Advances in technology, and shifting client demands, demand accountants play by some new rules. Here are five digital transformation trends we see impacting accountancy in 2020 and beyond.
1. Technology will support accountants’ skills and enhance their client service.
There’s a huge opportunity for technology to transform accounting and in a very positive way. Data, automation and even machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are positive forces of change and should not be feared. They will enable a golden age in accounting.
This year we’ll see a big shift from talking (and worrying) about how technology will change accounting to seeing it actually change things day-to-day for the better.
As these technologies become mainstream in accounting the services and advice offered by accountants will improve. Technology will streamline compliance reporting making it faster, and more accurate, and liberate highly qualified accountants to spend more time with their client’s securing their role as trusted advisor.
But the impact of technology doesn’t stop with automation, productivity gains and liberation from number crunching. Tomorrow’s accountant is a financial expert armed with insight gained from data, powerful analytics tools and an enhanced skill set that includes strategic planning and consulting.
Our research showed that 76% of accountants believe advisory services will be their main revenue within five years but only 14% are there today. So 2020 has to be a year where the majority grab the potential of technology to support this shift to advisory and make measurable progress or risk falling behind their peers and competition.
2. The client is (still) king, and they’re embracing technology fast so we need to keep up.
Advances in technology are also changing the service expectations of clients. Tech-savvy business owners want more from their accountant than just a set of accounts and an annual tax return. They’re taking more responsibility for their own bookkeeping and seeing the power of automation and technology for themselves in financial reporting and have significantly higher expectations of responsiveness, efficiency (and price competitiveness) in these core accounting services.
They no longer want to wait for a balance sheet six months after the previous year's closing. They want critical data on-demand. Accountants are already feeling the pressure, with 83% saying clients demand more today than five years ago.
Business advice, strategic planning and financial forecasting are all core areas that the new breed of client wants to see more from accountants – and the firms that don’t offer these are likely to struggle in the new digital marketplace.
3. Continue to deliver a great client experience wherever you are calling the office today.
Using technology (specifically cloud accounting services) to support business continuity plans and to enable remote working is clearly a priority today but it is not going away in the future either. So the changes firms have put in place in response to today’s challenges from social distancing will have a lasting impact on how they do business and deliver client service.
Having a single technology platform for all accounting work with seamless integrations with client systems means data and client files can be accessed anywhere by anyone and at any time. Having all the information you need to get the job done at your fingertips will result in more time spent looking after clients - not trying to access and find information.
Armed with data and the right technology you can automate more of your work and then focus energy and technology investment on reimagining how you use it to deliver new experiences and services for employees, clients and partners alike. Technology will give back time, and enable accountants to deliver a better, faster, and more competitive service.
The goal of technology will be to reduce friction and add value to those working for and interacting with an accounting firm. Firms need to use it to make life easier, more effective and to inspire the creation of whole new kinds of services only made possible with the data and new capabilities technology is bringing.
4. New allies will emerge to drive innovation.
While many firms realise they need to transform their processes and experiences, some are not sure how to achieve this at scale and at speed. The need for speed will see firms, and their technology providers, teaming up to share experiences and ideas, and then support each other in faster adoption and innovation.
Firms and technologists will need to work together to co-create value for the client. Accounting is a universal language but each country, and even each enterprise or accountancy firm, has its own unique ways of working. Together they can help shape the future of accounting through the creation of things like automated workflows, reporting, data analysis and advisory delivered through technology - we call these the ‘developer accountants’.
5. We’ll all be more connected.
Success in the future will come to those firms that use technology to connect real-time client data with automated workflows or processes, and then collaborate and communicate with clients to get their compliance work completed efficiently. Freeing up valuable time to invest in understanding their clients’ businesses and using the data and insights their technology provides to power their advisory services. All within one, integrated cloud accounting platform.
This is connected accounting – a fundamental shift in purpose for accounting firms from focusing on delivering a transactional, compliance service to the creation of an advisory relationship made possible through cloud technology.
Connected Accounting is transforming the way accountants work. It improves the quality, speed and competitiveness of their compliance business and makes it easier to deliver advisory services that unlock new revenue streams and deepen client relationships.