Digital is driving fundamental change across all business sectors, and accounting is no exception. Certainly, compliance and bookkeeping remain the focus, but technological efficiency have prompted a shift away from dealing purely with numbers to providing wider services as part of a portfolio.
Accountants are becoming specialists in many new areas of business, and clients are welcoming this broader support. From taxes and accounting standards to financing tips and new ways of working, the expectation is that accountants will be able to become more of a trusted advisor by providing more wide-ranging strategic advice.
Here is a three-step guide to keep up with these evolving needs and secure a position in the market:
- New ways of working are a must – We’re living in an always-on world and small companies expect the same level of responsiveness as they are offering their own customers. The demand for regular updates and a whole host of services at their fingertips means accountants need to work harder than ever to deliver a first-rate experience. The accountancy firms that are thriving are ones that work with their clients to deliver personalised services via the client’s chosen method. This could be leveraging everything from social media to video chat to new apps. Understanding how a business wants to communicate will help to evolve the relationship beyond pure number crunching. This is all made possible by both parties having access to client data from anywhere in the world, at any time, so conversations based on real-time numbers can happen at any time.
- Heading to the cloud – To improve the way they operate, accountants should look to cloud and mobile. Cloud-based tools are now so intuitive and simple to use that many of the traditional and time consuming bookkeeping methods have been simplified beyond recognition. Clunky spreadsheets have been replaced by cloud tools designed for purpose and this is allowing accountants to focus on other ways to add value to their clients’ businesses. Investing in tools that automate and streamline processes such as workflow, payroll and sales tax calculations – to name just a few – will free up capacity to spend more time on strategic advising. It’s what customers expect, too: 69% of UK SMEs are now using cloud-based applications, according to the British Chamber of Commerce, and they expect to work with advisors which are using the same tools.
- Don’t be afraid to define a niche – While it’s true that businesses are expecting a broader range of services, there remains a big opportunity for accountants to grow their business by servicing a specific market segment, whether that’s retail, manufacturing or the sharing economy. By doing this they can learn the specific challenges and opportunities facing a sector and become a lucrative market specialist. This will help accountants to provide the best strategic advice to clients, taking into consideration all aspects of the business from industry and business size to target audience.
The reality is that a growing number of clients are in search of more rounded and robust business advice from their accountants. To get on the front foot and offer broader support to their clients, accountants must embrace technology. By waiting until being digital is required, accountants could well be left behind as a new breed of specialists in everything take on this new type of work.