With accelerating technological development in the tools available to accountants, it is an exciting time where the practice of ‘doing the books’ is giving way to ‘providing consulting and advisory’ service. Automation, integration of banking, accounting and other systems, and the introduction of techniques like artificial intelligence mean accountants no longer have to waste time on rote tasks – leaving them free to better understand the businesses of their clients and provide professional advice.
As a result, there are 5 trends to watch out for in the year ahead. They include:
1. Client mobility (and why it’s ALL about service)
Today, there is ample room for differentiation from one accountant to the next. It is no longer a case of doing the books – it is a case of adding value far beyond. With most businesses ‘in the cloud’, it is as simple for them to check their data as it is to move to a new service provider; be the one which goes the extra mile and delivers insights that make a real difference.
The key to winning and retaining business is the standard of client service delivered. The cloud is all about speed, accuracy and immediacy – that should be reflected in how you respond. You’re not just the bean counter any longer: be proactive, identify opportunities and threats, advise and grow your business by contributing to the growth of theirs.
2. It’s also ALL about the cloud
With New Zealand’s excellent and constantly improving internet infrastructure, and the prevalence of cloud accounting software providers, online accounting is a no-brainer. That means being in the cloud is a necessity for the accounting practice today.
The benefits of cloud to the small business far outweigh the old days of on-premise accounting packages. Data is available anywhere on any device, business continuity is assured, lost information is practically a thing of the past and there are no longer big software license expenses.
This means accounting service providers must be cloud experts. You need to understand the cloud and provide the solutions and services your clients need. And you need appropriate tools, like Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Financials and Operations.
3. Mobility is a big deal
Smartphones are nothing new. Nor are the apps which make them incredible. Mobility is already well-entrenched in Kiwi small businesses, with owners expecting to be able to run their company with little more than a handset.
That means your accounting practice needs to be up to date on the apps which help small businesses do things better. If there is an app out there that could save them hours every week, being able to bring it to their attention will show you know the challenges they face. And can help solve them.
4. Be a ‘trusted advisor’
As indicated in the previous point (and the first one), your role isn’t just to run the numbers. It must go further than that, extending to understanding and helping address business problems (not just financial ones). The march of technological automation means a lot of the bog-standard accounting stuff is done by various systems, anyway. That means your time should be focused on providing support, identifying opportunities for business improvement, noting threats, finding ways to optimise operations. The availability of additional fully integrated Microsoft solutions including Dynamics 365, Office 365, and Power BI, means your practice can leverage technology to deliver more to your clients than they ever expected from an accountant. Move into advisory, using technology which delivers advice in real time on numbers from this week, makes you an essential part of your customers’ success, rather than merely producing yesterday’s numbers.
5. Be better than ‘DIY accounting’
It’s not just the accountants who are getting much better software. Everyman is, too. With ‘do it yourself’ accounting packages and endless YouTube video tutorials on how to get the most from it, ‘standard’ accounting is commoditised. That’s the thread which runs throughout this blog: you need to be better than that. Anyone can do ‘box checking’. Not anyone can understand a balance sheet, identify supply chain inefficiencies, improve capital allocation, drive down capex or optimise billing cycles.
Think about where and how you add value (it is what you do differently) and focus on that. When you’re valuable to customers, they’ll keep coming back for more.