Technology has led to the evolution of many industries. However, the accounting industry has always been slow to adopt change.
I’m sure when most think of an accountant, there is still a stereotypical image of an elderly individual with a calculator on their desk and papers shuffled up in piles throughout the office.
This stereotype is probably derived from the fact that accounting practices have been run in a similar fashion for the last twenty years with only minor innovations in the operations of the day to day practice.
There is now a new breed of accounting firms that leverage technology to make the lives of their clients simpler. I believe that the evolution of the modern day firm extends beyond the improvements in technology. There has been a dramatic shift in the relationships between clients and business owners.
In the past, accountants served merely as compliance officers to ensure tax filings were processed in a timely manner, however the new breed of accountant offers value added services to simplify the lives of business owners. As technology has been at the forefront of this evolution, here are some of the major changes that have taken place.
Without going into the differences between the many cloud accounting platforms out there, we will discuss their core feature—the fact that they are web-based and that they can access a “read-only” direct feed to your bank accounts and credit cards in a securely encrypted environment. The advantages to this system are undeniable, as information is available in a more timely manner, and there is no longer a redundant double entry of bookkeeping information. In addition, and more excitingly, the accounting records can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Furthermore, cloud platforms have improved the collaboration process between clients and their accountants.
By having a live accounting platform, there are no longer multiple versions of files, time delays to get banking information into the system or difficulty sharing financial data with ones accountant. In fact, most cloud platforms have been designed to enable a client to collaborate with their Chartered Accountant in real-time.
Document Sharing and Storage
Historically, firms would have no easy way to store client data in a place that is easily accessible by both clients and the firm. This is no longer the case.
One option is to set up a unique client portal for each of our clients. In addition, cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox, Box, and Google Docs all provide a great way to share and edit content in a secure environment. These cloud platforms provide a great way to share content internally within the firm and externally with clients or third parties. The “wow” factor that all of these services provide is that collaboration can happen in real-time. As long as there is a computer or tablet and an internet connection, sharing information has never been more seamless.
Try utilizing an online service in order to facilitate the document signing process. Services such as Docusign, Hello Sign, and Right Signature provide a user-friendly way to get any document signed without ever having to use paper, a pen or a scanner. The service even allows clients to sign documents straight from their smartphone while they are on the go. In addition, many of these providers attach a unique code and timestamp to each document signature.
What makes the process great is that the document signatures have the same legal validity and enforceability of pen-and-paper contracts without the administrative inconveniences associated with the latter method.
Breakdown of Geographic Barriers
Just the other day I had a Skype call with a client who lives in Paris, France and owns a business in Ontario. It is still remarkable to me that there are no longer geographical barriers to conducting business from anywhere in the world. As a Chartered Accountant, there are restrictions to completing client work based on geographic licensing restrictions, however as a firm we can now service all of Canada
In the past, traditional firms would never dream of having a video conference call with a client; however, I believe this will become the norm in under five years.
Being a paperless firm not only improves overall efficiencies for completing work, but it also reduces our firm’s carbon footprint. I am by no means an environmentalist, but it just seems wasteful to throw away enormous amounts of paper each year for no reason.
Advancements in technology have allowed us as a firm to avoid paper to the extent that technology will allow us to.
The landscape for the modern day accountant has changed. Technology has been the main impetus that has brought upon this evolution to the accounting industry. I personally feel that technology has made accounting fun for the first time. We never get tired of our clients’ reactions the first time we tell them they can snap a picture of a receipt when they go for a business dinner and then throw it away or how they can send customer invoices straight from their smartphone.
All the above advancements have allowed us as a firm to foster stronger relationships with our clients and have drastically improved the speed at which work is completed.
This content was originally published in 2014.