Where the opportunities lie
Contrary to many in the industry at the moment, Debra Anderson, executive director at Anderson Tax & Consulting, believes Single Touch Payroll (STP) poses one of the biggest opportunities for bookkeepers in 2018.
“Single touch payroll is a huge opportunity for bookkeepers to expand their service offerings to incorporate STP; expand their client base and; move some of their laggard clients onto products that are compliant and more efficient using STP as the catalyst for having to move,” Ms Anderson said.
In line with her previous comments, Lielette Calleja, director at All That Counts, believes savvy bookkeepers will need to provide services “beyond the numbers” to ensure the longevity of their practice.
“Providing insight and analysis is the expectation. Helping companies to achieve their goals by using both financial and non-financial data is where a bookkeeper takes on the role of a small business adviser. It's an opportunity cost for bookkeepers, but it also gives small business a better chance of success when they work with a bookkeeper that has transitioned and is skilled in that space,” she said.
Technologies which automate bookkeeping processes are often a contentious issue, but those running scalable operations are in agreement that new and emerging products are not a threat to Australian practitioners.
“Technology must be a friend to all Australian bookkeepers in 2018. We need to stop seeing technology as the enemy and embrace it for what it is,” said Ms Calleja.
“It has allowed many bookkeepers to transition into roles that would never have been available without the use of user-friendly, stress-free technology. Many bookkeepers have taken advantage of the automation technology brings and are now ahead of the game re-marketing themselves as cloud integrators, small business advisers or virtual CFOs,” she said.
Co-founder of The Revolutionary Firm, Mel Power, sees significant opportunity in functions like automated data entry, and the impending introduction of no-code accounting.
“For as long as I can remember business owners have always been mindful of costs involved with paying for the data entry, they know it has to be done,” Ms Power said.
“I understand there is a certain amount of fear in the bookkeeping industry around this concept. The thought that parts of what we are doing may become defunct is something that many feel worried about. We have to change our mindset, and look for ways to work with more clients and provide more value to them,” she said.
In fact, the pace of change is such that Ms Calleja predicts the bookkeeping profession in Australia will progress to the point of moving beyond desktop applications.
“I believe a majority of bookkeepers in Australia have accepted that desktop applications are a thing of the past. We see less and less denial in this space. Bookkeepers know that smart software will replace the manual work such as bookkeeping and standard month-end closeouts,” she said.
For Ms Anderson, the lines will continue to blur between accountants and bookkeepers in 2018.
“I believe as simple bookkeeping becomes increasingly automated and commoditised we will see many simple bookkeeping jobs going to tax agents especially as more and more tax agents start embracing technology,” said Ms Anderson.
“Bookkeepers will move towards the bigger clients assisting in the systemisation of processes and introducing technology and the efficiencies that come with it. Bookkeeping will continue it’s evolution towards advisory and systems implementations,” she said.
In the face of increasing competition, Ms Power believes 2018 will be “decision time” for a lot of Australian bookkeepers.
“The challenge for the bookkeeper/BAS agent is that they have to have a mindset change about their business. If they want to continue to focus on providing compliance based services... the competition with offshore services providers, accounting firms having in-house bookkeeper divisions and also larger bookkeeping firms that can provide service at scale at a low cost means that you have to really focus on differentiating yourself in the market, and demonstrating your value and showcasing your uniqueness,” she said.
“Waving a BAS agent symbol around is not enough to position the value to a business owner. Demonstrating value and expertise is vital,” she said.