Sage 2016 Predictions for Accountants: Mobile and Cloud Adoption Rates Must Rise
We have become so accustomed to having information related to our work and personal lives available at a moment’s notice on our smartphones, tablets and now even smartwatches. We can use mobile apps to collaborate with colleagues on a document or presentation stored in the cloud, check our bank statements and order a pizza. This anytime-anywhere capability is pressuring accountants to provide a wider range of information to clients 24/7, yet too many remain unprepared to do so. In 2016 accountants will need to undergo a transformation in the way they work in order to meet rising customer demand and to not only compete, but survive.
You may have dozens of apps installed on your mobile device to help you manage a wide range of personal and business activities, but chances are you do not use your mobile device or leverage cloud-based services to enhance the services you can provide to your clients. Accountants have been hesitant to adopt these technologies to do more than simply communicating with emails and phone calls, and sending invoices.
We surveyed 1,200 accountants across the U.S. and around the world for our most recent Sage Accountancy Index survey. We found that while accountants are expanding their service offerings to take on a more proactive advisory role, half lack the technology to provide real-time advice. Key findings include:
- Only 10 percent leverage online or cloud solutions to collaborate and share accounting information with clients
- 58 percent most often work with their clients face-to-face and with physical documents.
- 51 percent of accountants do not have anytime, anywhere access to view, exchange or update client accounting information, and only 20 percent of firms have these capabilities.
That must change in 2016. The delivery of digital business processes to clients will become a key differentiator among accounting firms next year and over the course of the next five years for two reasons.
- Client demand: your clients don’t just want, they expect you to be able to send them up-to-the-minute information and be able to answer questions such as “should I lease or buy it, and I need to know right now!” Telling that client you have to wait to respond until you get back to your office PC will not be acceptable.
- Evolution of mobile apps: even last year, the primary capabilities online and mobile accounting apps offered was the ability to prepare, send and track invoices. Pretty standard stuff. Today, you can literally run your business, and improve your client service levels, from the palm of your hand.
Don't let my predictions or your excitement to get started compel you to just start downloading apps oropen accounts with various cloud-based services. You need to be careful that you are able to securely manage your clients’ records and business information and comply with all industry laws and regulations.
The first step is to evaluate your and your clients' needs, and create a technology implementation plan. Why will you use a specific app or cloud service - for client work, internal communications, etc.?
According to a recent report from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), securing the IT environment tops the list of technology initiatives by U.S and Canadian CPAs.
You must create and implement a security plan that covers all devices, networks and users. A comprehensive and effective security system does not only protect information and a system’s external threats. The so-called “insider threat” is just as significant as the outside hacker, and that can come in the form of either a malicious current or former employee who intentionally tries to do harm to your business, or the innocent employee who unknowingly exposes sensitive information to unauthorized people.
Along with ensuring your app developer and cloud service provider enable adequate security tools, you should set access privileges. You should not grant universal access to mobile applications and cloud-based systems to all employees and contractors. You must control both which devices are allowed for business use, and which employees have access to specific apps and in-house or cloud-based systems.
One key capability I expect more accountants will leverage in 2016 is the ability to review and report on business performance data in real-time. There are apps and services that will enable you to see at any time day or night how a business is doing compared to its budget projections, pre-established KPIs, and any other measurements that the client feels are important. You can also improve your chances of reaching that seemingly always-just-out-of-reach goal: achieving some semblance of work-life balance during tax season.
Jennifer Warawa was born and raised in Canada in Kelowna, British Columbia. She also owned a business there for more than 12 years, providing consulting, accounting, bookkeeping and marketing services to small businesses. Warawa currently resides in Atlanta and works for Sage North America as vice president and general manager for Sage Accountant Solutions.