Accountants have had to deal with sub-optimal accounting software for a long time, well aware of the fact that most of the commercial offerings are expensive, inflexible, poorly suited to the typical SME and incompatible with most common data storage formats.

Of course, some of the more famous (or should we say notorious?) products are so difficult to use that even seasoned accountants with decades of practical experience under their belts are unaware of the toothiest bugs lurking within their darkest corners. The creators are unwilling or unable to update their product with even the most reasonable of requests – say, to implement a relational database rather than a flat file structure – without a long, exhausting fight.

It was an area ripe for disruptive innovation – and a number of companies have spotted the opportunities and stepped up.

Accountants in the clouds

Although the move to cloud computing provides few concrete, intrinsic, guaranteed advantages, in practice cloud software has proven far more flexible and useful than some of the titans operating in the area. Especially for accountants with multiple clients, the arrival of  SaaS “Software as a Service” competitors such as Xero has been a revelation, if not a revolution!

With improved productivity and accessibility, though, have come lower barriers to entry – or, to put it another way, one of the targets of disruptive cloud accountancy services is the small business C-suite, who don’t have time to get to grips with the arcane inner workings of more traditional accountancy software products.

Countless opportunities

While this raises a potential threat to a particular model of accountancy – a model in which money is made by a purely technical process, which could sometimes almost be considered mechanical – the vast majority of the accountancy industry is significantly more robust. The extra time afforded by using software with improved productivity – and where you can collaborate with the small business directly to resolve discrepancies quickly and painlessly – results in extra opportunities for the proactive accountant. A system where the MD or CEO can themselves, easily extract a detailed P&L or payroll report clearly offers a wealth of advantages for all concerned.

Away from a numbers game

Increasingly, especially with the accountants we work with, there has been a noticeable shift away from a traditional accountancy model towards a model where a far more active interest is taken in the business.

The new paradigm is a highly tailored, individual form of accountancy service that functions as though you have an outsourced financial director or CFO. With the freedom afforded by accountancy software that focuses on reliability and simplicity over completeness, many accountants are developing an entrepreneurial glint in the eye that is complemented beautifully by the traditional accounting strengths of effective due diligence and accurate data.

This can translate to accountants, and entire accountancy practices seeking expert advice in order to augment their core services, changing their role from an interchangeable agency to an authority with a solid personal relationship with their customer.

An end to the confusopolis

Older accounting software programs often ensured accountancy practice loyalty with something very similar to a confusopoly. Many processes were heavily obfuscated, creating a situation where it was simply too risky to switch to a new (equally confusing) software provider and potentially seriously damage a client, and too expensive in terms of man-hours to learn an entirely new process.

Xero, QuickBooks and similar SaaS products, refused to perpetuate the confusopoly, resulting in accountants being able to better exercise their constructive, financial planning talents.

What next for accountancy practices?

Tightly integrated, technologically advanced financial planning tools that are able to make optimum use of the data available within businesses, will likely mean accountants become ever more important as key decision-makers. Unlike previous generations, where an accountant making the decisions could potentially be seen as a bad thing, the new generation of accountant tends to have a thorough understanding of the business’ abstract properties as well as the more concrete.

The sort of high level overview required for this sort of operation would frequently mean that more niche services, such as complex tax specialties are increasingly likely to be outsourced to value-adding specialist providers.

Are you an accountant looking for opportunities?

If you’re a proactive accountant with an eye for your client’s bottom line, and an appreciation for the value that specialist agencies can add, we want to talk to you and we want to work with you.

As research and development tax specialists, we understand and respect the huge amount of value accountants bring to their clients. We believe that our knowledge and understanding can add value to your offering.

If you want a more detailed understanding of the bespoke and professional and effective service that we could help to provide to your clients, feel free to pick up the phone or drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

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