What does the future hold for today’s Accountant?
It’s a brave new world. Accounting has been transformed by numerous significant technological and operational changes that have forever altered our relationships with clients – changes which provide significant opportunities for our clients to grow and prosper.
But change can be challenging. Confronting. Frightening. Especially for traditionally conservative accountants.
But with change comes opportunity. If you can embrace it, you can transform your relationship with clients – and transform your practice in the process.
It goes without saying that cloud accounting has revolutionised the way Accountants work. By streamlining compliance activities, cloud accounting has freed up Accountants and enabled us to offer proactive business growth advice. We’ve moved from bean-counter to business adviser.
Clients benefit from cloud accounting by having more accurate and up-to-date data at their fingertips, anywhere, anytime, that they can easily share with their Accountant. It’s then up to us to capitalise on these opportunities so we can engage with SME clients more deeply, proactively and profitably.
Cloud accounting is not a threat to the industry – rather, a tool to improve existing systems (and therefore the client experience).
MYOB’s Business Monitor research has found that bank feeds, a service that automatically imports and matches financial transactions into cloud accounting software, saves clients an average of 10 hours per month. With the time saved, 40 percent of respondents improved systems and processes, 28 percent reviewed business performance and 20 percent spent it on strategic planning and marketing.
But it’s not just cloud accounting, or technological advancements such as client portals and electronic signatures, that are driving change. There are a host of other factors that will affect how accountants operate in the future. (And I promise not to mention hoverboards…)
Diversified, holistic offering
I believe most accountants of the future will provide a full-service offering, meaning they’re involved in more of their clients’ key financial decisions. This is not only easier for clients (as everything’s under the one roof) and gives them greater comfort (due to the trust they have already developed with you); it also enables you to develop deeper relationships with them, so they have even more reasons to stay with you.
Utilising offshore talent reduces the cost of compliance transactions, so clients are able to work more deeply with you on the good stuff – business advisory services to help them build better businesses.
In addition to cloud accounting, it’s the communication tools such as Skype and Dropbox – so critical in helping firms expand their client footprint beyond their physical locations – that make offshoring a feasible option.
It’s never simple when you start out; but it’s a process worth persevering with as the benefits (for your firm and your clients) are huge. Critically, you need to treat them as extensions of your local team – obviously training and mentoring is vital, but it also pays to include them in the culture of your firm, so they really feel a part of the team.
Time v value pricing
This perennial question continues to divide. Speaking from experience, our organisation has reaped significant benefits from offering fixed price service bundles. Clients like them because they get price certainty (especially valuable when they first consider working with you), as well as a clear understanding of what services are available, so they can choose the level (and cost) that’s right for their needs. And it forces your internal processes to be water-tight in order to deliver the right service in a cost-effective manner.
Just like the advent of the calculator or computer before it, technology has transformed how accountants do our jobs. But always remember that technology is just a tool we use to more conveniently and speedily deliver an increasingly complex array of services to clients. It’s up to us to seize the opportunity technology has provided so we strengthen and deepen our client relationships, and give them the clarity, confidence and direction to build a better business.