Accountants in the "Digital World"
This week I have received ‘sponsored’ e-mail newsletters telling me how the accounting industry is under threat, and if I want to sell my fee base to get out before the digital world becomes live. It annoys me how as an industry accountants are marketing, and being marketed at this way.
It is a fact that we have been in a digital world for a number of years. Cloud based accounting software isn’t new, HMRC have been moving to on-line accounts for a while, so surely we should be embracing it, and using it to help out clients rather than sending scare mongering messages.
I like to think of myself as an early adopter, my first client went onto cloud based software nearly 8 years ago. Now, all but one of my larger clients is either on cloud based software, or a hosted system that can be accessed remotely. The use of this software has completely revolutionised the client / accountant relationship.
When I first started training nearly 18 years ago we had 1 laptop between 4 of us, the majority of accounts for small businesses were produced manually with accounting pads, a pen and a calculator. Clients used to sit with nervous anticipation, while we beavered away to produce a set of accounts to enable them to get an indication of the business performance and position.
Now, with the use of cloud based software such as Xero and Kashflow information is available 24/7 and in real time. Clients have a greater understanding of where the business is and any queries can be dealt with in a matter of minutes rather than waiting until my next visit. Clients don’t even need me to come out anymore; it can be done through an on-line meeting.
This is an exciting time for accountants and business owners, but they need embrace the technology that is available to them. We are in a new world where:
the reporting we always wanted is available, and not just to the accountant or the accounts department, all key decision makers can be given access to the information
we are working more efficiently through automation of accounting systems and processes
we can work more flexibly as we can access the information from anywhere in the world
Personally, I find the conversations I am now having with clients is looking forward rather than backward. A lot less time is spent number crunching, so clients are getting more value from my time than before, as I am being proactive rather than reactive. The advances in technology have also removed a lot of barriers such as geographical location and being able to reach potential clients that I could never reach before.
Is the accounting industry under threat? In my opinion no, yes our role within the client / accountant relationship will change, but like all other professions we need to accept this and work with the technology available to us to help our clients.