Our State of Accounts report released this week has highlighted the captivating stage the accounting industry is in. While change has been fast-paced since cloud technology came to the fore, the opinions of accountants and small businesses in our report show a fascinating future for accountancy. Ahead of the London leg of our UK 2016 Roadshow series, we brought together a group of accountancy media experts and Xero thought leaders to discuss the findings of our report in more detail. Here are our top 3 takeaways:
1. The pace of progress is recognised, but more needs to be done to prepare
Our report found that 83% of accountants believe that an understanding of technology is now as important as knowledge of the trade itself – a compelling figure. In fact, over 1 in 5 believe that the extent of change will be so great that they will need to leave the sector if they don’t adapt to modern methods by the end of the decade, so it’s clear accountants are recognising the pace. However, the group discussed that this was only half the battle and more needs to be done to invest as much as possible in skilling up their teams and preparing for the future – under half (48%) of accounting professionals are taking internal courses, while only 26% are taking external courses to ensure they are proficient with new tech.
2. Cloud is now an expectation
Paul Bulpitt, head of accounting at Xero said at the event that “five or so years ago we were still having to tell businesses what the cloud was, but this has now become an expectation. We are used to accessing software through a browser, and the act of installing software is becoming less and less common.” With 86% of UK businesses now operating from the cloud, late adopters to cloud accounting technology will be in real danger of being left behind as the world changes around them. While the transition from paper to cloud continues, it’s vital for accountants to recognise the tech-driven changes happening across all industries, including retail, travel and leisure, and to be aware of how they will be affecting the future expectations of business owners.
3. Small business owners will still need accounting expertise
While technology is changing the landscape at an extraordinary pace, our report showed that the need for accountants’ expertise shows no sign of waning. Small businesses might be taking more control of their day to day financial tasks, but business owners still overwhelmingly view accountants as their most trusted advisors, above management consultants, growth experts and lawyers. The expertise of a qualified accountant is something that SMBs will continue to need whether digitisation happens or not – highlighting a clear opportunity for accountants to combine their deep knowledge of cloud accounting software and their financial expertise into an essential business offering.
Read our full report here.