In this article, you will learn:
As per a survey, the accounting firms who were able to respond to COVID-19 successfully were the ones using cloud-based technology and offered virtual collaboration tools to their clients.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced accounting professionals to accept virtuality as the new reality and adapt to newer ways of working quickly.
Though the pandemic has costed numerous lives, it has been an eye-opener for the accounting profession. This has been in terms of building strong virtual teams, adopting new technologies, thinking creative ways of client onboarding and engagement, and enhancing service offerings as well as skill sets to stay relevant in an environment that is extremely uncertain and constantly changing.
Besides these growth strategies, it is extremely important for accounting professionals to think about the safety and security of their staff members. Given the quarantine and lockdown measures adopted by the government, it becomes extremely important for accounting firms to be comfortable with new working models like work from home, flexible working hours, and alternate shifts in office.
This article describes in detail the future of the accounting profession post-COVID-19.
Online Client Onboarding Process
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for accountants to adopt digital ways and means of not only sharing documents but also getting clients on board. Thus, the key trend defining the future accounting profession would be to market accounting services online.
Traditionally, accountants have been hosting events publically or sending direct emails in order to grow their business.
However, the future accounting profession would be marked by inbound marketing or content marketing which is a valuable tool to gather leads for services. Instead of pushing accounting services, future accounting professionals will have to demonstrate their expertise to give something valuable to prospective clients.
They will have to create value by giving advice via content pertaining to the challenges faced by prospects such as corporates, SMBs, or fellow accounting professionals.
Besides this, the accounting professionals can also consider running webinars, writing reports, white paper, or create financing tools in excel worksheets. Such engaging content would go a long way in triggering conversation with the website visitors, which can further help in converting the prospects into clients.
Shift to Cloud-Based Accounting
As viewed in the survey, 62% of the firms who were able to respond to COVID-19 successfully were using cloud-based technology. This indicates that there can be no better time than this to accept cloud-based accounting solutions which the Indian accounting industry has been sidelining until now.
Thus, accountants should take cloud as a big opportunity in order to grow their business in the future, though the transition to cloud-computing involves a drastic change in mindset and working culture. However, it would permanently change the way accounting professionals have been working, making them more productive and cost-efficient.
Besides this, there are other ways in which accounting professionals would be benefited from cloud-based accounting solutions.
For instance, it will provide an opportunity for the accountants to enhance the accountant-client relationship. This change would be in terms of:
- servicing the clients on the go, anytime, anywhere.
- permission-based sharing of documents by the client, providing better control to the users
- helping accountants to invest less time on administrative tasks such as manual data entry and chasing clients for documents
- providing excellent security of data, thus reducing the chance of misuse of accounting data
- regular backup of accounting data, thus ensuring that accountants can restore it any time in case of data loss
Thus, cloud-based accounting is the future of the accounting industry.
As revealed in the survey, the biggest challenge faced by the least successful accounting firms while running their business during the pandemic were struggling with incorporating new technology to enable remote interactions with clients while the most successful firms focus on advising their clients and keeping their clients informed with the financial reporting changes post COVID-19.
Therefore, post-COVID-19 it is believed that more and more accounting firms would embrace cloud-based accounting that would allow them to do a better job and offer more strategic and advisory services.
Virtual Communication and Collaboration
Since working remotely is the current normal, the accounting professionals will have to rethink their ways of working.
Besides using technology for customer-related management, marketing, or invoicing, the accounting professionals would have to turn to technology to enable the remote company and staff communication. This would not only help them in streamlining the workflows, but also help them in keeping a track of the employee’s progress at work, collecting internal feedback, and facilitating day-to-day communications.
The future accounting profession would be marked by a virtual client meeting replacing the physical meetings. There are a host of tools that can help accounting professionals to conduct meetings and training with a large number of people at a particular time.
In addition to this, accounting professionals would have to switch to using cloud-based collaboration tools to upload and share documents and collaborate with multiple users to work simultaneously on such documents in real-time.
Building Effective Remote Teams
Since the future working environment would be marked by social distancing, the accounting professional would have to think about building remote teams. This can be achieved by adopting measures such as:
- working from home
- allowing flexible working hours
- implementing alternate working shifts, etc
Therefore, now, it is even more important for accounting professionals to have a proper staff communication strategy in place. An effective communication strategy would go a long way in maintaining loyalty as well as employee retention.
This strategy must be defined by giving clear instructions with regards to deadlines, deliverables, whom to communicate with, frequency of communication, etc.
Furthermore, accounting firms need to ensure that their virtual team has all the necessary tools and best practices that support collaboration, productivity, and continuity of work.
Since personal visits to client offices were a significant part of the accounting profession, this would now be replaced by virtual meetings. The accounting firms need to ensure that their teams are familiar with the technology and tools.
Also ensure that they are apprised with the rules of conducting client meetings virtually like checking whether the technical equipment is working properly before the meeting, ensuring that all the participants log in via laptops in the meeting, etc.
In addition to this, attention also needs to be given on how the employees would manage the new routine of work as well as their personal life. Therefore, it is important for the accounting firms to check-in with their colleagues at regular intervals to ensure that they are able to focus on work and are taking scheduled breaks.
Changing Roles and Functions
Until now, the structure of accounting firms has been defined by traditional pyramid including the partners at the top level, managers at the middle, and associates at the bottom or entry-level.
Such a structure proved advantageous for the accounting profession for years.
However, the coming of technological advances such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data analytics, etc, are eventually putting the accounting firms on the path of a permanent change in terms of:
- the way they undertake business and manage the same
- Increased emphasis on offering advisory services and strategic inputs
- Hiring specialists such as specialists with specific industry experience, gig workers with specific technical skills, etc
- Accommodating technology
- Shifting to cloud-based accounting
- Transition to online client onboarding
- The shift towards content-driven marketing
- Embracing remote work etc.
Thus, this would require accounting professionals to make adjustments in the organizational structure of their firms as new accounting services, functions, etc would become the new normal.
They will have to introduce staff roles and responsibilities which previously did not exist.
For instance, client onboarding is increasingly becoming one of the most important functions. This is because you certainly want the new client to have a pleasant experience with regards to your services.
This will not only help to earn your client’s loyalty but also would increase the chances of upselling your services effectively or getting referral business from them.
For this, it is important that you have a dedicated person in the form of a client-onboarding specialist who ensures that new clients have a seamless experience.
Thus, identifying such new roles will make sure that you are able to scale your business at a much faster pace.