Will technology in 2018 be a friend or foe to Australian bookkeepers?
I think this depends on the mindset of the bookkeeper! Technology is developing rapidly all the time, and the concept of no-code accounting will be here before we know it. More and more of the laborious data entry will be automated, and the focus will be on data verification, interpretation and analysing. This is the human element that has huge value to the business owner.
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, but in recent years with cloud accounting changing this process, many business owners are gaining so much more value from their bookkeepers and staff with not having to spend hours on this task anymore.
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.
The technology is something we should embrace, its improving the lives of our clients and ourselves if we allow it to.
As part of this technology shift and bookkeepers moving into other value added services, also means that the process of upskilling is required
What do you think the biggest opportunity for Australian bookkeepers will be in 2018?
In answering this question I am going to refer to a particular market segment, and that is of the “bookkeeper” that is a sole trader or small practice with a few staff.
The opportunity for bookkeepers in this market segment to really add value to the businesses they work with is incredible. Bookkeepers are so connected to their clients, often having regular weekly, fortnightly interaction and therefore they know the business intimately and can very clearly see the pain points of the business. So, all that is required is to actually provide solutions to those problems. They can provide a unique, boutique service that is attentive and focused on relationship, this is what sets them apart.
And it isn’t just the “bookkeeping” that is the solutions to those problems, this is where we can look at providing value added services to the business to help here, and it could be that it’s a simple specialisation, for example, systems design and technology integration, social media and marketing services, advisory, mentoring and coaching, the actual provision of bookkeeping services does not define a person, it becomes a service that the business provides.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for Australian bookkeepers in 2018?
The challenge for the bookkeeper/BAS agent is that they have to have a mindset change about their business. Compliance isn’t going away, but the need to really specialise in specific areas is what will differentiate you from your competitors. 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.
Waving a BAS agent symbol around is not enough to position the value to a business owner. Demonstrating value and expertise is vital.
It’s time to break free from the label of being a bookkeeper and take on the mindset of operating a firm that is designed to really help small business with diversified services. Even if you are a sole trader, the mindset needs to be that you are a “firm” not just a freelancer or contract bookkeeper. This change in mindset is vital for future-proofing.
That doesn’t mean that as a bookkeeper, we can’t be proud of what we do, but we need to remember that business owners aren’t buying a set of reconciled financial statements, they want to buy solutions for their problems.
It’s going to be decision time for lots of bookkeepers in Australia in 2018, do I make the change and really focus on having a business mindset, or do I stay as I am until I retire, sell my client base or go back to having a job?
How do you see the business of bookkeeping evolving in 2018?
Bookkeeping in 2018 will change even further, I can see that the shift in the marketplace is already happening. More and more accounting firms are realising the power of having the bookkeeping in house, and having the whole service delivered to the client from a central point.
I also believe that technology will start to change the landscape on the offshoring model, as the concept of no-code accounting is developed, we will start to see more data coding happening right there in the business organisation, with advisers simply verifying and finding and recoding transactions. The process of the bookkeeping function via technology is becoming more effective, which is what leads to efficiency.
On the other side of the coin, I am also seeing some really awesome bookkeepers stepping up and creating some brilliant service provisions for their clients in the advisory space and really transforming small business… the key thing here is that these bookkeepers actually view advisory as a holistic service, not a separate division within their firm, they deliver it as part of the entire client experience. Connect this with a niche platform and there is some really rapid growth happening out there.
I am also seeing smaller accounting and bookkeeping firms teaming up and delivering services in a new firm experience, this combines the power of the boutique experience.
The lines between what traditional accounting and bookkeeping firms deliver are blurring, the area of compliance and specialised advice are the main differentiators.
I have been a passionate bookkeeper since 1994, and have built two practices — pre- and post-cloud. I believe we are in possibly one of the most exciting times in our industry, with technology and a global platform at our fingertips!
I say get cracking and go hard!