Technology’s impact on accounting - insights from our 2024 Tech Forward Survey

12 min read
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Accounting and bookkeeping has come a long way from paper ledgers and manual calculations. Misconceptions characterise the profession being resistant to change, but trends paint a different picture. Accounting professionals today are leveraging technology to streamline accounting processes, enhance client services, and stay ahead of the curve. Their adoption of automation, artificial intelligence, and analytics are paving the way for the profession’s continued transformation, which promises advancements robust enough for a rapidly evolving business landscape. 

The 2024 Intuit QuickBooks Accountant Technology Survey unpacks how technology is arming the industry with the tools it needs to stay ahead, stay responsive, and stay resilient. New data from the QuickBooks-commissioned survey of 1,046 UK accountants and bookkeepers highlights four important trends:

  • Accountants and bookkeepers are doubling down on their investment in technology and planning to increase spend by 50% over the next 12 months. 

  • Nearly all respondents (99%) say they’ve used AI to help clients over the last 12 months.

  • Although inflation hit a 2.5 year low in the UK in February, rising prices and the higher costs of borrowing continue to affect accountants and their clients — and pose a threat to future growth. 

  • Outsourcing is powering faster, sharper accounting firms and driving efficiencies making way for less compliance and more strategic advisory.

Jump ahead:

Tech investment is on the rise

Respondents rank advancements in cloud accounting and digital technologies as having the single greatest positive impact on the industry over the last 5 years. With technology’s impact on the rise, so is investment. Looking back and to the future, accountants are doubling down on their readiness and willingness to invest in technology to stay ahead of the curve.

Accountants have invested 50% more in technology over the last 12 months 

Accountants are reaffirming their commitment to technology and the added advantages. Over the last 12 months, respondents’ firms invested an average of £30,000 in accounting technologies — a 50% increase from the average £20,000 investment reported last year*.

Accountants earmarking 50% more for future tech investment 

Looking ahead, the momentum behind tech investments isn’t slowing down. Respondents report having an average of £30,000 earmarked for accounting technologies over the next 12 months — 50% more than last year’s average of £21,000*.

Blockchain, AI, automation, and machine learning lead investments for the year ahead

Accountants are gearing up to harness the power of blockchain and AI. With over £30,000 earmarked for accounting technology spend over the next 12 months, accountants are clear where they see that investment going. More than 50% of respondents say they foresee their businesses investing in blockchain technology (57%), AI (54%), automation tools (54%), and machine learning (54%) over the next 12 months.

Early technology adoption rate hits 50%

More than 8 in 10 (85%) respondents agree that a willingness to learn and adopt new technologies is just as important as traditional accounting skills to succeed as an accountant today. With a shifting landscape demanding more support from clients each year and the need to stay ahead, accountants capitalising on tech adoption have a competitive edge. One in 2 (50%) respondents identified their businesses as early adopters of digital tools.

Unleashing the power of AI

Advancements in technology are reshaping the accounting profession, and the use of AI is leading the charge. Data shows that contrary to popular belief, accountants are embracing AI and leveraging it to boost efficiency and help give them the foundation necessary to provide strategic business advisory.

Accuracy, not jobs, is the primary concern about AI

Accountants probably aren’t worried that AI will replace them — they’re likely more worried about accuracy. While all respondents expressed some concerns about the advancement of AI in the accounting industry, job replacement (11%) was low on the list. For respondents, accuracy and reliability of AI-generated information (36%) and data privacy (20%) ranked as the biggest AI concerns

An AI majority  

Nearly all accountants are putting AI into action. Nearly all respondents (99%) say they’ve used AI to help clients over the last 12 months. Topping the list is data entry and processing (59%), real-time financial insights (55%), and financial forecasting (53%). 

Accountants aren’t just leveraging the power of AI for client services — they’re also applying the power of AI for business success. Nearly all (99%) respondents say they’ve used AI for firm operations over the last 12 months. Topping the list is marketing (65%), managing client portfolios (63%), and client communications (63%). 

Ethical AI 

Accountants are leveraging AI with ethics top of mind. Almost all respondents (99%) indicate that AI usage has been under formal ethics guidelines. Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) say formal guidelines have come in the form of a committee or panel responsible for overseeing the ethical use of AI.

How the economy is affecting accountants and their clients 

Although inflation hit a 2.5 year low in the UK in February, the Bank of England’s bank rate has maintained a 16-year high. Inflation and the higher costs of borrowing continue to affect accountants and their clients — and pose a threat to future growth. 

Profitability takes a hit

Accounting firms aren’t immune to economic tides. Reduced profitability due to increased costs of doing business (57%) is the top challenge respondents’ firms have faced during the current economic landscape.

Inflation and higher interest rates cast a shadow on the future 

Far ahead of a shrinking workforce (19%) and failure to keep pace with tech advancements (14%), respondents point to a challenging economic environment that doesn’t improve (36%) as the greatest threat to the industry’s future.

Technology can create resilience in a tight economy 

As businesses continue to grapple with the realities of inflation and higher interest rates, accounting firms find themselves under increasing pressure to adapt in order to remain profitable and competitive. One of the key ways that accounting firms can manage this challenge is by embracing technology. Eight in 10 (81%) respondents agree that accounting firms making more use of technology are more likely to survive periods of high inflation and interest rates

Inflation and higher interest rates are the top client challenge

The current economic landscape is pinching clients’ pockets too. Respondents say maintaining profitability despite inflation and higher interest rates has been the biggest challenge clients have faced over the last 12 months. Three in 10 (30%) say it’s been the greatest difficulty for clients — more than twice the number who say compliance (13%), scaling their business (13%), or increased competition (13%).

Accountants concerned that higher interest rates are squeezing clients

As the top challenge clients are facing, inflation and higher interest rates have impacted everything from the cost and availability of loans to profitability. Three in 5 (61%) respondents say clients have had to carry the burden of higher costs of assets for their business — and more than 2 in 5 (45%) say it’s hitting clients in their wallets with reduced profitability.

Inflation and higher interest rates could inhibit clients’ growth with no change — but technology can help weather the storm 

Although inflation has cooled, businesses aren’t out of danger yet. Eight in 10 (83%) respondents agree that while the rate of inflation has slowed, high prices and higher interest rates still pose a threat to their clients’ growth over the next 12 months.

With the pressure of the higher cost of borrowing, clients leveraging technology for innovation, risk mitigation, and a deeper understanding of their financial performance are one step ahead. Eight in 10 (82%) respondents agree that more tech advanced clients are better prepared to weather economic challenges such as inflation and high interest rates than less tech advanced clients.

Outsourcing and profit gains

For some accounting firms, compliance work can be a significant drain on resources, leaving little time for providing more value-added services to clients. However, outsourcing has emerged as a powerful tool for enabling accountants to shed much of their compliance workload so they can focus on advisory work with clients.

Outsourcing is building a better business model 

Almost all (98%) respondents have outsourced at least part of their work over the last 12 months. Financial statement preparation and reporting (56%), general ledger and transaction management (55%), and accounts payable and receivable processing (50%) are the top 3 outsourced services.

Outsourcing is positioning accounting firms to scale up and lower risk. For respondents that have outsourced work, increasing the business’s ability to scale (59%) and improving risk management and compliance (58%) are two of the biggest benefits. Others include improved efficiency (57%), enabling internal resources to shift and focus on other important work (57%), and improved accuracy (56%). 

Outsourcing is allowing accountants to save time on compliance work and leading to new growth opportunities. By enabling firms to cut down on the time dedicated to compliance, outsourcing is allowing them to invest more heavily in business advisory services, where deeper relationships and higher margins can be achieved. Data from this year’s survey shows that 8 in 10 (82%) respondents agree that outsourcing can help drive profit growth by allowing firms to spend more time on advisory services.

Client lists and client needs are growing 

Despite a talent shortage, accountants are growing their client lists and seeing increasing needs among clients. More than 7 in 10 (78%) respondents report expanding their client lists over the last 12 months with an average increase of 31%. Expanded capacity due to technology investments (62%) tops the list of reasons powering these expansions.

Financial management in demand 

Clients are demanding more from their accountants. A larger share of respondents indicate that clients have needed more support with financial management this year (75%) compared to last (64%)*. But while financial management needs are on the rise, tax filing needs have declined, with 49% of respondents reporting their clients needed more support with tax filings this year compared to 57% last year*.

Client technology management needs are also rising. In addition to financial management, a larger share of respondents indicate that clients have needed more support with technology management this year (72%) compared to last (64%).

Tech is optimising client services 

As last year’s survey insights revealed, technology is helping to free up time to focus on taking on more of an advisory role to clients. This year’s data is painting a clearer picture how. Technology is cutting time with compliance, and creating a new standard of excellence when it comes to strategic business advisory. 

Streamlining compliance and unlocking new business opportunities in the year ahead 

From crunching numbers to strategic business consulting, technology has pushed the accounting profession in a new direction with new opportunities on the horizon. Looking ahead, technology is the key to unlocking compliance efficiencies as a first step. Respondents say technology will help save time with preparation and filing of tax returns (97%), cost accounting (94%), and bookkeeping (92%) the most over the next 12 months.

By streamlining compliance tasks, technology is making it easier for accountants to dedicate more time to strategic business advisory services, increasing face-to-face time with clients and making their client interactions more meaningful. As a result, businesses are increasingly turning to accountants as trusted advisors, rather than just compliance specialists. Accountants are stepping up to the challenge and leveling up their work. More than 8 in 10 respondents expect tech to elevate the quality of their advisory services over the next 12 months — particularly business strategising (97%), risk management (93%), and financial forecasting (91%).

With the aid of technology, it’s no surprise that strategic business advisory is taking up a significant share of accountants’ time. On average, respondents report dedicating nearly half (47%) of their time to strategic advisory. 

Client tech considerations

Just as accountants are embracing technology and enjoying business success, their clients are following suit. On average, 6 in 10 (60%) respondent clients have grown profits over the last 12 months. Implementing or optimising accounting technology solutions (63%) is the service respondents say they’ve delivered that has contributed the most to their clients’ increasing profits

Tech advanced clients boost business 

Accountants aren’t just leveraging technology for added benefits in their work — they’re also choosing to partner with more tech-advanced clients. On average, nearly a third (31%) of respondents' clients are “tech advanced”.

Respondents unanimously agree — working with tech advanced clients is a boost for business. Increased efficiency and accuracy (61%) takes the lead in the biggest advantages that come with these partnerships. Not far behind is better communication (59%) and increased capacity to collect data for strategic advisory (59%). Working with tech advanced clients impacts job satisfaction as well. More than 1 in 2 (55%) respondents say working with these clients keeps job satisfaction high. 

Working with tech-advanced clients is providing greater opportunities for accountants — to the point where tech adoption has become a major consideration for client fit. Accountants aren’t just on the lookout for high-growth potential (72%). A significant share of respondents (63%) are also weighing clients’ use of technology in assessing whether they’d be a good fit for their business.

Sample and methodology

*Note: The 2024 survey sample excludes accountants/bookkeepers who work in-house at non-accounting firms — whereas the 2023 survey sample included these respondents. Response comparisons year-over-year have been estimated comparing 2024’s sample to the 2023 respondents who did not work in-house at non-accounting firms.  

Intuit QuickBooks commissioned an online survey in March and April 2024 of 1,046 accountants (all adults aged 18+) throughout the UK. Two in 5 (41%) respondents own an accounting or bookkeeping business. Nearly 6 in 10 (59%) are employed by an accounting/bookkeeping firm as an accountant/bookkeeper. Almost half (47%) work for firms with more than 100 employees. One in 2 (52%) respondents work for firms with 1-99 employees and none work as solopreneurs. Seven in 10 (70%) respondents are male and 3 in 10 (30%) are female. Eight in 10 (82%) respondents are white. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest decimal place so values shown in data report charts and graphics may not add up to 100%. Responses were collected using Pollfish audience pools and partner networks with double opt-ins, random device engagement sampling, and post-stratification based on census data to ensure accurate targeting and results. Respondents received remuneration.


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