4th May, 2018
As automation redefines the roles of accountants and bookkeepers, firms will be better off engaging in who does what. Then all participants can have their slice of the Connected Practice action.
More innovation in the past decade means accountants and bookkeepers are talking about what their future holds. And this has triggered a few sparks between the two groups.
For accounting practice consultant Amanda Gascoigne, part of the problem lies in the widening gap between tech-savvy firms and the laggards.
“Some accountants think if their clients see those traditional functions have become automated, they’ll question what they’re actually getting for their money,” she said. “But I’ve found the opposite occurs. Clients appreciate advice on how they can simplify their bookkeeping without firing their accountant or bookkeeper.”
Gascoigne, who introduced paperless accounting to her own practice in 2008, said firms would find greater reward by encouraging clients to embrace new technologies.
“When you make these tasks easier, it empowers clients. They get hungry for information they can extract from their software. They are more likely to contact you for advice that they value and are prepared to pay for.”
So tech disruption through automation opens up new revenue streams for advisors willing to connect with this Brave New World.
Some accountants may fear that bookkeepers who’ve embraced automation are ahead of the curve when it comes to offering business advisory.
Karen Groves, Director of bookkeeping firm Successful Alliances, sees bookkeepers lead the charge in tech adoption.
“On one hand, it’s easy to see how accountants and bookkeepers are in competition for clients,” Groves told The Pulse. “They’re both producing reporting that they use to feed into their advice for the business owner.
“And where, traditionally, bookkeepers were expected to provide insight on a regular – often monthly – basis, we’re now seeing accountants starting to do the same.”
But for the bookkeeper who has come to grips with the lightning speed of tech changes, this offers new consulting opportunities.
“At Successful Alliances, we’re spending more time appraising the various applications our clients use and advising them on what new software to adopt, or how to better integrate their current setup.
“There is a huge opportunity for bookkeepers to collaborate with accountants in the tech space to provide a better overall service for clients.”
This is a big win for bookkeepers who save their clients time and money, and implement systems that give the client, bookkeeper and accountant more visibility on a daily basis.
So where does this leave accountants?
The final challenge for accounting firms morphing into the Connected Practice is where they find the time and resources to integrate the right tech platforms.
“Like any business, accountants have hired the staff they need to resource business as usual. This doesn’t leave much bandwidth for finding, installing and learning new software platforms,” Gascoigne said.
“But the combined benefits and the risk inherent in not doing it should justify any short-term pain.”
Accounting firms can be proactive consultants to their clients and develop referrals, leads and onboard new clients.
“It’s that high-level advisory space that accountants can seek out,” Gascoigne said. “We’re good at detecting issues – often well in advance of the issue becoming a real problem.
“Small businesses and startups need to outsource that traditional role of CFO. Accountants are in the best place to offer those services. The challenge is combining an optimal mix of compliance and advisory work.”
Accountants need to craft their own Connected Practice with the same dedication they have when helping their clients.
Here’s where partnering with forward-thinking bookkeepers kicks in.
“There are real benefits of accountants and bookkeepers working collaboratively together to achieve great outcomes for clients, and themselves as business owner,” Gascoigne said. “There needs to be mutual respect and trust and a clear understanding what each can bring to the table.
“When we all work in our ‘zone of genius’ we enjoy greater work satisfaction. We add more value to the client and we can charge for that value. There is enough work for everyone – we just need to identify the best person to do that work so the client feels valued.”