Technology Perspectives in the Accounting Profession

I remember when I realized our firm could operate virtually back in 2011. Our firm was started by my father in 1997, and I had been leading the firm since 2003. I was always interested in technology and innovative services, so shutting our office seemed like the next ‘cool’ thing to do. I decided to take the leap in 2012 and closed our brick and mortar location in Greenville, SC, fully becoming a virtual firm. We began operating with no offices, and with no physical access to clients and team members. Since first learning about our ability to operate virtually in 2011, we immediately began to seek out software that would allow us to operate virtually in the cloud.

The beginning of that virtual journey was rough as there were not that many cloud-based products to support a full firm that never saw their clients or their team. I didn’t realize I had to figure out how to allow our team to use tax products, and a phone system, virtually (two rough spots in our journey). What has been the result of our firm’s journey in the cloud? We are still a small virtual team serving a handful of larger clients around the US from an advisory perspective. Cloud technology has changed our firm for sure. But we see more of a need from our clients for care, advisement, counsel, and accountability to run their businesses than ever before.

The ‘cloud’ hasn’t taken over our firm or made us obsolete. The cloud is like any other tool we use – it is better than its predecessor methodology of technology use (server-based in a locked back room) – but it’s only been a tool to allow us to serve humans better. We still get new clients that say “the last firm didn’t care for me or help me know how to run my small business.”

The talk about the cloud many years ago was that it was going to make accounting obsolete. But it hasn’t.

Now we are seeing millions and millions of dollars being pumped into the accounting technology space with a heavy focus on the use of artificial intelligence. Bookkeeping firms are also popping up all over the place and moving towards selling volume models to small businesses. This bookkeeping move in our profession is similar to how SaaS software models moved from mailing out software update CDs to providing continuous updates to their online products through a browser. In both cases (the change towards bookkeeping firms and SaaS software models), the play is towards high volume, fast scaling, efficient internal processes, and a focus on letting technology do the heavy lifting.

As a result, people are again (as they did when the cloud discussions were happening a decade ago) wondering what is the future of our profession. We even explored this AI future with Dr. Daniel Susskind on our Thrivecast podcast 3 years ago. In a sense, Dr. Susskind predicted this current move towards technology providing a lot of the heavy lifting in the professional space.

So what is the future of our profession?

Our future is what it’s always been since our profession was created – to provide guidance to humans that recognize their need for counsel in running their businesses better. There it is. And no matter what we hear about technology, robots, scaling up, selling your firm, venture capital funding coming into the accounting space – the profession of accounting firms can continue to grow and remain the advisors we have been since the turn of the century. We still need clients, and they still need us. Yes, our profession will always be changing. Newer, faster, and better technology will continue to be created. These are wonderful tools we can embrace that continue to allow us to serve our clients better.

However, I believe entrepreneurs that take the risk to run their own business will always need help from advisors to help them do their work better. That’s what we can do as accounting firms. We can continue to morph our business models (along with the technology space), use the better technology tools afforded to us, and continue seeking out those entrepreneurs that truly need our counsel and guidance as we tell them what their numbers mean for their future.

But please, let’s stop being scared. Let’s just learn how to change too. Humans will always need humans to care for them. That is the cornerstone of our service no matter what new technology platform is created.

If you want to learn how to become a better advisor for your clients and how to run a firm that provides this great service, then I invite you to Thriveal. There are two opportunities for you.

  1. come to Thriveal’s Deeper Weekend conference October 23 – 25, 2019 where we’ll explore how to Create and Run an Entrepreneurial Accounting Organization (EAO). The conference is limited so you better hurry and register now (it’s 70% full already and we do cap it when it sales out).
  2. or join our latest intense program called The Coaching and Advisory Lab. This is where you’ll be guided (over 12 months) through becoming an advisor, practice coaching with members of the Lab, and be led by Thriveal’s Coach and Advisor, Jon Lokhorst, CPA, ACC, through the journey.

In Thriveal, we are technology strong and you will meet some of the best technology platform partners in our profession at our events and programs. Come learn how they can assist your firm in moving towards advisory services.

Of course, you can always email us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Jason is the Founder of Thriveal and the Chief Innovative Officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche. Jason loves to watch documentaries on just about anything. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their three children.

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