Technology & Innovation

8 digital skills accountants need so their practices can succeed

Which digital skills are you not yet taking advantage of? Read on to ensure your practice is up-to-date with the latest digital technology.

It’s becoming more important than ever to stay up to date with the latest digital trends and best practices to be competitive and provide the best possible service to your clients.

From data analytics to digital marketing, there are many digital skills that can help you streamline your work, increase your visibility and boost your bottom line.

In this article, we dive into what digital tools are available, how they can benefit your work as an accountant, and where you can turn for support and resources to develop these skills.

Here’s what we cover:

What are digital skills?

When it comes to digital skills, we’re referring to gaining the knowledge and abilities to navigate new digital technology.

With the rise of cloud accounting software, your practice can already perform many accounting tasks digitally, but your digital skills don’t need to end there.

For example, you can take your marketing efforts to the next level by utilising social media and sharing content online and by email.

Having strong digital skills is becoming increasingly important in the accountancy industry, as technology continues to play a significant role in both you and your clients’ professional lives.

Why digital skills are important for accountants

Becoming aware of all of the tools available to your practice will ensure you can take advantage of them to gain business insights and make informed decisions.

You’ll be able to save time and resources, and ultimately provide a better service to your clients.

Additionally, having strong digital skills enables you to collaborate and communicate effectively with your colleagues and clients, particularly as it becomes more common for teams to work remotely.

You also have a unique opportunity to help your clients develop their own digital skills.

By sharing your knowledge and experience, you can help them better understand how to use these tools to streamline their own processes, improve their efficiency, and ultimately grow their businesses.

You can provide training and support to your clients on a variety of digital skills, including accounting software, data analytics tools and cybersecurity.

By doing so, you can establish yourself as a trusted adviser and build stronger, more collaborative relationships with your clients.

By helping your clients develop their digital skills, you’ll help them stay ahead of the curve in their own industries.

8 digital skills for accountants to learn and use today

1. Social media

There are a number of ways you can utilise social media to achieve your business goals. For example, LinkedIn is a great place to network with other professionals in the industry, as well as connect with potential clients.

Twitter and Facebook can be used to share valuable insights and industry news, helping to build brand awareness.

YouTube and TikTok are great for educating your clients on key topics relevant to them.

And you can demonstrate thought leadership by sharing expert insights on LinkedIn, or by publishing articles on Medium.

To boost recruitment, you can use LinkedIn job postings or promote your practice’s culture on Instagram.

And for client engagement, you can use Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or Instagram Stories to provide updates and answer client questions.

2. Data analytics

There are powerful analytics tools available such as Power BI, SAP Analytics Cloud and Sage Intelligence, which often integrate with your accounting software.

You can use these tools to identify trends and patterns in your client’s financial data, ensuring more accurate financial reporting.

For example, data analytics could help to identify a decrease in your client’s sales during a specific period and recognise it as a reporting error or a seasonal trend that can be addressed in the future.

You can also use data analytics to analyse key performance indicators (KPIs), and improve your client’s decision-making using data-driven insights, such as identifying areas where costs can be reduced to improve the company’s profitability.

3. Customer relationship management

When it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) software, options such as Salesforce and HubSpot CRM allow you to better manage and analyse client interactions, so you can provide personalised support and insights into client behaviour and preferences.

For example, you can use a CRM to improve client satisfaction by tracking client enquiries and responding in a timely manner to address their concerns.

You can also use a CRM to identify new business opportunities by analysing client data, as well as improve revenue forecasting by gaining a better understanding of their needs and preferences.

It’s also a valuable tool to improve client retention.

This is because you can provide targeted communications and personalised support to clients who haven’t engaged with your services in a while, all while ensuring that team members are working towards the same goals by using a centralised platform to manage client interactions.

4. Videoconferencing

Videoconferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet allow you to have face-to-face meetings with clients without the need for in-person meetings.

This can save time and reduce travel expenses, as well as improve collaboration and communication among team members.

Using videoconferencing, you can easily connect with other team members who are located in different offices or even different countries, enabling you to work together more effectively, and provide timely and accurate information to your clients.

5. Digital marketing and SEO

Digital marketing can help you to increase your visibility online, reach a wider audience, and generate leads.

For instance, you can use search engine optimisation (SEO) to improve your website’s ranking in search engine results, and other digital marketing strategies such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to attract potential clients.

6. Email marketing

Email marketing is a cost-effective way to stay in touch with clients, keep them informed about important financial news and deadlines, and provide personalised support.

You could use email newsletters to share financial tips and insights, provide updates on tax law changes, or highlight your services ahead of key financial dates throughout the year.

And when clients see you in their inbox regularly, your practice will stay front of mind.

Another benefit of using email marketing is that it can help you to generate new leads and grow your client base.

By offering a valuable lead magnet such as a free financial report or consultation, you can encourage potential clients to sign up for your email list.

Once you have their contact information, you can nurture these leads by sending them helpful emails, and eventually convert them into paying clients.

7. Content marketing

You can use content marketing to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.

Content marketing involves creating and sharing valuable content online such as blog posts, articles and videos that address the needs and concerns of your target audience.

In this way, you build trust with potential clients and position yourself as an expert in your area of specialisation.

For example, if you mainly work with small businesses you could write blog posts on topics such as financial planning for small business owners.

Another benefit of using content marketing is that it can help you to improve your search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website.

By creating high-quality and informative content that’s optimised for search engines, you can increase the likelihood of your website appearing in search engine results when potential clients are looking for advice.

8. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity skills will help you protect your clients’ sensitive financial information from cyber threats.

Your accountancy practice handles a lot of confidential financial data on behalf of your clients, including personal and financial information.

If this data falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to serious financial losses, reputational damage and legal consequences.

By having good cybersecurity skills, you can implement appropriate security measures to protect your clients’ data from hackers, viruses and other cyber threats.

Where accountants can get support with learning digital skills

There are many resources available to support you in learning new digital skills.

The professional institutes, such as the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offer a variety of resources, training and networking opportunities that can help you stay up to date with the latest trends and best practices in digital skills.

Check their websites for upcoming training sessions and events, and sign up to their mailing lists to keep up to date with the latest industry news.

In addition to professional associations, there are also online learning platforms available to you such as LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and edX.

These platforms offer courses and tutorials on a wide range of digital skills that can be tailored to your specific needs. By taking advantage of these courses, you can gain practical skills and knowledge that you can apply in your work.

Lastly, software vendors can also be a valuable resource for you in learning new digital skills.

Many offer training and support resources for their products, including accounting software, platforms to manage practice and client work, and other digital tools.

By making use of these resources, you can learn how to use new tools and technologies more effectively, and stay on top of the latest developments.

Final thoughts

Developing your digital skills as an accountant is crucial to stay ahead in an ever-changing business world.

Helping your clients develop their own digital skills can also help you build stronger relationships.

There are plenty of resources available to help you learn and stay up-to-date with the latest digital technologies, and many of these are free and easily accessible online.

By continuing to adapt and improve your digital skills, you can position yourself as a leader in the industry and provide a first-class service to your clients.