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How to Lead the Technology Wave

Are you ready to be at the head of the change into a world of virtual accounting?
Cell phones became mobile devices. Classic office procedures are in the midst of evolving into a paperless endeavour as we speak. Tablets were something to goof on only four or five years ago – but 4.8 million of them were sold in Australia in 2013.

By far the greatest changes to the way accounting services are performed is coming from the world of technology.

Clients and their Virtual Accountants

We’ve been in the midst of a switch to a paperless system for some time now – people file their income tax returns online, goods and services are bought and sold internationally with no paper money ever entering the equation. In December of 2013 alone an estimated 3.4 million Aussies conducted an e-commerce transaction via a mobile device.

Where once an accounting firm would have a representative sit down with a client and go through their options in a process that could potentially eat up hours, an entire plan can be laid out and virtually signed off on in a fraction of the time.

Software firms with specialized accounting cloud software like Xero and Saasu are becoming more dominant. As a sign of things to come, international concern Deloitte are pushing into the “private client” sector with a focus on SMEs and entrepreneurs with the Deloitte Private division and notably utilizing the Deloitte Private Connect technology. This system offers leading edge cloud goodies like up-to the minute management reports, alerts, online payment authorisation and queries all via one portal.

The financial world is already trading in their binders and paperclips for cloud-based databases. Are you keeping pace with your competition?

The Benefits of Virtual Accounting

The benefits for clients are fairly obvious – ease and speed. They no longer have to get everything ready for their trusty accountant come tax time – transactions are electronically registered and merely need to be pulled up.

It they’re a business, their bookkeeping can be continuously shared with their accounting firm so that they have ongoing and up-to-the-minute financial information at their fingertips.

But the benefits aren’t merely client-centric. A paperless office requires less overhead and less staff. Outsourcing accounting can further reduce both of these costs by almost half. Your lowered costs allow you to trumpet lower service fees to potential clients. A professional firm can now be run from home – you can eradicate expensive office rentals – and a handful of new firms are doing just that.

Plus in a virtual world, you’re no longer a Sydney firm or a Melbourne firm, a Christchurch firm or an Auckland firm, you’re an Australian firm or a New Zealand firm – your reach can be stretching from one end of the country to the other to snag new clients.

With bank feeds and bots identifying data, the need for physical audits may go the way of the dodo bird – government concerns will just set up flags on certain parameters. If a business’ or individual’s data crosses these electronic lines, bells will ring, lights will flash, and a government representative will be able to investigate the affair right from their own office.

So all of this might not necessarily sound much like “benefits” on the surface – doesn’t all of this spell the end of accounting firms?

Accounting firms as we know them today, yes. Accounting firms in general, no. The firms that survive this transition will be the ones that get out of the analog water and learn to walk on the electronic land.

Virtual Relationships are Strong Relationships

We already mentioned that accountants will have real-time access to their clients’ financial information. Just like with the government audit agencies, an accountant and their client can set up their own agreed-upon red flags – if expenditure X dips below Y and the business hasn’t made Z dollars this month, it’s time look for a new approach.

Accountants will be more like a Virtual CFO, cutting off financial hazards at the pass, saving businesses, able to quickly point out moments that can be seized to help the business grow. What SME wouldn’t want that?

You’re no longer the math whiz shifting through a shoebox full of receipts – you’re a business consultant.

The Crest of the Wave – How to Be Effective in this new Accounting Paradigm

Find Your Niche – From a clients’ perspective, there’s nothing quite so comforting than a firm that specializes in them. A specialized agency might have been too narrow a field for survival only 15 years ago; but today, with the reach of social media, you have a whole country to whom you can pitch your services.

Do you have advice about a particular aspect of the accounting world that people won’t be able to get from software – accounting influenced by climate change or perhaps sustainability? Announce that you’re the person with the inside track, and do it in big bright letters.

Up Your People Game – With social media and the online world, you’re going to be communicating with a much larger number of potential and ongoing clients.

If you’re not invested in social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, get on it today.

If you’re not the type to ever get interested enough in tech yourself, then make hiring a social media rock star your very next move.

There are over 9 million active Australian users on Facebook. They’re waiting for you to put your name right smack dab in front of their eyes.

Be Quick Up Top – Your firm had best be able to respond on the quick to keep up with the pace of change. If you suffer from a top-heavy bureaucracy, you’re going to lag behind.

The firms that cling to performing compliance work only will die out, it’s inevitable. The firms that push into the new arena of being business advisors, not only embracing but pushing what technology has to offer them will thrive.

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