The move to the cloud is steadily gaining momentum with more and more accountants moving their business strategies and processes onto cloud software. While many have struggled to comprehend changing decades old processes, a recent survey shows 36% of firms believe they are pioneers or early adopters, actively seeking out opportunities to automate their processes. While there is still work to be done, the number of firms pioneering change is higher than the expected distribution of adoption.
Digitalisation is inevitable for two reasons. The needs of customers and their clients today are growing with a greater demand for data in real time. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative has kicked the adoption of cloud technology into high gear.
Claire Carter, Managing Director TAA, Wolters Kluwer UK&I, says more and more firms are turning to technology to support more diverse, automated business models. The bigger question is, now what?
Results proving pioneers right
The data already shows a direct correlation between firms migrating to cloud technology and productivity, increased profitability and employee and customer satisfaction.
In fact, according to research conducted by Wolters Kluwer in conjunction with Kelley Market Research, cloud technology is the key to reaching a firm’s full potential. Firms that reported growth of over 10% in revenue year on year are moving to the cloud-based model at a higher percentage, with 36% saying they have already implemented.
We’ve done cloud, what next?
For many, the debate around whether to cloud or not to cloud is redundant. It is no longer a case of whether to implement change, but rather how to gear up for it and how to differentiate your firm using two assets: software and employees.
“Moving forward, practices will need to support multiple accounting packages as well as incoming data from the government. They will have to ensure GDPR compliance, meet MTD requirements and, ideally, have access to information in a single place and while on the move,” says Carter.
New cloud software is constantly developing, reducing manual tasks and empowering clients to do more themselves. Corporate Services Partner at Ellacotts, Charlotte Houghton, says, for her firm the initial driver was the need to increase efficiency.
“The industry needs to be ready for a change in our role, moving from the traditional accountant looking back at data retrospectively to having forward facing conversations with real-time data,” says Houghton, “What is needed now is a shift to advisory services and using the data that technology provides us.”
Building a workforce that is open to this change and hungry for technology is important. Houghton says Ellacotts look for tech-loving accountants with expertise in the industry and passion for new ideas and innovative tech solutions.
Old Mill Chartered Accountant Stacey Morrison says her firm is now more interested in a prospective candidate’s receptiveness to change and their character, in addition to their skills in the industry.
“Advisory services will now have to include knowledge on how to use new technology to help our clients get what they want. I like to refer to the role as a technologist.” says Morrison.
So, technologists, where to next?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bots are dominating conversation with many questioning how they will come into play in the industry.
“Currently, we’re looking at incorporating AI and bots to maximise automation and provide data rich insight for the benefit of our customers and their clients,” says Carter, “By 2020, accounting tasks like tax payroll, audits and banking, will be fully automated using AI technology and we need to be ready for it.”
While many question whether the role of the accountant could ever be taken over by robots, Carter says the role of the accountant will always be a necessity. The role is simply changing to work with AI and bots which will help deliver a greater efficiency, freeing up practices to focus on quality advisory services.
AI and bots are coming for the accounting industry. The real question is how many firms will pioneer or resist the change.
For more on the Wolters Kluwer research into how cloud solutions are transforming firms and showing revenue growth, download the white paper here.