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 techdisruption, the profession is merely evolving alongside technology.Unfortunately, many accountants are reluctant to embrace and utilize newaccounting solutions and offer advisory services to SMBs. Within a few shortyears, that’s all going to change.
Technology has introduced new challenges and opportunities foraccountants and the accounting profession as a whole. Basic transactionalaccounting services are now automated. Small business owners have access to avariety of do-it-yourself software solutionsto manage their bookkeeping, payroll, and invoicing—all without the need of aCPA.
Nevertheless, with myriad technology solutions at their disposal,SMBs are seeking advice from their accountants. A recent survey byAccountingWeb and Zoho found that accountants are being asked for adviceregarding technology decisions 83 percent of the time. Besides answering clientquestions, 94 percent of respondents recommend technology to clients when theyspot a need. When they don’t, the biggest concern accountants have aboutproviding technology advice is that it’s out of their depth (22 percent),liability issues (19 percent), and getting sucked into complex projects (17percent).
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 theirclients is evolving. SMBs are looking for expert advice from their accountants,and they should be willing to pay for this service because they gain acompetitive advantage when their accountant offers more than bookkeepingservices. The survey found that outside of tax season, nearly 40 percent of accountantsreceive five to 20 technology-related questions per month. Most of thesequestions relate to software selection and implementation, but training anddata security are also areas where clients seek support.
The challenge for accounting firms is shifting their mindset andrevising their business model from transactional services to consultancy andadvisory. Accountants can offer additional services to their clients such asrefining business plans, opening new business opportunities, and strategic advicesuch as tax ramifications between various business structures (i.e soleproprietorship, 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, like the ones in Polston Tax, 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.
Chandrashekar LSP is the product evangelist forZoho Corporation Canada. To learn more about Zoho’s accounting tools, pleasevisit: https://www.zoho.com/ca/financeplus/.