Accountancy: Is disruptive technology having an impact?

Accountancy: Is disruptive technology having an impact?

Sabby Gill, MD for Sage in UK and Ireland, on the high-wire balancing act accountants must tread to implement new technology - and make sure they are taking their clients on the journey with them

Change is inevitable – and the accountancy sector is no stranger to change. With a digital future on the cards for all of us, soon there will be a record and trace of everything we do online. Yet, despite all of this change, many accountants are still working in the slow lane of business development.

The world of finance is a cautious one. Accountants hold the key to the coffers, and don’t want to risk disrupting the company’s access to its funds by accident. This is often why accountants aren’t quick to adopt new systems, solutions or infrastructure. It pays to adopt slowly, and get it right.

Regulatory requirements also apply a natural brake to the speed of change – when your every move is dictated by compliance and you’re up to your ears in red tape, you’re a lot less likely to install the latest shiny object unless you’re sure it’s going to help you.

Accounting: A juggling act

All of that means that accountants have to perform a high-wire act when looking to implement new technology that could help improve their services. They must take their clients on the journey with them, demonstrating the benefits of technology, and without missing the basic bookkeeping requirements that the majority of their customers still have. They must act as royal food-tasters, sampling the latest innovations and advising their clients on how they’ll affect their systems – and avoiding anything damaging. It’s a delicate pursuit.

Our Practice of Now research has found that although many accountants are well aware of the benefits technology can offer them – improved accuracy, greater insight, reduced admin, deeper strategic understanding – they’re also seeing a slowness in uptake. That’s not because they’re lacking in vision or entrepreneurialism – quite the reverse. It’s because they have a responsibility to bring their clients along as they evolve and ensure that each innovation is up to best practice.

With that said, how can accountants communicate the value of digital transformation clearly and enable not only their own practices but also their clients to get the most out of emerging technology?

A tech-first approach

The answer lies in value-add services. Accountants that limit their vision to bookkeeping are missing a massive opportunity. As accounting software becomes more data-driven, integrating with other business services and bringing in data from across clients’ organisations, accountants have the chance to become valued strategic advisors. They can use their insight into the financials to provide advice on wider strategy.

For example, if they notice a sudden dip in revenues aligning to reduced productivity on the factory floor, they can begin a conversation with the client leadership about which areas need to be addressed to rectify the problem. Similarly, they can quickly pick up unexpected fluctuations in cashflow, whether they’re the result of error or fraud, and help the client to rectify the situation quickly.

Technology allows businesses not only to cut down on repetitive tasks, but also to benefit from more informed decision-making. With automation, businesses can cut down on back-end admin, and focus on more business-critical, strategic tasks. Think about it: the more insight an accountancy firm can access, the greater its value in the eyes of current and prospective clients.

If we can be certain of one thing, it’s that disruptive technology is very much disrupting the accountancy sector as we know it. What’s less certain is whether or not accountants are adopting the latest technical changes in the sector. Ultimately, those who understand the latest technologies and adopt them will be the ones with the competitive edge.

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