Disrupting the profession: 3 ways accountants can grow and thrive

John D. Rockefeller infamously said: “I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.”

With this in mind, accounting professionals recently felt both were thrust upon them following the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve formed the bedrock for businesses, providing advice and assisting with claims for government help.

This ties in with the themes of this year’s Practice of Now 2020 research, carried out late last year by Sage in association with Savanta. The data from more than 3,000 accounting professionals worldwide paints a picture of a profession on the brink of positive disruption—and a profession perfectly primed for challenges such as those presented in 2020.

What is disruption? Simply put, it’s when clients drive change. No profession or industry is immune. Those who need transport think first of Uber or Lyft, rather than hailing a taxi. Those looking to arrange holiday accommodation turn to Airbnb, as much as they would to a hotel booking website or travel agent. And, of course, those looking to make a consumer purchase over the past decade thought of Amazon first, and their local shopping mall second.

Technology often facilitates disruption, but is rarely a cause of it.

In our survey, disruption is indicated by the vast majority (87%) of respondents who said clients expect more flexibility and better service levels—but with no increase in fees.

Disruption is further shown by the fact that 82% of accountants in our survey agreed clients are demanding a wider service offering, regardless of any technological or societal factors. Having said that, technology does play a factor—82% agree that customer expectations of accountants and bookkeepers have widened to include services such as advising on relevant finance and accounting technologies. Meanwhile, 83% of accountants agree that new technologies and a culture of digitization means they have had to invest more, and quickly, in order to keep pace with the market.

To prepare for disruption, practices need to listen to their customers and use the following themes to inform about their service offerings:

Anywhere, any time

The need for people to adhere to social distancing requirements has defined recent working conditions for most of us, and the solution has been to work from home.

But how many accountants are really digging down into what’s required of this need to, essentially, work anywhere and at any time? Are you able to assist clients so they can digitally pass documents between various parties (both internal and external)? Is every part of a client’s business able not only to access the accounts, but to benefit from them by way of regular reports or access to dashboards? Are you able to help businesses facilitate this goal?

These kinds of requirements are not going to go away, and businesses are increasingly going to turn to their accountants for answers. Who else can they speak to for help with—from their perspective—managing the numbers?

According to this year’s Practice of Now survey, the majority of accountants (54%) provide clients with a faster service thanks to technology, while 43% believe it means their client service and satisfaction has improved.

Technology is the flip side of the accounting coin in today’s world. The practices that don’t realize this are running the risk of irrelevance.

Compliance

During the coronavirus disruption, accounting professionals worldwide

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