Tradition to Innovation: Digital and AI’s impact on Exeter’s business landscape

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By Stuart Pedlar, Digital Accounting Specialist at Westcotts Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers

The last decade has been marked by technological advancements and digital transformation across the board. Exeter, a city steeped in history and tradition, and the surrounding East Devon area is no exception and is now embracing the wave of innovation driven by digitally led programmes and artificial intelligence (AI).

As digital technology swiftly evolves, businesses are identifying the potential of AI in transforming their operations. AI solutions are redefining efficiency, productivity, and decision-making processes across various industries in the region. 

At Westcotts Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, we are also embracing this change and reshaping traditional accounting practices, opening new doors of opportunity for businesses. Servicing a range of new and exciting digital services, we leverage technology to provide our clients in Exeter and East Devon with efficient, accurate, and insightful accounting data enabling better decision-making. The great news is that businesses of all sizes can benefit from the insights from digital accounting technology, across multiple sectors.

Now at the forefront and the automatic choice for many businesses, cloud accounting systems that enable real-time collaboration, effortless data sharing, and secure storage now provide digital AI-led solutions that can save hours for any business. With cloud accounting technology, our clients in the region can access their financial information from anywhere, making remote work and business operations more seamless without the need for substantial equipment or software outlay and updates.

Gone are the days of manual data entry and tedious reconciliations. Through the implementation of cloud accounting software, we have automated the bookkeeping process for hundreds of businesses with bank feeds and processing rules, significantly reducing the likelihood of human error and freeing up time for more strategic tasks.

Cloud accounting software also unlocks a world of linked applications that can target a specific system or operation within a business, often with the use of AI at its heart to further optimise processes. Throughout our recent digital services programme, a number of key areas are leading the way;

  • Document Capture Tools – These tools use optical character recognition (OCR) technology to convert scanned documents into editable and searchable digital files. This not only saves time but also reduces the risk of errors associated with manual data entry.
  • Supplier Invoice Approval and Payment Tools – These tools automate the flow of invoice approval workflow, passing through the various approval stages with automated notification and responses and a full audit trail. This quickly reduces the need for manual intervention and misplaced invoices. Payment tools then can aggregate and set up payment runs for multiple invoices and suppliers, providing timed payments in line with cashflow requirements without the need to manually set up individual payments via banking services.
  • Staff Management – Managing staff-related expenses, jobs, and projects can be time-consuming and challenging for businesses. AI-powered tools simplify these processes, enabling easy processes to record and repay employee expenses, allocate resources efficiently, and monitor project progress in real-time. Businesses can improve project delivery timelines and increase overall productivity.
  • Inventory Management – For businesses involved in selling physical products, inventory management is a critical aspect of operations. AI inventory management tools can accurately forecast demand, manage stock levels, and automate reordering processes. By leveraging these tools, businesses can maintain optimal inventory levels, reduce carrying costs, and avoid stockouts, leading to improved customer satisfaction and profitability.

AI-powered data analysis tools are also enabling businesses to gain deeper insights from their vast datasets. Traditional methods of data analysis often required significant manual input and limited in their scope. However, AI can process large amounts of data in real-time, identifying patterns and trends that might have not been spotted otherwise allowing businesses to be agile and make data-driven decisions faster and more accurately. 

A host of other applications exist covering almost every facet of business operations and businesses should seek out professional help identifying what processes may benefit from digital systems. At Westcotts, we’ve specifically developed a stand-alone service to map existing accounting processes and review at each part, where improvements could be made by implementing digital applications such as the ones outlined above.

As businesses across the region continue to integrate AI into their operations, collaboration and knowledge-sharing will be crucial, something we are proud to be a part of. Major start-ups all based within Exeter have now attracted major investment funds and named within ‘rising star’ awards as businesses are no longer held back by physical limitations and instead empowered by the ability to operate outside of the main UK cities using the same technology that is also driving products and service development.

By working together, Exeter and East Devon can become a hub of innovation, attracting top talent and fostering an environment of continuous growth and prosperity. With Westcotts, businesses of any size and sector can confidently navigate the complexities of the digital world and seize the opportunities it presents. For more information about Westcotts, visit

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