors and service providers to celebrate private business. It was a chance to learn about the latest ways the accounting software giant helping business owners with their growth as well as what those businesses and entrepreneurs were looking for in terms of future support.

As global strategic partners to Sage and Diamond sponsors, it was an unmissable opportunity for PwC to showcase the range of digitally enabled, cost-effective solutions we’ve developed for ambitious businesses. We were there across both days for an up close and personal look at what business owners were demanding – and how we could support in terms of meeting those needs. Here’s a run-down of what we learned (and our top tips for making the most of the new wave of technology available for you).

Demand more digital

From AI accounting chatbots to bespoke real time dashboards, it’s clear that the future for business is digital. The Sage Summit was an opportunity to see how the next generation of business tools could help businesses free up their time and – most importantly – support them in generating more cash.

But with so much technology available, businesses should take care not to get distracted by the bells and whistles. To get value from this next wave of technology, it’s important to understand how it fits within your existing business. Any users of Sage products can get a bespoke report of this by signing up for our free diagnostic [here] via our Sage Impact Centre. Based in our Belfast technology hub, the Sage Impact Centre was established to help businesses who currently use, or plan to use, a Sage product harness the full potential of the software. But whatever your software package, there are a two key ways your technology should be helping you create more cash within your business:

1) Doing the same things, but better – there are a host of current generation tools and software options available to help businesses spend less time on the admin and back office of their business. In terms of the tools we were showcasing, our online Nifty R&D tool offered a way to slash the time and cost associated with claiming back against your R&D spend. Other services on offer such as Flex provide a way to address short-term resourcing issues and order PwC people from your phone. And of course My Financepartner’s combination of outsourced finance function with leading edge reporting enables businesses to manage working capital, control spend and make better decisions in the moment.

2) Doing new things (or keeping an eye out for disruption) – the next wave of digital disruptors were being celebrated as part of our Startup Growth Programme, an accelerator that also plays as a matchmakers with the industry leaders. And in terms of disrupting ourselves, it was a great chance to showcase some of the next generation tools we’re currently developing – from real-time, interactive dashboards from PwC’s Next hub through to our cashflow forecasting tool, Cashflow Coach.

Demand more oversight

With digital and data being real buzzwords over the two days, there was a host of advice on how this information could be used by businesses to make better decisions in the moment. From reporting and dashboard tools, the focus is on giving businesses the ability to integrate their data into one platform. This isn’t just about banishing the need to transfer data from spreadsheets, it’s about putting the power (and information) back in the hands of business owners, salespeople (and their accountants) to proactively take advantage of opportunities and identify pitfalls before they happen.

We showcased some of the tools we’re developing to support business owners in this regard from our current My Financepartner management information that can combine operational, financial and external data through to our up and coming Next hub. 

Demand to be heard

Those who attended the Summit should have spotted our mini photography studio, offering free professional headshots. You can see some of the results by following our #demandmorepwc hashtag. The idea was to link to Sage’s campaign to fight for the UK’s SMEs and get their voices heard. We offered visitors to our stand the chance to voice their demands. What were the results? Many and varied, but the most popular themes were:

  • Wanting the tools to find more (and better quality) leads

  • Freeing up time to reclaim a work/life balance

  • Wanting more digital integration

This blog is part of a series from My Financepartner. My Financepartner is a new accounting service for small and medium-sized businesses that puts you in control. You choose the services that you need, module by module, and we'll deliver them. Contact us at my.financepartner@uk.pwc.com