Advancements in technology – from cloud computing to Artificial Intelligence – are creating endless opportunities for accountants to scale their business and increase revenue like never before.
The way we work has changed drastically in a short amount of time, creating efficiencies and new opportunities at never before seen rates. Just 25 years ago, a computer on a desk was a source of curiosity to many. Within the next decade, a PC or workstation may again become as rare. Since the early 2000s, cloud technology has been available to businesses looking to create a competitive edge. Since then, we are increasingly moving to a world of cloud computing where anything can be accessed from a device as small as the palm of your hand.
So how does this affect accountants? Traditionally a field that relies heavily on the accuracy and timely availability of data for reporting and compliance, and to make informed decisions for clients, accounting is increasingly at the cutting edge of cloud development through resources such as MYOB and Xero. It is however the ability for accountants to use cloud technology to increase productivity for their own business growth and improvement that offers the most exciting opportunities moving forward.
So how can the cloud revolutionise the opportunities available to accountants to grow their business?
The pre-internet business model involved businesses finding their customers. Today the customer will generally find you. The internet provides a public shopfront for your services, but for those who have gone beyond a passive website it offers so much more than that. A whole industry of online software has grown around the automation of identifying customer needs from their enquiries and funneling them into the right area to solicit their services.
Artificial Intelligence has opened new new doors with natural language search functions in Google search and social media chat bots and making it easier for prospects to find and connect with your business online through genuine dialogue and engagement. AI provides almost endless business solution possibilities with programs that can learn and adapt to your business needs, creating an integrated approach to customer service.
Customer retention can also be improved and automated through software that can identify low contact with customers, customer complaints or other behaviors that often lead to customer departure, enabling action to be taken to rectify the situation.
With every minute accountable, the search is always on for productivity tools for accountants that can be easy to implement and effective. Software solutions can provide an ability to automate and reduce the provision costs of low value repeatable tasks – freeing resources to concentrate on specialized high value services.
Virtual meeting rooms allow you to meet with clients in different cities to grow your customer base without having to leave the office, and onboard new clients more easily with cloud-accounting integrations and automate workflows to free up admin time.
Once tasks are automated, the ability to rinse and repeat on a large scale becomes achievable, and with your online presence viewable to the whole world there is an ever-growing market waiting to be satisfied. Successfully leveraging low cost services in an automated fashion can provide revenue opportunities by offering these services to other accountants for less than the cost of their own ability to perform these tasks. There will also be the opportunity to access online white label services such as finance or insurance which can then be branded and promoted to customers.
Scalable self-service solutions for the more independent minded client can also be provided via the internet in a manner that is both easy to manage and highly profitable.
The internet provides access to a global village of resources that can be at your beck and call, in many cases farming services to low-cost countries at a fraction of the at-home cost. In his book ‘The Four-Hour Work Week’, Tim Ferriss identifies examples of U.S. companies that are preparing six figure billable analyses for clients while having the bulk of the workload completed by highly qualified overseas experts for a four-figure sum.
Reduced business risk
More automated business processes and the retention of knowledge in the cloud will help reduce key person exposure and reduce human processing error. Adding automated features to your service offering lets you to diversify your client base and increase customer satisfaction by meeting more of their needs.
The workplace will continue to digitize and for most accountants the opportunities to improve customer reach and bottom line profitability will growth with it. Those who embrace it early will gain a significant advantage over their competition, while those who hesitate will miss many of the advantages that the continuing development of online technology can offer.