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Editor's Corner: Our Accountants are More Tech-Forward and Advising


AccountingWEB recently surveyed our audience of nearly entirely accountants, the majority of which work in or own small practices, and found some very interesting facts about them.

Jan 10th 2020
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We have found that our audience of accounting professionals are far more tech-foward than we thought, and are also apparently engaged in advisory services in some form, despite having no formal plans for their future growth and still tracking time.

These are just some of the highlights of our recent reader survey, which I plan to dig a bit deeper into my column below. For the most part, we were not surprised to learn that of the approximately 500 responses we received, the majority of our audience own(70 percent) or manage(13 percent) a firm with 10 staffers or less(82 percent). It was only when we took a closer look at the responses did we find some interesting statistics that feed directly into the trends we've been following about the profession.

One of the things that stood out for us is responses about advisory services. Now, you avid readers know we've spent some time getting viewpoints on All aspects of advisory services, the need for firms to move more in that direction and away from traditional services and even viewpoints to the contrary. As an aside, we do plan to address the issue of advisory services purely from a semantics point of view later in the year, when we take a look at the language of advisory and what it really means to practitioners.

That said, when we asked our audience about the services they provide there were a few that stood out that would qualify as advisory services. Specifically, 60 percent of respondants said they offer or perform business planning, while 36 percent do cashflow forecasting and 27 percent perform some form of technology consulting. We did not delve into if they charge or even what percent of overall revenue these services account for, but perhaps that's for another time.

Firm Services

Another standout for us was the issue of planning. Now, we did a planning survey about two years ago and we got even more responses to this reader survey. Plus, we thought it was time to check back in and we found, once again that firms in our audience simply have limited details for their growth plans.

Specifically, when we asked if firms could describe their growth strategy a total of 65 percent said they either have broad, big-picture plans with long-term goals or were looking to grow in general but no specfic plans at all. Some even said they are just hoping to survive another year.

Growth Strategy

As I mentioned, what we learned wasn't all bad. In fact, the tech-saviness or at least the perception of such, came clear with our survey. When we took a look at product usage, we found that respondands use a wide array of tax, bookkeeping and document management products, with a fair bit of portals, expense management and workflow added in.

Firm Applications

But it was how these practitioners were accessing these programs which caught our eye. With all the talk over the past 10 years of moving to the cloud in some way, shape or form it appears firms are getting the hint. As you will see, while many accountants are still on desktop applications, they are also in the cloud or doing both. 

This may not seem like much on the surface, but when you consider that the profession on the whole has been hearing about cloud for the past 10 years and, by and large, have been hesitant about the move, it seems that is finally fading.

Desktop v Cloud

An interesting side stat with this, which we also plan to address in a specific hosting survey in the coming months, is the amount of desktop users that are not hosting their desktop applications. We found, specifically, that only 32 percent of desktop product users were hosting them.

Some other noteworthy findings in our survey were:

  • 56 percent still track time in their firm
  • 38 percent of clients are billed based on time
  • 52 percent of clients are on a fixed-fee system
  • 75 percent had no vertical focus

If there's anything else you'd like to know, or issues you'd like to see addressed on AccountingWEB feel free to inquire at [email protected], we'd love to hear from you!


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