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Tech savvy is now a survival skill

22nd Nov 2016
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Technology now underpins everything an accountant does and the pace of change doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

As revealed in the recent State of Accounts report published by Xero the majority of accountants (83%) believe understanding technology is now equally as important to their job as understanding accountancy.

In addition nearly half believe skills in risk analysis, management consultancy and computer science will be required to thrive in the profession beyond 2025 as technology evolves.

While most accountants recognise the importance of keeping up-to-date with new technologies, the majority appear to be failing to invest enough time in education to enable them and their staff to do so.

Just under half of accountants surveyed are taking internal courses and a quarter are on external courses to ensure they are proficient with new tech, including business intelligence tools.

The impact of changing technology

With all this change, 22% of respondents felt that the change will be so great they will actually need to leave the sector if they don’t adapt to modern methods by the end of the decade. However 60% were confident they can adapt to change.

One key trend across the profession has been the death of the traditional ‘9-5’ and the birth of ‘on demand’ accountants.

For many modern practices the working day is now more flexible and this is particularly beneficial to accountants with commitments outside of work.

Bristol-based accountant Della Hudson is a working mum and employs eight flexible workers at her firm.

She said using cloud-based technology allowed the firm to be more flexible over time and place of working: “This means that we get to recruit some really high calibre team members who want time with their family or to take more holidays because their kids have grown up. Whatever the reason we find that looking after our team helps them to look after our clients,” Hudson said.  

Pace of innovation not slowing down

Increasing broadband coverage, investment into cloud infrastructure, and adoption of smartphones and tablets has changed the profile of small business owners and the relationship they have with their accountants.

A new breed of business owner is now empowered by the flexibility of technology which allows them to work on their own terms and stay productive on the move.

Gary Turner, Xero’s UK managing director said the pace of technological change is not slowing down: “As we head into a prolonged period of technological change in the next five years it's encouraging that many accountants see being tech savvy as a key survival skill.

“However, the survey also suggests that the profession needs to work harder on investing sufficient time in keeping abreast of emerging technologies, and in more effectively persuading SMBs that a close working relationship with a financial professional will be important in years to come.”

How tech is changing relationships

With increased automation and Making Tax Digital just around the corner, building closer relationships with clients is more important than ever. But that doesn’t necessarily mean in-person contact.

In fact, according to the report just 42% of small businesses thought they would interact face-to-face with their accountant at all in the future.

Instead 16% of business owners expect to interact with their accountant purely through accounting software in the future, followed by instant messaging and video calls at 10% each.

The next wave

Artificial intelligence (AI) is can perform tasks which typically require human intelligence, such as speech recognition and decision making, and it is predicted that AI will hasten the speed at which automation disrupts the profession.

We are now starting to see AI affecting everyday lives with a range of mainstream AI products entering the market, predominantly related to intelligent homes.

Turner added: “Perception is changing rapidly, and the UK will become habituated to AI quite quickly, in large part thanks to consumer products and services like the new Amazon Echo device.”

But he was optimistic about the benefits that a boost in productivity will provide: “If AI reduces scope for jobs, concepts like working three or four days per week and having longer weekends would be a great outcome for everyone.”


What do you think the future looks like for the profession and your clients?


Replies (4)

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Elliott Chandler Picture
By elliottchandler
26th Nov 2016 10:18

Whilst it is true to say that technology is evolving that has always been the case. I would say that Accountants need to develop a close relationship with a technology company and work closely with them. This means that the client gets the best in breed.

Thanks (1)
Good looking older guy with the biggest smile.  The 15 Minute Guy
By Ashley Leeds
16th Dec 2016 11:13

Great article, thank you. We need to keep talking about technology as it will be difficult for a practice to still be in business without embracing technology.

So how do accountants get the best technology? It is a real minefield with so many different options available and new players entering the market all the time with newer technology than the traditional practice software companies.

Do you go for 'Best of Breed' or a suite of software from one provider? Each have their pro's and con's, so it is a matter of what is right for the business and your clients.

Take your time to research the market, there are some fantastic solutions available today so embrace technology and keep up to speed by following articles like this.

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By Mike18
16th Dec 2016 11:27

Embrace the new technology because it will bring about a three day week. That promise sounds familiar.

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By johnjenkins
16th Dec 2016 11:37

You seem to be forgetting Carney's speech where (if you listened correctly) he stated quite forcefully that there is a ten year gap between "high techies" and "low techies". Considering that the small business contributes quite considerably to the coffers and most are relatively "low techies", Government are going to have to have some sort of transitional program.
I'm all for changing technology but not at the pace these marketing gurus like to put out.

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