Big changes are happening within the accounting practice. The emergence of new technology is changing the way we all do business and access information. Cloud technology and accounting software has given small business owners access to “always on” data that was once only accessible through their accountants.
What does that mean for your role as an accountant? If customers can access their financial data at will, what value does your practice offer them? The answer is simple: offer real-time advice based on current data.
As technology changes, customers’ expectations change as well. Per our survey of 700 accountants worldwide, 67% of accountants have adopted a cloud-based practice, which Sage Executive Vice President and former accountant Jennifer Warawa is the best way to stay relevant in today’s accounting landscape. “What we are seeing here is a need for accountants to reevaluate how they value their time. While some may be hesitant to adopt technology out of fear of no longer being of use to their clients, what we know is these technological advancements are elevating their clients’ expectations and today’s accountants need to be able to change along with those expectations,” she advised.
This means adopting cloud technology as part of your practice is essential. The value goes beyond having 24/7 remote access to accounting information. It’s partnering with your clients to set targets based on that information and empowering your customers to hit achievable targets that makes the difference. 86% of accountants surveyed agreed that by automating data entry and reporting, they would be free to create services that add value for their clients.
“Businesses aren’t going to look to their accountants to simply collate and analyze information any longer—technology can already tick that box. They want advice on what to do next and will seek out accountants and bookkeepers who can offer actionable proactive services that add value to their business,” Jennifer added. By establishing yourself as an advisory resource, you form “customers for life” throughout the entire 365 days of the year, not just during the peak of tax time.
Being a real-time advisor also creates agility for your customers as they make business decisions based on your recommendation. When you proactively inform a client that, given current trends, the client’s business might be unable to meet payroll two months from now, that customer will be grateful for the warning. In this way, accountants and bookkeepers earn their stripes as business advisors by identifying trends and coming up with answers for those potential challenges.
Here are a few first steps for migrating to an advisory role and setting Key Performance Indicators (KPI):
- Make a shortlist of clients who you only provide traditional services to, but could benefit from advisory services. Keep the list small enough to manage at first, ensuring that you provide the best service possible.
- Open the discussion between you and your client about what advisory services they need most and how they can move forward.
- Analyze your clients’ industry and develop a strategy. Start by leveraging industry data reports to see where the possibilities lie in providing services. Create or source a report that provides an overview of the industry, business challenges, trends and opportunities and industry forecasts.
Consultancy could be a white space for accountants to move into. Instead of settling tax inquiries at the end of the year, start at the beginning of the year to ensure things go smoothly, leaving the software to do the number crunching at the end of the financial year.
This new accountant-as-a-partner relationship will be a huge factor in the evolution of the industry and where we will see the effects of these changes in the industry overall, making firms greater than the sum of their parts.