Some insightful sector trends are revealed in a just-published survey of more than 500 accounting and finance professionals.
Research titled Platform for growth, by accounting software group Wolters Kluwer and Kelley Market Research, offers a broad sweep of how the profession is changing and the challenges it is facing.
Let’s start with technology trends.:
There’s only been a slight shift at the top. Now cyber security joins cloud computing and mobile computing on top of the list, whereas six years ago cloud computing, mobile computing and social media were seen as the key issues.
In terms of cloud adoption, 28 per cent of those firms surveyed have implemented integrated cloud solutions, just one percentage point up on 2015; 38 per cent of firms have integrated solutions with one centralised database. That’s compared with 31 per cent in 2017.
Now 25 per cent have a formal succession plan. In 2013, only 16 per cent had a written plan that had been signed off.
There’s been good progress in the area of documented tax and audit processes, where 93 per cent of firms now report an uptake compared with about 70 per cent in 2011.
Enhanced client service
Enhancing client service is always seen as a top priority, though there’s been a shift towards adoption of paperless workflows from recruitment and retention in 2015. Attracting new clients and revenue growth? It almost goes without saying.
Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting says: “The most successful firms are using technology to increase their revenue and profitability through automated business models.”
According to the company, firms will enjoy greatest success if they:
• Adopt a forward-thinking technology culture
• Move to the cloud
• Carefully plan business succession
• Utilise more integrated solutions
• Have documented business processes and follow them
• Apply best practices to key workflows
Key findings: then and now
Wolters Kluwer adds in its report: “Cloud collaboration tools such as client portals also enable firms to more easily pursue opportunities outside their geographic area and provide the 24/7 access to data that clients and staff both expect today.
“With high profile data breaches occurring in the news, it’s becoming clear that enhanced security features – such as multi-factor authentication – are important considerations firms should be discussing, when adopting cloud solutions. Many firms see improved data security and back up procedures as one of the most important benefits delivered by cloud solutions.
“Finally, firms using more integrated solutions, including document management, workflow/project management, and client portals, enjoy better end-to-end automation. This increases the efficiency of tax and audit workflows and can lead to improved client service and overall revenue/ profitability.
“Combined with documented processes and best practices, the right technology will help firms increase their value and continue to serve clients well.”