Defining a Path for Future Accounting Business Success
Automated technology and other technological advances will replace many functions traditionally performed by bookkeepers and CPAs, but ultimately I believe these solutions will transform our profession for the better.
As I talk with professionals throughout the industry about trends in expense management software, sales tax automation, payment solutions, and other cutting-edge technologies, I’m continually impressed by just how rapidly the world of accounting technology is changing. For just one example, automation is already having an enormous effect.
A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) survey predicts that the bookkeeping and accounting profession will be the industry most affected by automation in the next decade, with 97.5 percent of workers impacted. As such, navigating this new world will require a two-pronged approach: (1) offering a curated suite of technology solutions and (2) providing next-level client services.
Choose the Right Accounting Technology Stack
It seems like a new software solution appears every few weeks in the accounting industry. New software startups are challenging the legacy brands, and all of them are vying for your — and your clients’ — attention.
One challenge is that vendors are good at selling their products, but not so much at showing accounting pros where the real value lies. With the constant hype of new apps being developed and marketed, bookkeepers and accountants need to keep a narrow focus, defined by a specific vision for their business. This will allow them to interpret a vendor’s offering in order to see the value beyond the hype, and pick a stack that makes the most sense for them and their clients.
- Your goals. Before you even begin looking at solutions, set a list of your top few goals for using the software. Use these as a measuring stick to vet the solution before you even reach out to the vendor.
- Your existing solutions. How will a new software solution integrate with the software you’re already using? Keep in mind that almost every company will claim their application integrates, but it’s not always automatic, or on a level that gives you the detail you need.
- Reporting capabilities. Not all reporting capabilities are made equal. What information do you need from the dashboard in order to manage your clients’ businesses?
- Price point. What price point do you want to offer your clients? What will your specific niche bear?
It can be tempting to try to support all the new and emerging solutions, but it’s far better to focus on a small number of great tools in order to provide the best, most thorough service possible.
Strengthen Client Service Offerings
Increasingly, business owners are seeking out accounting professionals not because of their bookkeeping skills, but because of their business expertise. Your clients are looking to you for advice, both in software solutions and in process improvement.
This latter will become especially important as more accounting firms move to embrace cloud-based solutions. Since technology offerings will no longer be enough to help you stand out, you’ll need to differentiate yourself with client and advisory services.
- Advising on technology. A good place to start is by advising your clients on how to set up an accounting stack. The majority of your clients know there are better options out there, but they don’t want to wade through them to find the best ones for their business. They would rather hire you to advise them and help them implement an ecosystem of integrated applications customized to their specific needs.
- Advising on process. A corollary to advising on technology stacks is helping clients streamline their processes. As an outside advisor, you can help clients spot inefficiencies and implement processes and applications to help them save time, money, and energy. This will require you to become more knowledgeable about the tools your clients use to run their businesses beyond the scope of core accounting software, like apps for time-tracking, payment, and client relationship management.
- Advise on business growth. Lastly, you can take your knowledge of your clients’ industries and business processes to advise them on how to grow their business. Your clients aren’t just coming to you for bookkeeping anymore. Now, they’re looking for advice on becoming more profitable and agile in their finances. Become familiar with the key performance indicators in your clients’ industries, and use that knowledge to help your clients drive growth in their businesses.
Charting a Path Forward
By focusing on these two areas, accounting professionals can begin to chart out their path toward adding true value to their clients’ businesses, and building a practice that is sustainable and resilient. In my next post, I’ll discuss strategies for monetizing these software tools and client services.
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Mark Gilbert is CEO of MBS Accounting Technology & Advisory (www.mbsata.com) which provides accounting services, accounting app integrations, bookkeeping, reporting, budgeting, projections, and KPI evaluations to businesses.