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Tech Trends Traditional Accountants Can't Ignore


No matter how far removed you feel from technology in your practice, how technology impacts your work – be it directly or indirectly – cannot be ignored.

At AccountingWEB we’ve visited this topic many times recently on several levels. Here, our columnist Bryce Sanders offers his views specifically for more traditional-minded accountants about what technology issues they probably should not overlook.

Mar 22nd 2018
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Being an accountant in a traditional firm, you may have reached the point where your are comfortable doing business a certain way. Business clients are busy running their business and making money. 

They see no need to introduce services nobody’s requested. Their business grows organically because their clients refer their kids. 

Retiring clients might move away, yet they still want to keep their decades long accounting relationship. Some might call them Luddites or laggards who often say: “But it works for me.” 

Secretly, they know you can’t ignore technology. At some point they decided embracing tax preparation software enabled them to handle more clients in less time. How long ago was that?

Technology Trends You Ignore at Your Peril

1. Artificial Intelligence. Currently, many financial advisors feel threatened by robo-advisors that manage and rebalance a portfolio of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) at a fraction of the cost they charge. Can filing simple tax returns or automated audits be far away? 

2. Communication. Some accountants might proudly announce you don’t text or use social media.  However, you did embrace e-mail. Why?  Because enough clients asked about it. You need to have multiple contact channels available to clients because that next generation of family business owner will wonder why they can’t text you.

3. Remote data access. Is an office really necessary? The big firms want accountants meeting with clients or working from home.  This means remote data access. The neighborhood accountant wants to sit across from a client in their office and access data. You can’t be carrying around stacks of paper forever.

4. Data security. Online buying was rolled out years ago. Weren’t we told 64-bit encryption was unhackable?  “Don’t worry, your data will be safe.”  Yahoo, JP Morgan and e-Bay made the top 10 list of biggest data hacks of the 21st Century. Clients want reassurance. Will you even know someone’s been snooping around?  You need to take steps if you haven't already.

5. Online filing. The IRS launched its pilot online filing program in 1986!  In 2017, 132,319,000 of the 152+ million returns processed were submitted using eFile. About 60% were submitted by tax professionals. The comfortable accountant might say: “Well, of course I do that…”

6. Disaster planning.  What else do clients worry about?  The tsunami that might wash away your office.  Forget that about 75% of tsunamis happen in the Pacific and your office is in Nebraska. Some clients are convinced climate change makes anything possible. They want to know their historical data is recoverable if a natural disaster takes out your office.

7. Access to online forms. Different states means different forms are needed.  Instead of visiting each state’s tax office website, you need access to a central repository where you can get the right forms with one click.

8. Become more Social. Many accountants have small practices and keep up with trends by reading trade journals. But is that enough? You need fellow professionals to talk with about best practices and social media (i.e. blogs, LinkedIn, even membership in this site). The industry is changing fast. You may have embraced online learning years ago, but now you need a place to post questions and get answers from your peers.

The five stages of the technology adoption life cycle include innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.  Which best describes you?

Other Related Articles:

10 Accounting Trends to Watch for in 2018

5 Process Improvement Strategy Trends of Future-Ready Firms

5 Things You Need to Know About the Future of Accounting

How Top CPA Firms are Adapting to Emerging Trends

3 Biggest Trends in Accounting Technology for 2016


Replies (2)

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By AdrianLawrence
Mar 29th 2018 08:10 EDT

The profession does seem to find it a challenge to embrace technology. Young accountants coming through are much keen however. I am certain that in the next 10 years we'll see a proper catching up.

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Replying to AdrianLawrence:
Bryce Sanders
By Bryce Sanders
Mar 29th 2018 08:51 EDT

Adrian - Thanks for commenting. The receptivity to embracing technology has about six steps ranging from early adopters to laggards. Technology is a big area. Some technology is quickly embraced by a large segment of professionals. Filing taxes online is a good example, as the statistic in the article shows. You make a good point. As newer people enter the profession, they will bring a comfort with technology. Clients will also demand it too. - Bryce

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