Originally published by APS Software in AccountantsDaily
Smart accountancy firms are recognising all the positives of a fast-evolving industry. Far from capitulating under the pressures of a more streamlined, fast-paced sector, they are looking at ways to widen their offering while providing their customers with better services.
This is essential for practices to not just survive the industry’s transformation, but thrive. So, to futureproof your firm against the tides of change, here’s what accountancy firms need to focus on.
New technology and small players
Whereas for decades we’ve watched as the Big Four accountancy firms have dominated the market, digitisation and hyper-connectivity have allowed smaller players to earn their place. Technology has been a huge factor here, with artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud, globalisation and automation software reducing turnaround times on repetitive task.
That means sole traders and small firms with two or three employees are slowing bridging the gap between themselves and large practices. New tech means they can handle higher workloads from their small to medium-sized clients without having to outsource tasks – and therefore lose out on their bottom line.
Established roles are shifting
But more than being able to manage higher workloads, smaller firms have recognized the need to diversify their offering. Whether they take on multiple roles or adopt a jack-of-all-trades approach as sole traders, they can provide clients with a similar offering of services to large practices – at a much lower price point.
For large firms that want to futureproof against smaller operators undercutting them, they need to start using technology to their advantage. In this case, it’s about reducing the hours staff spend on mundane, time-intensive work, and train them on more creative endeavours such as business advisory services and financial planning – jobs that automation software can’t handle.
The client expects more
These changes to the accountancy industry aren’t hidden from the public. On the contrary, clients have realised how the market is changing, and all for the better to meet their needs. They know that technology is speeding up the time to complete typical tasks, and they expect their chosen firm to deliver the same high-quality service in a much shorter timeframe.
No longer are clients seeking out boutique agencies that focus on a single discipline. Instead, they want an accountancy firm that provides a full-service offering so they can use them as a ‘one-stop shop’ over their business’ entire life cycle.
How can accountants futureproof themselves in the face of such changes?
There’s no golden ticket to protecting your firm against future changes. Rather, it’s about recognising major shifts in the industry and adopting new strategies to better manage those changes. Technology, people management, flexible work arrangements and acknowledging the distributed workforce are all good places to start:
Diversification: Traditional practices can’t rely on siloed departments anymore. Instead, there must be a symbiotic relationship between all employees to encourage a more diversified offering. This can start by relying more on automation and AI technology to reduce time-consuming and repetitive work, which frees up humans for more creative, client-facing roles that involve decision-making.
The right environment: People want to work for firms that embrace the future rather than reject it. Give staff more freedom with their roles, allow them greater flexibility with their hours and ability to work offsite through the cloud, and provide them with the digital tools to turn around client work faster.
Distributed workforce: The sole-trader explosion, freelancing, the gig economy – call it what you will, but the modern distributed workforce is here to stay. Firms that understand that people, particularly millennials, want greater control over where, when and how they work will be able to integrate hiring processes that draw in top talent.
Streamlined processes: Rather than managing teams that use multiple systems to complete their tasks, streamline their work days by integrating a single workflow automation like APS Workflow. This will not only save time and money, but produce better results for clients while motivating staff to work smarter, not harder.
Change isn’t on the horizon – it’s already here. That’s why forward-thinking practices are exploring new strategies to futureproof themselves in a changing market.
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