Trends Shaping the Accounting Business
What trends will have the biggest impact on the way accounting businesses are run over the next decade? Here are five trends to keep a close eye on.
Advances in technology have helped accountants become more efficient. Gone are the days when the only way to find an old document was by digging in the file room! Today, key documents can be securely stored on a Cloud platform and easily accessed by collaborators anywhere, at any time of day.
Beyond improved file storage, technology integration offers an opportunity for connecting your programs and systems and making the whole more valuable and meaningful than the sum of its parts.
Takeaway: Begin with strategy first. Technology is simply one of your tools, so consider how it will accelerate and support your firm’s growth, deliver superior value to your clients, and position you for smoother integration with emerging solutions in the future. Identify the functionality that is mission-critical for your practice to keep your focus on the features that matter most to you. Remember that you don’t have to do this alone – do your research, and connect with experts that can help.
2. Mobile workforce
By incorporating mobile solutions, accounting firms can boost employee productivity and responsiveness. With millennials wanting more flexibility in their work schedules, offering flexible work arrangements can be a significant factor in attracting and retaining younger professionals. The growing popularity of telecommuting and co-working spaces supports that trend.
Takeaway: Consider flexibility in when and how work gets done to be a significant bargaining chip, especially with millennials. This may require you to shift your focus towards creating new accountability standards and expectations.
3. Focus on holistic client service
Accountants are uniquely positioned at the cross-roads of major decisions and strategic considerations to be valuable advisors. As traditional accounting and tax preparation services become increasingly commoditized, the pressure is on to add value in new and unique ways.
Getting clarity on the full range of clients’ needs, and aligning resources to address them, takes a different skill-set that simply doing the numbers. You and your staff will have to become proficient at explaining the value proposition, and creating deep trusting connections with clients.
Takeaway: Train and mentor your teams to recognize and nurture opportunities. As you make hiring decisions, think strategically about collective team expertise, and look for talent that will serve your client-base in various specialty areas.
As the cost of experienced professionals increases, accounting firms are looking to outsource the functions that are specialized, or do not require extensive accounting knowledge.
Takeaway: Consider the best and highest use of time – for yourself and your staff. If you identify tasks or processes that do not add significant client value, consider outsourcing.
5. Shift to value-based pricing models
While far from common in the accounting industry yet, a shift away from the traditional hourly billing to value-based billing is disrupting the marketplace. Historically, the traditional model of billing by the hour has left accountants with two ways to grow revenues: increase hours worked, or increase hourly billing rates. Today, there is another option.
Some firms are beginning to look at pricing from the standpoint of value delivered. They position it as a key differentiator: value-based pricing allows them to offer no surprises on the bill, increased access to the professionals on the team, and clearly defined outcomes.
Takeaway: Consider offering your clients various pricing options based on service level and complexity of the project. Take a hard look at the value you deliver, and consider how to convey that to current and prospective clients. This approach may enable you to stop watching the clock and deliver greater results, which serves your client and boosts your revenues at the same time.