Digital disruption OR a world of new opportunity

Brought to you by ICPA

David Oliver lifts the lid on his keynote Manchester conference presentation and looks at practical ways for your firm to prosper in a new digital landscape.

For a moment, I would like to ask you to cast your minds back to that wonderful moment in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when the children leave the real world and enter a magical landscape, full of danger and adventure. Totally unlike the world they live in, Narnia is a land where animals talk, the White Witch reigns as queen and it is always winter and never Christmas. As a global Fintech company that works closely with more than 2,000 accounting firms, we believe the profession is experiencing a similar ‘doorway’ moment and 2017 is likely to be a watershed year, or a tipping point, with the landscape changing to one of automation, innovation and disruption.

During my keynote presentation at the ICPA conference in September, I would like to share with you how firms of highly successful accountants are turning today’s digital disruption into a world of opportunity while helping their clients in incredible ways.

Digital revolution here to stay

The announcement that Making Tax Digital is to be stripped back and there is to be a delay was inevitable and changes nothing: the digital revolution is here to stay and no one should be put off looking at the potential digital technology offers.

During its long history the profession has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to adopt and adapt to changes in business practices, statutory regulations and technology. The flexibility and technical proficiency this demands is part of the professional DNA. However, in the digital age, the speed of change and its fundamental nature can make keeping pace difficult, even for the most well-resourced and tech-savvy firm. The ways in which accountants and their clients connect, collaborate, and communicate are being reshaped and strategies will need to be reset for a digital age.

Working with accountants around the world in a software business that focuses on mobile technology, we know that it is the new digital world in which we all live and work that can solve the challenges facing accountants. Everyone is online and there can be no doubt that the move to digital technology has become a mobile-first experience with over 900 billion hours spent on Apps last year, and the number of Smartphone users expected to reach 48.26 million in the UK this year. The business world is changing because of the rate of mobile adoption and mobile devices such as Smartphones and tablets are used for all kinds of business activity: for talking to customers, for raising quotes, creating invoices or capturing receipts and for searching for information that is relevant to their business; all with the help of Apps.

When we speak to accountants, they tell us that they are most concerned about their smallest clients; the ones that still bring their records into the office in shoeboxes and keep notebooks.

For this group, the new digital landscape represents a sea change in the way they manage their finances and it is down to the accountant to consider how best to help them make this transition to digital record keeping and start preparing them now. The key advantage is that a switch to digital technology enables the accountant to look at clients’ live records electronically and to give prompts and advice in a way that is simply not possible when the business keeps handwritten records.

Any mention of electronic data collection and record keeping creates panic and there needs to be a simpler answer to the recurring and unprofitable challenge of getting information from clients that want to use their Smartphones to communicate with their accountant. The solution lies in the pocket powerhouse or mobile phone and we have been working closely with ICPA to develop the easy to use ‘Collect’ App that is ideally suited to recording simple transactional data, and is unique because it doesn't require bookkeeping knowledge and very little tech ability. Getting involved, and starting to migrate your clients now, will mean you are in a much stronger position come 2020.

By providing business clients with a single simple App, they can collect the information you need by using the in-built camera on their Smartphones and Tablets to photograph receipts and allocate them to the relevant account and by taking photographs of their invoices.

Traditionally, getting the data to the accountant has involved manual exports of that data from the App itself but a Cloud portal changes this by allowing the accountant to login directly and gain instant access to any information collected by their client including income, expenditure and mileage logs.

Own the digital relationship

A key question being asked now is ‘who owns the client digital relationship’ and many accountants have realised it is not their firm, and have been able to remedy that. 

Accountants must counteract ‘the Google effect’, the disintermediation plans of government bodies and the lure of free software. Rather than giving away control of the data associated with cloud bookkeeping and accounting software, central to achieving this is to enable the collection of key data from customers – namely income, expenses and mileage.

There is a compelling opportunity for all firms, whether large or small, to now turn digital technology to their advantage, and without lots of unnecessary disruption.  Do come along hear exactly how at my keynote presentation on the 21 September at 2pm and learn how you and your clients can be better prepared for the new digital landscape we all operate in today.

• David Oliver of MyFirmsApp is an expert on how technology is impacting the future of the accounting profession. See www.myfirmsapp.co.uk for details

This article is taken from “Accounting Practice” the ICPA quarterly magazine. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the needs of the general practitioner. You can find us at www.icpa.org.uk or email [email protected] or by phone on 0800-074-2896.