Accountant and client expectations are driving today's changes. Technology is only the enabler.
By Jennifer Warawa
Executive Vice President - Partners, Accountants & Alliances at Sage
The world is changing -- that’s no surprise, especially to accountants. Conventional wisdom will tell you it’s new tech adoption that’s changing our field, increasing competition and altering the way we do our jobs. But is that what’s really happening? Not necessarily.
Accountants today are feeling more pressure than ever to stay competitive. At the same time -- accountants are expanding far past their traditional roles -- becoming more holistic business advisors to their clients and strategic partners with an ever-increasing list of demands on their time.
While technology is playing a pivotal role in helping accountant laggards keep up, it is the accountants who serve client expectations that are really driving industry change.
The Practice of Now
Accountants were originally concerned that technology was going to take away from their core service offerings, but what technology has actually done is free up time to do more higher value services for clients. Accountants are now doing what their customers didn’t know was possible years ago, and technological innovation is making that renewed client-focus possible.
Sage conducted research with 3,000 accountants from around the world -- including the US, UK, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Australia, Ireland -- to take a deeper look into how accountants today view the industry, how they are dealing with industry changes, and what skills and tools they predict will be most important in the upcoming years.
Our research found that despite conventional wisdom, it’s accountants and the increasing demands of their clients that are driving technology adoption, not the other way around.
Client Expectations are Growing. A staggering 83 percent of accountants surveyed said clients expect more from them today in terms of services and resources than they did five years ago. Forty-two percent of clients expect more than number crunching. To meet increasing client needs, accountants must not only deliver the traditional bookkeeping tasks, but also serve as a trusted business advisor for their client base.
Accountants Are Feeling Pressure to Produce More Than Ever. Technological advances have created more competition in the market, leading to a drop in confidence. In fact -- 67 percent of accountants feel competition in the industry is an issue, and 40 percent of accountants feel less confident than they did a year ago.
Tech Advances Let Accountants Automate Admin & Focus on Clients. As a result of the rising expectations and competition, accountants are turning to new tools that allow them to be even more productive. Sixty-four percent of accountants cited time and efficiency as a reason for adopting new technology into their practice. Two-thirds of accounts have turned to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to take care of repetitive, administrative-focused tasks that monopolize their time.
Modernization is not happening because of technology adoption -- the way that accountants are thinking about their role and the time constraints on them are changing, which in turn pushes them to technology for help.
Accounting for The Future
Recent technological advances have brought, and continue to bring, specific and significant benefits to accountants that are redefining their work and even their purpose. It falls to the accountants to grasp these opportunities and to become a modern day super-accountant.
Smart accountants turn to technology to drive improvements to their businesses, and to create the space to become time-efficient business advisors for their clients.
Technology is only the primary enabler, freeing up valuable time or alerting the accountant to potential problems that could prove costly both for their practice and their customers. To truly succeed in this new world, today’s accountant must fulfill their half of the deal and follow through with better interactions with clients, and improved service offerings.
Jennifer Warawa has been with Sage for ten years, leading global product marketing and now serves as EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliance Group, based in Sage’s North American headquarters in Atlanta, USA. Jennifer leads Sage’s global network of partners and accountants, as well as their technology alliances.
In addition to being a regular keynote and session speaker at conferences, Jennifer was also listed as one of the “10 Tweeters Worth Following” by Accounting Today and is an avid blogger, which includes being a featured writer on the Virgin Entrepreneur website. Jennifer made the Accounting Today Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting list consecutively for the last seven years and has also been named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting for the last four years running, as recognized by CPA Practice Advisor.