Experienced accountants and tax professionals play an essential role in the economy—contributing directly to the efficient operation of financial and capital markets around the world.
Since the financial sector is at the heart of any economy, the accountancy profession has always been heavily regulated. As a result, there was little room—or incentive—for businesses in the industry to innovate.
However, in the last decade or so, increased demand for better services, coupled with advances in technology, sparked a transformation in the industry. Accounting firms that opted for modernization are reaping huge benefits today.
So, what does it mean to be a modern accounting firm in 2020?
Let’s take a look.
Open to Growth and Automation
Technology is always evolving, and automation is a constant process, especially when it comes to compliance. It frees your accountant from having to do manual, repetitive tasks and lets them focus on areas of growth and strategy.
Digital tools now have advanced capabilities that carry out most tasks, from auto-populating tax returns to automatically filling out paperwork for an audit. The shift of responsibility can be overwhelming and scary for some people, but in the long run, it’s beneficial for the employees, and the firm.
Taking away the need to perform compliance tasks manually reduces the chances of manual errors and leads to faster task completion, allowing you to build client confidence. Secondly, your employees will be far less likely to experience burnout.
However, to take complete advantage of these benefits, you need to get employees on board. This is only possible if you have a culture of openness about growth and automation.
However, this shouldn’t be a problem these days. Management actions, strategic priorities, and key performance indicators are all geared toward innovation and growth in most firms.
Focus on Client Experience
Modern firms are also increasingly focused on providing enhanced digital client experience. These firms have a growth mindset and are continually making improvements and coming up with innovations to delight customers.
Of course, quality work and timeliness are significant drivers of high client satisfaction—but they’re not enough. Convenience, ease of use, and data security are becoming increasingly relevant factors in the financial service industry.
Make it easy for clients to work with your organization by offering collaboration tools and an omnichannel experience. With cloud-based applications, you can help your clients access information anywhere and at any time.
Other features that enhance the digital client experience include chatbots that are embedded on your website, a strong social media presence, a user-friendly website, and software that automates tasks, such as tax return assembly and delivery.
Lean and Simple Processes
The image of a traditional accounting firm is complete with heavy box files, over-documentation, and multiple unnecessary procedures. A modern accounting firm is an opposite.
Fast and flexible operations require firms to cut down on waste and re-engineer processes, so they’re efficient and straightforward. Lean management tools originate from the manufacturing sector, but they can be applied to almost any other industry.
Firms that are looking to streamline workflow and increase productivity can benefit from lean management practices.
Fast and Flexible Structure
A top-down pyramid structure was the norm until a few decades ago. Now, organizations have to be more responsive to the needs of their customers, as well as the changing business environment. A flat structure can help improve collaboration and increase workflow speed across the organization.
Technology has enabled firms to break down geographical barriers and become more flexible. Cloud-based operations, such as QuickBooks Cloud Hosting, allow accounting firms to carry out remote operations from across the globe. This means you can offer more flexible hours and take on more part-time employees during peak season for additional help.
Move to an Advisory Role
Previously, accounting roles focused on compliance measures and regulatory work. However, as the compliance work becomes automated, accountants have more to offer in an advisory capacity.
Building long-term partnerships with clients, where you focus on helping them achieve strategic goals, is the new job description. The shift in mindset is reflected in the fact that many modern accounting firms that have moved away from hourly billing to value pricing.
The hourly pricing method might be easier at the start, but it has a very short term focus and prevents firms from building lasting partnerships with their clients.
In today’s fast-paced work environment, accounting firms need to understand the needs of the end-user when designing and implementing processes. Processes must be simple, fast, and customizable to meet the specific needs of your audience.
Technology will continue to change the landscape of the financial sector with developments in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. To stay competitive, firms need to avoid becoming complacent and embrace change for long-term success.
About the author
The writer is a senior accounting and financial analyst who regularly contributes to our website. He’s a software engineer with extensive experience in Sage 300 and QuickBooks Hosting solutions. He routinely partners with small and medium businesses to digitize their accounting processes. The author is presently working as a QuickBooks specialist for gotomyerp.