With the growing use of cloud services, business owners today have easy access to real-time financial information. Instead of waiting until the end of the financial year for a statement, business owners can view their financial performance from any location and use a range of newly-developed tools to analyse the data.
While this creates new opportunities for small businesses, it also raises questions about the role of accountants, particularly those in the public sector.
One consequence of having access to a cloud computing program which efficiently manages the book-keeping process is that accountants will have more time to focus on providing strategic financial advice.
But faster communication and instant access to records also leads to changing expectations from clients.
As these new applications progress and become more sophisticated, accountants will need to expand the services they offer in order for the industry to stay relevant.
Director of Smithink 2020, David Smith, says firms will offer new services and expand upon the financial advisory role.
“Accountants have never had available to them their clients’ data in real time. Now we have an opportunity for accountants to truly be the external Chief Financial Officer and to be helping clients in real time manage their business more effectively” Mr. Smith said.
There is also the potential for accounting firms to expand into technology consulting, ensuring that clients select the program that will best suit their business.
This may also include expert advice on ‘add-on’ programs which hook into systems such as Xero and MYOB. There are currently 350 add-ons to Xero and this number is likely to grow. These applications can provide functions that are specific to the client’s needs and may not be included in the core program.
Founder of Proactive Accountants Network, Robert Nixon, says that motivated accounting professionals who offer innovative internet-based services will benefit from cloud computing.
“Every week we are hearing of clients who have switched accounting firms because the other firm did not offer an internet based accounting system” Nixon says.
Nixon says that compliance work will become a commodity, but believes that cloud services will create fantastic opportunities for accountants who capitalise on what they have to offer.