Speaking at the Beating Future Shock event with Class earlier this week, sales director Joel Smith spoke about the reason the accounting profession is experiencing such rapid change.
“It comes down to something that hasn't changed, which is the need for a competitive advantage,” Mr Smith said.
New technology offers a competitive advantage to its early adopters until it simply becomes an expectation according to Mr Smith.
“There’s always been advantage involved in being able to do work in less time than other people, and whenever technology facilitates this, early adopters of that technology tend to benefit and derive an advantage,” he said.
“However, a competitive advantage today does not remain that way forever. Over time, technology that delivers an advantage becomes a ticket to play. It becomes an expectation.”
Mr Smith made several examples of technology that once offered a competitive advantage, and now is simply expected.
“The first adopters of mobile for example enjoyed instant communication, wherever they had mobile coverage, with anybody in the world. Today, having a mobile phone is not a competitive advantage; if you haven't got one, no one is going to call you, ever. It’s now a ticket to play. It's an expectation,” he said.
“The first adopters of email enjoyed faster and cheaper written communication, adding a competitive advantage in global markets. Today, it’s not an advantage to have an email address; if you haven't got one, you can't even apply for a job. It has just become a must-have.”
In the context of accounting, Mr Smith said that online accounting originally offered a competitive advantage, but now it’s an expectation as well.
“Accountants who adopted online accounting when it was first released, they definitely enjoyed time savings, automation... an opportunity to grow their firms. It was a competitive advantage to jump onto that quickly,” he said.
“Today, if you're an accounting firm and you don't support online accounting, you will have clients walking about the door tomorrow. It is an expectation, it's a ticket to play.”
Mr Smith said the challenge accountants face is now identifying and implementing the next competitive advantage before it also simply becomes an expectation.
“This is the challenge we all face: to look for the competitive advantage in the industry, to understand how to implement it, and then to understand when it has ceased to become a competitive advantage, when it has purely become a ticket to play, and then look for the next step after that.”