EVP of Partners, Accountants & Alliances Sage
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2016 Prediction for Accountants: Technology Can Cut Complexity

Dec 9th 2015
EVP of Partners, Accountants & Alliances Sage
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Not to be a Scrooge at this time of year, but tax season is just a couple of calendar flips away, and your clients will need you more than ever in 2016 as new government bureaucracy and tax rates will make accountants increasingly necessary.

This presents opportunities for you to grow your firm by securing new clients and offering new services to your existing ones. You can begin preparing for 2016 immediately by taking two important steps:

  1. Learn how to use your smartphone and other mobile devices to better service clients beyond just checking emails and sending invoices.
  2. Automate the manual business processes that consume so much of your valuable time.

Doing both will enable you to be more efficient and productive so you can focus on more strategic areas of your business.

In the same right, each small business is different, but there are two issues they will all share in 2016:

  1. Dealing with high tax rates.
  2. The complexities of the tax code.

The National Federation of Independent Business' (NFIB) most recent Small Business Problems and Priorities survey found that five out of the top 10 business challenges survey respondents identified are tax-related. The NFIB report also calls for major tax reform that helps small business owners. Here's one prediction I feel very safe in making: We won't see significant tax reform in 2016.

Small business owners wear so many hats, and so do their accountants. An accountant's role is increasingly moving beyond overseeing financial issues to also helping with decision-making processes for areas such as HR, technology, and marketing.

You may even manage relationships with vendors, customers, and financial institutions. As the workload increases, so too will the amount of manual administrative tasks that consume your time and take you away from more important work.

Accountants are starting to realize the need to integrate disparate technologies to manage all aspects of their firms, such as task automation, work flow centralization, job tracking, and performance measurement. When you and your office run more efficiently, you're better able to serve your clients.

When I meet with our customers, the No. 1 thing they want to talk about is integration. Gone are the days when a business can use a dozen individual applications independent of one another to run the business.

Today, cloud computing and mobile technologies enable you to make those applications “talk” to one another and share data. This integration fundamentally changes how they are able to consult with their clients, enabling them to run their businesses at the office, in a client's office, and even while traveling.

The key word in that last paragraph was “mobile.” Accountants have been slower than other professionals to adopt these technologies to do more than simply communicating with emails and phone calls, and sending invoices.

We recently surveyed 1,200 accountants across the United States and around the world for our Sage Accountancy Index survey. In that work, we found that while accountants are expanding their service offerings to take on a more proactive advisory role, half lack the technology to provide real-time advice. Key findings include:

  • Only 10 percent leverage online or cloud solutions to collaborate and share accounting information with clients.
  • Fifty-eight percent most often work with their clients face-to-face and with physical documents.
  • Fifty-one percent of accountants do not have anytime, anywhere access to view, exchange, or update client accounting information, and only 20 percent of firms have these capabilities.

That has to change in 2016 if you want to provide the level of real-time, 24/7 counsel your clients will demand. The key lesson for you to learn is the same lesson many of your small business clients have to learn: Give up control.

You don't have to do everything yourself. In fact, trying to manage all administrate tasks, relying on printouts of Excel spreadsheets, and holding all meetings in person will hurt your productivity. Integrating various software solutions and mobile applications into your daily workflows will increase your efficiency level and enable you to grow your business by adding new services and capabilities to help your clients navigate what might be a difficult tax season. You'll also position yourself as a trusted business advisor all year long.

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