Accountants are becoming crucial technology advisors to SMBs, but not all are on board
By Chandrashekar LSP, Zoho
For years a good accountant was a great bookkeeper. Today, new
technology solutions based on machine learning, automation, and artificial
intelligence are redefining what makes a great accountant. As more low-level
accounting tasks become automated, a paradigm shift is occurring within
accounting firms across the globe.
What’s clear is that accountants aren’t losing their jobs to tech
disruption, the profession is merely evolving alongside technology.
Unfortunately, many accountants are reluctant to embrace and utilize new
accounting solutions and offer advisory services to SMBs. Within a few short
years, that’s all going to change.
Technology has introduced new challenges and opportunities for
accountants and the accounting profession as a whole. Basic transactional
accounting services are now automated. Small business owners have access to a
variety of do-it-yourself software solutions
to manage their bookkeeping, payroll, and invoicing—all without the need of a
Nevertheless, with myriad technology solutions at their disposal,
SMBs are seeking advice from their accountants. A recent survey by
AccountingWeb and Zoho found that accountants are being asked for advice
regarding technology decisions 83 percent of the time. Besides answering client
questions, 94 percent of respondents recommend technology to clients when they
spot a need. When they don’t, the biggest concern accountants have about
providing technology advice is that it’s out of their depth (22 percent),
liability issues (19 percent), and getting sucked into complex projects (17
Accountants need to remember that small business owners are
consumers too, and they’re looking for accounting services to be as responsive
and transparent as other products or services they use in their personal and
professional lives. Accountants can advise and tailor solutions that meet their
clients’ unique business needs and requirements. Unfortunately, respondents in
the survey were reluctant to advise because they felt it was out of their depth
(33 percent) or because they wouldn’t be making profits (27 percent).
Without a doubt, the relationship between accountants and their
clients is evolving. SMBs are looking for expert advice from their accountants,
and they should be willing to pay for this service because they gain a
competitive advantage when their accountant offers more than bookkeeping
services. The survey found that outside of tax season, nearly 40 percent of accountants
receive five to 20 technology-related questions per month. Most of these
questions relate to software selection and implementation, but training and
data security are also areas where clients seek support.
The challenge for accounting firms is shifting their mindset and
revising their business model from transactional services to consultancy and
advisory. Accountants can offer additional services to their clients such as
refining business plans, opening new business opportunities, and strategic advice
such as tax ramifications between various business structures (i.e sole
proprietorship, LLC, partnership etc).
Alongside other industries affected by big data, automation, and
artificial intelligence, accounting-services firms are evolving. Technological
change and shifting consumer trends demand a new approach and perspective on
how the accounting industry creates value for clients. Accountants are more
than number crunchers—their knowledge, insight, and experience is integral to
the success and prosperity of SMBs around the world. It’s time for accountants
to embrace disruptive accounting technologies and become trusted technological
advisors to SMBs.