As we usher out the old year and welcome in the new, it’s a good time to consider which business practices are working and which may need to change. According to the ‘Practice of Now’ report 2019, which took in the views of 3,000 accountants working across the globe, this is exactly what those who took part have been doing. Almost half (49 per cent) say that they have reviewed their own business practices in the last year and are consciously considering how to future proof their firms to make sure they are ready not only for the next year but for the next decade.
To do this, it is important to understand the trends that are affecting the profession and undoubtedly, everyone will have their own ideas but here are our top five:
1. Digital Revolution
The increased digitisation of tax, mandated by governments worldwide, has in part contributed to firms carrying out their own internal reviews. Practices are having to re-engineer for the digital age and rather than seeing this as a challenge, it provides a unique opportunity to help clients navigate their own digital journeys. Giving them their first digital tools and showing them, for example, how to capture expenses on their smartphones and tablets will help position the accountant as more than just a technician and very much, as trusted advisers working at the heart of their clients’’ businesses.
We know that clients are demanding more from their accountants and they expect their advisors to digitally engage with them in the way that they want, need and expect. In a new report by Forrester into the changing preferences of financial consumers, a massive 73 per cent said they believe they should be able to accomplish any financial task on a mobile device and that digital should be ‘woven’ through the entire customer experience
Forward thinking accounting firms are responding by employing new technology to facilitate this. A mobile communications platform that provides a central place for all things financial within the accountant’s own bespoke App can help clients can save time and make it easier to run their own businesses as they gain direct access to all their financial information and systems from the home screen of their smartphones and tablets.
By 2026, the global market for accounting software will have a value of 11.8 billion dollars according to U.S. Accounting Today.
The arrival of cloud accountancy has been hugely transformative in how accountants work on a day to day basis and communicate with their clients.
However, it is worth noting that while Cloud may become even more dominant in 2020, desktop and enterprise software will still be used extensively. When QuickBooks online reached 3.6 million subscribers worldwide at the end of 2018, it was revealed that 80% of those online subscribers are first time users for any kind of accounting software. This suggests that users aren’t migrating from desktop to the cloud; they’re starting online.
As we enter 2020, accountants are set to play a pivotal role in introducing businesses to the cloud and those that do will gain the opportunity to advance their roles as trusted, value-added advisors and data analysts.
3. Artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is an exciting prospect for accountants as there is the potential to effectively add a ‘virtual’ member to the team that is available 24/7 to answer multiple questions and carry out simple tasks even when the office is closed. This emerging technology will be used in the day-to-day running of firms allowing complex and repetitive tasks to be automated with AI, machine learning and robotics with extreme accuracy. According to the Practice of Now study, 58% of accountancy professionals are expecting to automate tasks using AI solutions within the next three years.
4. Real time Connections
In 2020, more accountants will be connecting with their clients in real-time and benefiting from greater security and transparency. Recording transactions that used to take hours or days now take minutes or seconds and if a change is made by one party, everyone with access will be able to see this change as soon as it’s validated.
The use of digital tools such as mileage trackers are connecting clients and accountants in real time today and bringing real benefits for the profession. Because the tracker automatically tracks business mileage and the accountant learns about the trip in real time, there is far less end of year chasing for the client’s business mileage.
5. Climate Aware
Protecting the climate is an incredibly hot topic and as we start the new year, there is an expectation that everyone will need to help meet the steep targets being set. One obvious way for accountants is reduce their ‘paper footprint’.
Despite repeated calls to cut paper usage, we are being told that paper consumption is at an unsustainable level globally having increased year on year and it has quadrupled over the past 50 years.
A thorough review of paper usage will undoubtedly show up areas where a paperless approach can be adopted, and new tools can help towards this goal. For example, the signing of tax documents and declarations with digital signatures that can be emailed between the firm and client are not only secure, they speed up approval processes and bring about a closer connection through the sharing of documents in real time. Another way of saving paper includes distributing content, including reminders about tax deadlines and newswires, digitally so that they appear on the home screen on clients’ smartphones within the accountants’ own branded App.
A Fresh Start
During the last 20 years technology has accelerated at such a rate and has transformed the accounting profession. And this rate shows no sign of slowing.
Is the profession doing enough to keep up with changing technology? 85 per cent of accountants believe that the profession in their country needs to pick up the pace of technology adoption to remain competitive internationally, the Practice of Now report 2019 reveals. A lack of time and money to invest in digital transformation are the two main reasons given for holding back on technology investment.
The new year allows for a fresh start and firms that want to remain competitive will need to take the time to evaluate the technological changes that are set to trend in 2020. New tools bring with them huge advantages for those that are prepared to invest.
Daniel Richards | MyFirmsApp | www.myfirmsapp.com.au
MyFirmsApp makes accountancy businesses better and helps them grow by ensuring vital communications are seen and competitive advantage and loyalty is maintained through improved engagement and interactions. The global number one provider of bespoke Apps for accountants and bookkeepers used by the industry’s most progressive firms, the company has developed over 1200 Apps for accountants and bookkeepers that are available in 11 countries and are used by over a quarter of a million businesses daily to manage their finances.