In the face of immediate and major change, it’s easy to focus only on the negatives. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly made its mark on both our individual health and the industries in which we work – and the accounting and finance sector are certainly not immune.
But with an agile outlook and the strategies in place to pivot where necessary, smart firms are finding resourceful ways to seize the opportunities this disruption has presented. Here’s how your organisation can respond to the ‘new remote norm’ and positively evolve the art of accounting.
Accelerate your digital transformation
For many in the accounting industry, the writing has been on the wall for years: change is happening and it’s happening fast. That means firms must adapt to a digital-first mindset or risk becoming another statistic in a fast-evolving sector.
What the COVID-19 pandemic has done is force organisations to look at their short and long-term strategies and make big adjustments. Despite knowing they needed to diversify their operations and embrace technology solutions like cloud workflow software, many traditional firms may have thought they still had a few good years left before they needed to overhaul their systems. That is no longer the case.
The good news is that many organisations have used the coronavirus disruption to their advantage by accelerating their digital transformations – whether they were preparing to start it in the near future, were in the midst of change, or hadn’t even started thinking about it pre-COVID.
Elevating the ‘art of accounting’
There’s no denying that the coronavirus crisis has lit a fire under firms that were previously on the fence about digital adoption. There has never before been such an immediate need to work in the cloud and set up staff for remote work, and accounting will forever be changed because of it.
But many firms that were technologically stagnant pre-2020 are not adequately prepared for what the ‘rush’ to remote work will result in. So how will it impact daily operations in both the short and long term?
We foresee three major changes to accounting thanks to this ‘enforced evolution’, and firms that embrace the disruption for all its opportunities will be the ones who come out the other side in a better position – both in terms of client numbers and with a more talented workforce:
- Client onboarding: Getting staff to buy into the reality of remote work even if it’s enforced – is very different from convincing clients that it’s the best way forward. Indeed, face-to-face interactions is a high indicator of trustworthiness for most clients of Australian firms. But the reality is that remote onboarding is the way of the future, and firms that accept this will be better placed to roll out onboarding strategies, train up staff in how to engage with clients in a wholly virtual environment, and get customer feedback so they can improve their processes and better meet client demands.
- New roles: An unfortunate – but understandable – by-product of the pandemic is that talent poaching between interstate firms is on the rise. However, smart operators will recognise that having a physical presence in the office is no longer always necessary. The cloud opens up a world of new opportunities, including the creation of totally-digital roles for top talent that may be unable to relocate to head office. And with a large proportion of firms both here and overseas keen to embrace remote work even after the pandemic has run its course, it seems there is plenty of buy-in for an accounting future in the cloud.
- Bolstered security: While remote work will create easier interactions with clients and allow new roles to be created, it will also require firms to be more vigilant about their security policies – namely, how to ensure remote staff keep valuable company data secure. This balance between security, privacy and mobility is critical, and it must be baked into the IT team’s security strategy, particularly because remote work is giving rise to increased cyberattacks on businesses.
Shifting to the cloud means more opportunity for a permanent remote workforce
Did you know that more than two in three Australian employers allowed remote working as far back as 2018? That figure will no doubt skyrocket after the pandemic has run its course, so this is the perfect time to reassess your ‘ideal’ workplace so you can hit the ground running when business returns to usual.
For some, working from home provides the work-life balance they’ve always needed, which can see a spike in productivity as well as greater overall wellbeing. For others, the lack of human interaction and the ‘rush’ of a busy office has led to lower productivity and even increased risk of burnout.
The takeaway is that – much like requiring every employee to be in the office every day – there should not be an umbrella solution to the question of remote work. Rather, sit down with your staff on a case-by-case basis and determine if remote work, whether full-time or just a few days every week, could be better for all parties over the long term. This shouldn’t be a set-and-forget decision. Rather, reassess the situation after three, six and 12 months, and use data on their output, client feedback and productivity records to determine whether or not it’s a good fit.
You can’t change the past but you can prepare for a new tomorrow – by seizing opportunities today. If you are looking for greater productivity and a more streamlined approach to everyday tasks, speak to the experts at APS about adopting a cloud-based workflow solution customised to meet your firms’ needs.
APS is a division of Reckon, an ASX listed company. We develop the software used by the best Accounting firms in Australia and New Zealand to run their business’ and advise their clients.