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Clients drive cloud accounting growth

11th Oct 2013
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Client demand is pushing practitioners to embrace cloud accounting software, according to a recent survey.

In co-operation with AccountingWEB, Exact surveyed more than 200 AccountingWEB members to identify accountants’ attitudes toward cloud accounting technology and solicit their views on the challenges facing clients.

The results showed that clients are driving the growth of cloud accounting, as 47% of respondents said that a client request for a cloud accounting solution would make them put one in place.

Mark Appel, global marketing director cloud solutions at Exact, commented that accountants appear to be taking a “reactive” approach to the cloud.

“There are many opportunities, research has shown, for accountants to implement the cloud but they’re largely leaving it up to clients.

“Those leading these firms may be wary of the new technologies, preferring to stick to what they know and therefore continuing to work the way they’ve been trained to work and how they have been operating for decades,” Appel said.

Other top reasons cited for implementing a cloud accounting system include increased productivity and efficiency for users, and lower IT costs.

Appel said this confirmed accountants were taking a traditional view of cloud, thinking about cost-effectiveness rather than the opportunities it can bring to clients and the way they work.

The majority of accountants who completed the survey acknowledged they had some, but limited, knowledge of cloud accounting systems.

A lesser amount (26%) said they do use some cloud software, which they’re happy with. But a further 19% remained unconvinced that cloud would be of any benefit to them.

The 19% unconvinced figure doesn’t alarm Appel, who said he’s had experience with firms who are in the stages of implementing the cloud, but perhaps coming up against opposition from more senior partners.

“There’s a big difference between people saying something’s a good idea and then actually doing it,” he said.

“But if accountants aren’t feeling the pain, they’re not going to change. I think they might be feeling the pain now though from clients asking them to be more collaborative and transparent, which is why they’re seeing benefits in the cloud.”

What practitioners did remain optimistic about, though, was their own firms’ growth. Over 60% of respondents expect to see small to strong growth within their own firms within the next 12 months.

But accountants were a little less optimistic about client firm growth, as about 60% said that they expected clients’ firms to experience either no change or little growth over the same period.

Appel put the smaller client growth down to economic conditions, but speculated that perhaps cloud was one of the drivers for growth of the firms as accountants seek to add new services for clients.

In terms of what’s challenging for clients, practitioners - unsurprisingly - considered cashflow as their clients’ most pressing concern, followed by driving sales growth and marketplace competition.

They also think that compliance, time management and stock management are ‘bottom of the list’ items, or the least important.

In a separate Exact survey focusing on the small business view of cloud and the client-accountant relationship, 86% of accountants identified some benefit to the cloud.

For small to medium sized businesses, meanwhile, the single biggest pressure for them is winning new business, followed closely by accounting and finance concerns and time management.

“The cloud presents a huge platform of opportunity for accountants to feed into the growing demands of businesses, particularly small to medium sized businesses, to offer more than just someone who sorts out their books, and to better meet those growing needs for more value added services,” said Appel.

“Our other research shows that small to medium sized businesses are more and more turning to their accountant to advise them over broader business decisions.

“Over half (54%) of small to medium sized businesses trust their accountant more than anyone else when it comes to broader business decisions, and cloud offers the perfect channel to help build and develop those levels of trust,” he added.


Replies (8)

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By Paul Scholes
14th Oct 2013 09:24

"Clients Drive"?

"The results showed that clients are driving the growth of cloud accounting, as 47% of respondents said that a client request for a cloud accounting solution would make them put one in place"

Driving is an activity, clients sitting in ignorance that you need a lift is hardly forcing them to drive you?

Can I suggest that the headline should have referred to Mark Appel's comment "accountants appear to be taking a “reactive” approach to the cloud"? or even "accountants are failing to drive"?  But then neither of these are really news.

"We" are a reactive, inert, cautious and even conservative bunch so I'm surprised at the high rate of take up.


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By leppam
14th Oct 2013 20:30

Hi Paul, headline has been produced by Rachael ;-) That accountants are not driving cloud adoption that certainly is no news to me at least. But what I find quite interesting that this is the situation for already a couple of years. My personal opinion is that practices do not feel the pain at this moment: no pain no change. When clients threaten to leave maybe than accountants are forced to be creative and think about how to do things differently. But again, that is just my personal opinion.

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By chatman
15th Oct 2013 10:53

Doesn't happen

I dream of clients ringing me up and saying they want to change from Quickbooks to Xero or Clearbooks.

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By coraliescott
27th Oct 2013 23:16

Online accounting

We've found that the accountants are definitely warming up to online/cloud accounting but it is definitely driven by demand from the SMEs. Ultimately it's they who reap the majority of benefits from moving to the cloud, but they still want support from someone who understands the technicalities that they may not.

It seems to pay off for advisors to get to know what's out there, so they can best advise each individual client rather than favouring one solution, or avoiding something because it is unfamiliar.

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By chatman
28th Oct 2013 07:07

New to AWeb
Welcome to AccountingWeb coraliescott. What prompted you to join?

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By Paul Scholes
28th Oct 2013 08:14


Hi - I presume you mean that SMEs in Australia are driving the uptake?  My experience here is that none of our clients have ever mentioned it, rather it's been the other way around, we have had to show them the benefits of Cloud working.

If & when Saasu looks to enter the UK market, it would be a great help for us to know how it differentiates itself from the others.  We already have 20ish systems to choose from and there is just not enough time to compare and assess all of them to decide the best fit for clients & us.

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Replying to Slim:
By coraliescott
30th Oct 2013 04:34

Hi Paul,

Yes we've found that, and from discussions with new partners in the UK we're starting to find the same. Certainly with other vendors doing some impressive things in the market businesses and accountants are starting to listen.

Paul I'm not familiar with all products in the UK market just yet, but I'd happily point you to this independent review by the ICB over here:

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By chatman
28th Oct 2013 08:22

New Member

It's OK Coralie - Paul's answered my question.

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