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Technology Trends in Accounting 2021 Research Report
Discover the progress accountancy firms have made in their business and client service transformation, and what impact the pandemic has had on their use of technology.

Listen Up! The Accountant’s Most Powerful (and underappreciated) Skill

Joris Van Der Gucht
Written by: Joris Van Der Gucht

At the heart of becoming your clients’ trusted advisor is listening. That might seem like a low-tech, almost quaint idea in 21st Century finance - but it’s actually a crucial component in remaining relevant, directly linked to how you use technology.

Far from being low-tech, the increasing importance of listening is tied to how technology has transformed the profession. The routine, bread-and-butter staples of accounting are becoming increasingly simplified and automated. These jobs were solitary ones, non-reliant on client collaboration.

But as tech continues to erode the value of these tasks, it has become necessary for accountants to shift from passive scorekeepers to strategic business partners.

This shifting emphasis means:

  • Closer, more frequent client contact
  • An increased reliance on accounting tools for business decision making
  • A new emphasis on soft skills, like listening

Listening doesn’t exclusively apply to people

But here’s the twist: when we talk about listening, we aren’t limiting it to just listening to clients (although, that is important and there are plenty of resources to help with that, too).

The best accountants listen to their clients’ businesses, too.

In 2017, even your smallest business clients are churning out reams of complex, numeric data and accounts. All of it lands on your lap, unprocessed and uninterpreted. It’s all noise, just waiting for an eager listener.

Embedded within this mountain of data are all the insights your client needs to make the best choices. By using new accounting tools for business decision making, you can ‘listen’ to your clients’ businesses.

But accountants need to make the data easy to listen to. That’s where tech can help.

You can never have too much data – but how do you use it to your advantage?

Consider the difference between a beautifully curated piece of music and a wall of unprocessed noise. A connected platform that neatly packages data, enables you to ‘listen’ and:

  • Identify broader commercial trends
  • Propose solutions to your client’s frustrations
  • Recognise and eliminate waste within a business’s day-to-day operations
  • Segment a business’s performance into easily digestible chunks

Ultimately, the information you gather can be used to satisfy two broad categories that modern business owners desire:

  • Business planning

Business planning is where you use the accounting information to create budgets and forecasts for your clients. It’s a neat way of showing client data in a visually appealing way.

  • Business analysis

Business analysis is where you use a client’s information to analyse business performance after the fact. Whereas business planning is concerned with the future, the analysis measures how things are progressing.

Through using accounting tools for business decision making, accountants identify variances in projected versus actual performance. Noticing these variances is a massive part in nipping problems in the bud (and it’s a service clients would gladly pay for!).

Listening is far from old fashioned

There will always be room for good old fashioned, friendly customer service in accounting. But, right now, it’s possible to go far beyond that.

Through smart use of tech you can listen - really listen - to your clients’ needs. Not just when they speak to you, but in the underlying hum of numbers where the real truth lies.