The software-as-a-service (SaaS) revolution is upon us, bringing with it challenges and opportunities for accountants.
First, the Challenges
SaaS technology promises to be deeply disruptive to the traditional bookkeeping model. After all, rules-based processes (i.e., tasks that follow generally predictable paths or yield predictable outcomes given certain inputs) are precisely the sorts of things that software platforms are best able to address. The benefits to companies are obvious and significant, and they are (frankly) quite easy for software companies to deliver.
The SaaS industry is the earliest innings of a major land rush, and it’s going to put enormous pressure on classic rules-based administrative jobs. Yes, that includes accounting and bookkeeping. You may not believe me, but given that American Express (and many others) are already able to provide detailed categorizations of one’s spending every month, we’re really not that far away from computers managing the books and the taxes with a very minimal level of input from a human being – the data are almost good enough already to allow it!
Alright, Now the Good News
Accountants stand to benefit enormously from this transition. Whether they realize it or not, many accountants are trusted technology advisors to the businesses they serve already. Most accountants already have brought software tools to bear in managing their own day-to-day work. Yet it is the rare business owner who knows his or her way around QuickBooks as well as an in-house or outsourced bookkeeper. So not only have accountants demonstrated the value of technology to business, but they have also demonstrated that they have some comfort level and fluency with such tools. So, no one is better positioned in the organization to find and recommend tools for enhancing process efficiency. No. One.
For accountants willing to embrace the coming change, the news gets even better: The SaaS industry is dying to work with you! Companies like Knowify and most other SaaS providers offer reseller programs that provide for revenue sharing with participating accountants for every paying customer they bring in; you need only to call them and ask.
Ironically, because virtually all offer similar financial incentives for you to resell their solutions, there really isn’t a conflict of interest here at all; rather, the SaaS marketplace as a whole is compensating you to serve as a “change agent,” and that is a role you should willingly embrace.
How to Ride This Rising Tide
If you want to ride this rising tide, the path forward is pretty clear. Start by learning some of the SaaS tools that have been designed for the particular industries/businesses you serve. Almost all will offer you free trials, demos, tutorials, etc. Most of the good ones can be learned in a few, quick hours once you understand their internal logic. When you have a handle on what each can do, sign up for the reseller programs.
Don’t worry. Anyone who can find their way through QuickBooks will be able to figure out the various SaaS platforms out there. At the end of the day, you are doing your clients a tremendous service by bringing technology that can make them fitter competitors in their own markets. And as I said earlier, the companies on the SaaS side of things, like Knowify, can’t wait to work with you!
Lastly, recommend the right mix of tools to the businesses for which you work. They will appreciate it. The power SaaS software can deliver is truly awesome, and the cost is trivial versus those gains. More importantly, you will be adding value to those businesses by becoming an internal champion for process efficiency – and an expert in emerging technology.
If and when the day comes that there’s less bookkeeping work to do, you will still play a critical role in being the SaaS platform expert and trusted technology advisor. Oh, and the recurring monthly checks from SaaS providers won’t hurt either.
About the author:
Dan deRoulet Jr. is the co-founder of Knowify LLC, a cloud-based business management software suite built to help companies organize and manage their businesses in the office or in the field from any smart device.