Technology Trends for Accounting Firms in 2021
It’s certainly been a challenging past year as the world of business has been forced to adapt like never before, while technology has taken a front seat to help – even the sceptics – keep their firms running.
As a result, we expect to see rapid changes in top technological and business innovation in 2021 – all accelerated by people’s experience during the pandemic.
Lots have changed, from remote working, communication and ecommerce, to firms almost ‘reimagining’ the customer experience. Tech trends such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), mobile Apps, Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics and blockchain are at the centre driving this change into a new age.
Businesses should be looking at how they can best use these trends in order to leverage them for growth. But for accountants in particular, they should really evaluate how these trends can be used strategically for now and for the future of accounting, as the world adapts to the post-Covid society.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
With AI, we are at a point of pivotal change. AI is already good at automating repetitive tasks, increasing accuracy and efficiency, and discovering hidden insights and trends, and in the coming years, will become even more increasingly embedded in everything we touch and do.
So where do accountants fit in? AI can bring many opportunities for accountants to improve their efficiency, provide more insight and deliver more value to businesses; whether that’s improving output quality and decision-making thus enabling accountants to focus on performing high-value, high-impact tasks.
AI automatically manages the process of gathering, sorting and visualising pertinent data in a way that helps the business run more efficiently.
Practices can also significantly improve compliance procedures and protect both their own and clients’ finances as AI can handle data review at speed and pick up anomalies such as duplicate invoices.
If a business client sees a rise in supplier costs, the AI-equipped accountant can also predict the likely impact on the business in the near future. AI is very much here to stay – and is already impacting business in ways we never imagined just a few years back.
Added to that; the future of AI in Apps will allow a virtual member of the team to be on call 24/7 and act as the first point of call for clients’ questions. This will revolutionise the touch points and engagement between a company and its customers, with 24/7 assistance firmly at the heart of this mobile technology trend.
AI has helped global giants such as Amazon and Netflix to improve their customer experience and therefore encouraged more and more people to use them – we expect this trend to filter down to everyday businesses over the coming years.
The world changed dramatically in 2020, and the result in the App world was an acceleration of mobile usage habits by 2 to 3 years – strengthening mobile’s role as the most crucial instrument for engaging customers and growing your top line.
In total, 2020 saw 218bn in new app downloads, representing a 7% growth. It’s clear that mobile is the number 1 space for information.
For accountancy practices, finding the time to go beyond compliance work and provide clients with up-to-date business news and tax content can not only be time-consuming but can put a strain on stretched resources.
With an App, clients can have key content in the palms of their hands when they need it most; with the most important updates and insights proactively signposted for them – and all done for the accountant.
The process helps to deepen the relationship with clients and share meaningful, insightful content that is often a struggle to produce in-house. This can include a fast turnaround of Government announcements, live Budget alerts or a simple round-up of tax changes sent via Push Notifications, while the client also has access to a wealth of tax tools and features to use on-the-go.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT refers to the network of devices that are able to gather and share data with other devices that are on the same network, creating many opportunities for a seamless integration of computer-based systems in the physical world.
Combining the Internet of Things (IoT) with accounting has the potential to provide a powerful means of making organisations more effective; whether that’s through real time data collection, identification of issues or automated transaction processing.
Real-time data collection, for example, could help accountants to improve budget accuracy, cost planning and forecasting, meaning risks become easier to manage.
Accountants who can combine the range of IoT collected data with financial information have better chances of addressing the root cause of the issues.
Data analytics – how it can drive decision making
The power, and value, of data, is unprecedented, and its importance to all businesses – especially accounting firms – should not be understated in this digital age.
By harnessing data analytics, accounting firms can track their client’s performance more accurately and identify ways of improving tax setups or general business practices.
As thorough, accurate data analytics becomes more commonplace in the industry, accountancy firms will be expected to harness this specialism. This upcoming year, therefore, is imperative for firms to act and ensure they remain ahead of the curve in five or ten years.
Blockchain is a specific type of database that differs from perhaps a ‘typical database’ in the way it stores information; blockchains store data in blocks that are then chained together.
The technology has found its way to virtually every industry, with companies incorporating it into their day-to-day business processes.
Blockchain provides accountants an opportunity to not only streamline their audits and processes (since it provides a transparent and immutable record of all data), but for reconciling accounts and recording cash flow, while also recording transactions and stores assets.
Blockchain can also help accountants gain clarity over the available resources and obligations of their organisations, and also free up resources to concentrate on planning and valuation – and we know the importance of time-saving, especially in the accountancy industry – rather than recordkeeping.
Looking to the year ahead
Technology development in 2021 will be somewhat of a continuation of 2020, but will no doubt be influenced – and evolve – from the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the outlook remains uncertain still for the year ahead as global economies roll out their own programmes to emerge from this pandemic stronger, many of our new behaviours will become part of the new normal in 2021.
At the heart of this is the push to help drive major technological and business innovations; if even to retool for the world of tomorrow.
While 2020 saw records for the acceleration of mobile App downloads, it’s clear that this format of communication was not only vital in maintaining engagement between firm and customer during 2020, but also as a driver for growth and alignment with other tech trends (mobile and AI, for example) for 2021 and beyond.
If you’d like to see how an App can work for your firm in this digital age for business, get in touch and a member of our team will reach out to arrange a short Zoom call to chat and learn more together.
MyFirmsApp developed the first ever custom App for the profession in 2012 and now there are around 3000 accountants that find, with the help of simple and natural digital solutions, they can drive deeper relationships with their clients.
Delivering powerful technology is only part of the solution to the digital communication challenge faced by firms across the globe. These digital solutions need to be supported with expert services which deliver on the firms' strategic objectives.