While the basics of accounting stay constant, the ways firms do accounting has changed dramatically in recent years. Staying on top of accounting trends is increasingly important for serving clients and running a profitable firm.
Keeping an eye on the trends allows firm leaders to customise strategies to grow their firms and discover new ways to keep employees happy. Cloud accounting, workplace wellness, and automation continue to play big roles in today’s accounting firm.
Let’s take a look at some of these key trends you should be watching.
Cloud Accounting Software and Integrations
Online accounting software continues to evolve and change how we do work. At least 36 per cent of companies plan to put in place cloud-based solutions for managing accounting and their businesses in the next year, which means your firm’s systems need to be able to work with them.
The big change in cloud software is the standardising of information to tap into different sources. When systems can’t harmonise or communicate, it makes work harder rather than easier.
We also expect to see firms working to get more out of the software and apps they already have. This means exploring more features and providing staff with more training on the software. It also means adding integrations to other applications.
Integrations cut down on the need for manual inputs by making it easier for different software apps to communicate with each other. This increases data accuracy and allows for more employee bandwidth.
While many firms are doing some work in the cloud, part of the current digital transformation we can expect to see is the move toward everything in the cloud. Firms that exclusively use cloud accounting acquire five times more clients than those that do not.
As software becomes more connected, expect to see more demand for data analytics and the people who can do it. This follows on with the trend toward more integrations because you often need to pull information from different sources to get a complete picture of a business.
Analytics identifies operational inefficiencies and helps companies manage risks better. It allows for data-backed decisions in the day-to-day running of a company. Better forecasting tools mean companies can be proactive in executing strategy.
AI and Automation
Using artificial intelligence and robotic-process automation allows accounting firms to automate mundane but important functions that come up repeatedly. This frees up you and your team to spend your time on tasks that provide more value; that is, the stuff only a human can do.
More and more, software comes with an AI function included among the features. Among the top tasks it can handle are:
- Fraud detection, because it can look at all transactions and not just a sample
- Automated data extraction and entry
- Accounts payable and receivable
- Bank reconciliation
Accounting firms deal with sensitive financial info, which makes them an appealing target for hackers. With more data in the cloud and more remote workers, the need for tight security protocols becomes paramount. Data breaches create huge risks for identity theft and spoofing.
Every firm is vulnerable to attack and should work to protect their own systems as well as get up to speed on helping clients guard their data.
In addition to financial audits, accounting firms might expand their services to include IT audits. That package might include helping clients develop cybersecurity protocols once the evaluation is done.
Wellness programs have been a popular perk at the office, whether discounts for gym memberships or rewards for exercise. Given the high rates of burnout and stress in the accounting profession, a greater emphasis is being placed on mental health.
Mental health is listed as one of the biggest wellness challenges at many firms.
For example, in an article published on CNBC, Google’s wellness manager and resilience lead, said the company is using expertise from professional athletes and psychologists to help with mental health.
Going forward, firms look to build a business model where long hours aren’t required. Moderating stress and allowing for flexible hours will play a role in that model.
Speaking of flexible hours, one good thing to come out of the pandemic is definitive proof that remote work is a viable option. This makes it easier to create a more flexible schedule for employees. With cloud-based software permeating all aspects of the job, remote work should be here to stay.
Employees can do the month-end close anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. Collaboration tools become an important piece of your software puzzle, including e-signature and file sharing.
The bonus to firms is a cut to expenses because you don’t need to pay for a big office when your employees work elsewhere. You also increase your talent pool when hiring is no longer geographically restricted.
Many firms have positioned themselves as trusted advisors to clients. The role relies on soft skills to provide value to clients rather than the technical skills the profession has relied on historically.
These roles require more complex skills like data analysis over data input. Learning to help clients interpret their data and make better decisions will play a larger role in the makeup of services offered in the future.
Following the Trends
From cloud accounting to remote workplaces, these accounting trends are not part of some distant future. They’re part of how we do business now and critical components for keeping your accounting firm relevant and profitable.
Many trends in the industry come about as the result of technological advances and tech disruption. Keeping an eye on the trends allows you to customise your own business strategies to grow your firm and discover new ways to keep your employees happy.