Accountants are reinventing themselves. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this process of renewal, convincing even the most traditional-style accountants that the time to adapt is now and it is more urgent than ever before.
Head of services at EasyBiz Technologies, Bridget du Toit, has identified several global trends that accountants are talking about. She has compiled these from accountants themselves, as well as from attending a spate of industry-related webinars during the Covid-19 lockdown.
1. Move to the cloud, or move over
Du Toit says cloud-based accounting solutions have gained enormous momentum in recent months. “The concept of using shared resources, including software that runs on a provider’s server, and being able to access that information in the cloud has made accounting more accessible than ever.”
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have played a significant role in compelling accountants to embrace the cloud.
The cloud also brings virtual platforms that are useful for accountants such as document scanning applications. For example, Receipt Bank allows receipts to be captured using a smart phone. These are then automatically populated into a business’s accounting system, making the previously onerous task of capturing receipts fast and efficient.
Du Toit points out that the move away from buying and paying for software up-front to paying a monthly fee for cloud services is often resisted by many old-school accountants.
“However, once they fully grasp the advantages of the cloud – saving time and money, as well as the ability to operate virtually from anywhere, any time – they don’t need further convincing. The monthly fee also affords them the flexibility to stop the service at any time, whether it is to go back to their old ways of operating or to switch service providers,” she adds.
One of the greatest money saving advantages of cloud-based accounting is that the data disaster recovery plans of the past have become obsolete. “The cloud backs itself up. Accountants do not have to worry about paying service providers to back data up for them or maintain their servers. This is especially useful in a country where the threat of load shedding and power surges are a constant worry,” notes du Toit.
2. Seize outsourcing opportunities
Outsourcing is a growing trend in the accountant’s world. Instead of employing accountants, businesses are enlisting the services of accountants to take care of certain aspects of their finances – and sometimes their entire financial function.
“This trend is not limited to small and medium enterprises,” says du Toit. “Large businesses are outsourcing entire accounting departments so that they can focus on their core business.”
This presents a massive opportunity for accountants to use their resources smartly and efficiently, and to charge the customer a monthly retainer fee. Not only does outsourcing give companies access to experienced and qualified accountants, it ensures their services are scalable and consistent.
“Instead of adding someone to the payroll each time they land a large client or introduce a new product, businesses are passing the additional workload onto their accountants. The accountants, in turn, have to scale their businesses. And, of course the best way to do so is via automation.”
3. Brush up on data analysis skills
Information is key today. Google, Facebook and Instagram have prompted the desire for immediate gratification. Instead of simply presenting financials, accountants are now expected to conduct data analysis that allows the customer to make better financial decisions.
“Accountants generate a lot of information, which becomes a crucial component of any business’s decision-making processes. Analysis of information allows businesses to determine whether they have too many or too few employees or whether they are spending too much money on one thing and not another. It helps them to refine processes and become more efficient and productive.”
4. Embrace social media
In the past, accountants relied largely on recommendations and word of mouth to advertise their services. Today, they are realising the benefits of integrating social media into their business models.
“When companies look for accounting services, the first place they look is online. They look for reviews, likes and recommendations on social media – either from their peers or their customers. This is where the interaction is happening. Accountants who save money by moving to the cloud should consider spending those savings on implementing a comprehensive social media plan,” says du Toit.
5. Keep abreast of accounting standards
Accounting standards are constantly being developed, revised or refined. Before the advent of social media, digital advertising and shared economies, these changes had a significant impact on accounting professionals, who had to wade through big dossiers or attend lectures to keep up.
Now these updates are posted online, giving accountants immediate access to information, peer reviews and related industry insights. Consider the Covid-19 Temporary Employer / Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) Directives – government announced the benefit, which accountants had to then access online and get their heads around while working from home.