Over the past 12 months, accounting practices have been on a tremendous journey, navigating their way through the uncharted territory of a global pandemic, while managing unprecedented complexity and risk in an ever-changing regulatory environment.
Accountants worked tirelessly, with many taking on the role of counsellor, not only providing advice in a volatile and ever-changing environment, but also emotional support to their clients.
While the learnings and takeaways differ from accountant to accountant, one fact rings true: nobody could have dealt with the challenges without technology.
Navigating growth in 2021
From endless virtual meetings to introducing automated software, the widespread adoption of new technologies in 2020 launched the accountancy practice into the future.
We quickly saw that accountants need to be able to streamline and automate routine compliance work to increase efficiency and improve productivity. At the same time, they need instant, secure, self-service access to client information order to extract key insights that will help them to anticipate client needs and provide value-added services.
Scalable technologies that support practice connectivity from anywhere, anytime, with automated workflows and powerful analytics — from bookkeeping and accounts preparation to tax — will not only allow accountants to keep their heads above water and safeguard jobs within the practice, but more importantly, enable them to focus on what matters most: personalised client service.
However, it is important to note that technology is not just here to help accountants support their clients through the tough times.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the Australian economy is expected to grow by 4.5 per cent in 2021, pending the national vaccine rollout.
This means accountants will be advising clients through a period of substantial economic growth.
While this may be a stark contrast to last year, one thing holds true: accounting practices will need to lean on digital innovation to ride this wave of growth.
To seize the opportunity, practices must ensure they’re equipped with the right tools, to meet clients’ expectations and go above and beyond to deliver value.
Focusing on what matters in 2021
Open cloud platforms with automated workflows and powerful analytics can help accountants tailor their practice to how they work so they can focus on what matters most — supporting clients as they transition into this next phase of economic growth.
Now more than ever, firms need cloud-based solutions to quickly identify trends and address ever-changing client needs. Plus, they need the instant access to financial and operational visibility that is critical to improving practice efficiency and performance.
One of the inherent beauties of a cloud-based, automated platform is the ability for it to free up time for higher-value tasks.
This is still something the industry needs to solve, as our recent data shows that more than 80 per cent of accountants’ time is still spent on core compliance work. Disturbingly, this leaves less than 20 per cent focused on value-added services, like that much-valued personalised client counsel.
If accountants are to adequately support clients through this transition from economic volatility to prosperity, there is no doubt that they will need a cloud-based solution that unlocks opportunities for clients and provides a highly personalised service, while improving efficiencies and maintaining effortless compliance — all the while, having flexibility to scale and grow in their own time.
Looking back and forward
It is hard to overlook just how much technologies supported the accounting industry in 2020.
It allowed our industry to act immediately, to stay on top of ever-evolving client requests, and be as efficient, flexible and valuable as possible, at anytime, anywhere.
While the impact of technology will be an important legacy of 2020, it will prove equally fundamental as we enter the next growth phase and accountants are tasked with supporting clients through a period of much-needed economic prosperity.
Kerry Agiasotis, managing director and executive vice-president, Sage Asia-Pacific