The bookkeeper is an endangered species on the verge of being devoured in the technology jungle. That’s what many industry observers are warning.
But it’s not an opinion that was massively in evidence among the 400 or so at the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers’ annual two-day summit in London this week. And they may well be right.
The idea that the future is bright for bookkeepers was not just the preserve of ICB chair and co-founder Garry Carter either. It was echoed by some of the leading lights from the jungle itself, the accounting software sector.
Change is getting faster
Sage’s executive VP Jennifer Warawa recognised that the new work environment was challenging. “This is the slowest pace of change that we will see for the rest of our lives,” she said – meaning that change is only going to get faster.
“Will technology take your job? No. But you need to evolve,” she said. Jennifer outlined a strategy to move from being redundant to indispensable. And the key to that is remaining relevant.
Best route to the future
The best route to the future is summed up in these bullet points:
- Vertical markets – don’t try to be all things to everyone.
- KPIs – focus on clear objectives.
- Packaging and pricing.
- Talent & recruitment.
- Client engagement: are you sure they’re happy?
- A business development plan.
Keynote speaker Gary Turner, Xero’s UK head honcho, had a captive audience… virtually. When asked how many in the room were Xero users, I reckon at least 60 per cent raised their hands. Gary brought his mum along to the show, too. She was a bookkeeper for his dad’s business… and his inspiration. Nice.
Important to small business
“Everything’s going to be OK,” Gary told his audience. “Your role is important to small businesses. You need to harness the technology but keep the human heart. Bookkeeping is absolutely NOT going away.
“Accounting is still hard for small firms. So it’s a huge opportunity.”
FreeAgent’s sales VP Nick Longden also focused on the opportunities brought about by artificial intelligence with an emphasis on open banking. I liked this analogy. “Just because you have good toothpaste doesn’t men you can get rid of the dentist. So it doesn’t matter how good your software is, you still need a good bookkeeper.”
And on the subject of good bookkeepers. Congratulations to ICB veteran Jacquie Mount, who not only delivered some great practical workshops at the summit, she also received a ‘life-time’ Luca award at the Summit dinner for her contribution to the institute.