What challenges and opportunities does data automation present?

In today’s increasingly digital global economy, there has never been a better time for businesses of all sizes to become better connected and more competitive by using online technologies.

As a bookkeeper, though, cloud accounting can present a daunting prospect. For an industry historically been deeply involved in data entry, this sharp transformation of the business environment can be confronting. It’s little surprise that bookkeepers are raising the questions like: “How can I best spend my time?” and: “Is bookkeeping dead?”

The good news is, bookkeeping is definitely not dead; rather, it’s transforming. Bookkeepers who embrace the modern needs of the market, rather than feeling challenged by the impact of the cloud, will work much more efficiently. Cloud accounting is not a replacement for a trained professional, but a tool that can be used to improve a professional's productivity and quality of output.

For instance, MYOB research has found that bank feeds, a service that automatically imports and matches financial transactions into cloud accounting software, saves clients an average of 10 hours per month. With the bulk of hours saved by using such innovative technologies, bookkeepers have the time and capacity to either increase clientele or deliver more management insight – both of which lead to increased revenue.

MYOB’s recent research into the time saved from bank feeds show many respondents are doing the latter: of the respondents who saved time from bank feeds, 40 per cent spent it on improving systems and processes, 28 per cent reviewed business performance and 20 per cent spent it on strategic planning and marketing to help grow their business.

And we are seeing a rapid, increased adoption by the accounting industry. A recent report by CapioIT found staggering results. By late 2014, 70 per cent of accounting firms in Australia had embraced cloud computing, compared to just 23 per cent the previous year. The two biggest drivers for the move to cloud computing were increased productivity and better security. So we can see that cloud accounting is benefiting the industry, with many bookkeepers using the time saved to focus on growing their businesses, be it through more clients or better marketing strategies.

The adoption of cloud accounting also reinforces the need for bookkeepers to review their pricing structure – and that, too, provides an opportunity. As more technologies develop in the accounting space, it will be beneficial to both bookkeepers and small businesses if bookkeepers transition from an hourly rate-based service to a fixed monthly fee. Many small to medium enterprises will always require compliance advice from BAS agents to ensure their records are accurate and meeting compliance obligations.

Successful bookkeepers will adjust the way they service a client; charging based on the specialised work they do and the valuable consulting they provide, rather than the hours they spend on lower-value duties.

What should bookkeepers being doing right now to ensure they don’t get left behind? The priority is to get familiar with the technology.

Not only does that require learning the features of cloud accounting, but it means understanding how the technology adds value to the client. Attend training sessions, register for industry roadshows and educate yourself on the cloud accounting offerings in the market.

Following this, choose a few clients and start to engage using a different model. This may involve improving business processes or producing more insightful management information and charging a fixed monthly fee.

If bookkeepers can embrace cloud accounting and adjust to the changing nature of the role, what is seen as some as a daunting challenge could quickly turn into a huge opportunity for bookkeepers. The sooner you start this journey, the more time you give yourself to adjust to the change ahead.

 

Tim Reed

Tim Reed

Tim Reed, CEO MYOB
Tim’s career spans Asia, Europe, the USA and Australia, including time in Silicon Valley where he held senior management roles in sales, marketing, product management and finance within the fast paced global technology and internet markets.
During this period he was a founding member of the Internet Advertising Bureau where, along with other internet pioneers, he wrote the first set of advertising measurement standards for the Web. 

Tim has an MBA from Harvard University (Baker’s Scholar), and a BCom degree from the University of Melbourne (First Class Honours).

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