Earlier this week, I presented “Tech, Trends and Disrupters” with Thomson Reuters Director of Innovation Jordan Kleinsmith at the GEAR UP 2020 Online Conference.

Keep reading for highlights from our program or scroll down to the bottom of the article to sign up for our next live presentation of “Tech, Trends, and Disrupters” on Friday, December 11.

 

Tech

Technology will be crucial for accountants as they manage through another socially distanced busy season.

With a surge in post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 cases and vaccines not being widely available for most of us until next May, it increasingly looks like tax season 2021 will be a repeat of 2020. (Virtual client meetings, social distancing, and working remotely aren’t going anywhere.)

However, there is a silver lining.

Firm leaders can use continued remote work as an opportunity to promote, and possibly mandate, the adoption of digital solutions that are safer and a better benefit for clients, which would undoubtedly positively impact their practice.

 

Accounting firms need to evaluate their digital solutions for sending and receiving client documents.

To start, firms should immediately evaluate how they are sending documents (engagement letters, organizers), as well as the use of electronic signature and secure portal solutions for clients accessing source documents.

Administrative opportunities also abound as internal firm accounting, payables and collections can be automated by implementing “tech stack” applications to be in place by year-end so no firm “paper” makes it into 2021.

 

Trends

Client Accounting and Advisory Services (CAAS) is considered the solution for firms worried about traditional revenue streams drying up.

Pre-pandemic, an ADP study found that more than half of all accountants expected traditional revenue streams to dry up, mostly due to increased use of data automation technologies via cloud hosting.

The solution identified by software vendors, Silicon Valley start-ups, the “Big Four” accounting firms (and virtually every consultant focused on the accounting profession) is to begin offering clients accounting and advisory services.

 

Client accounting and advisory services (CAAS) are proactive vs. reactive, higher realization vs. commodity, or as one consultant stated: they’re “desired” vs. “required.”

Firms can start formalizing CAAS offers easily by 1) evaluating advisory lessons learned this year and then 2) use those lessons to form better, data-driven service offers for similar clients and/or industries.

Firms without CAAS experience, and even those that are beginning to offer them, can also pick up advice from firms that have cornered niches using a “famous” person.

Your firm’s famous person can be an existing employee, a new hire, or even acquired by buying a consulting practice.

Establishing the famous person’s brand is only possible through continued, public access to their knowledge. Writing articles, conducting surveys, and speaking at conferences or webinars will all help to establish them as a trusted advisor in your target niche.

The other important factor when establishing your CAAS offerings pertains to technology.

To succeed as a CAAS firm, you must learn to use apps, tools, and software that work together to automate financial results. Creating this integrated CAAS tech stack relieves you of manual work and allows more time to offer data-driven advisory support at scale.

Download Tailoring Your Tech Stack for CAAS to learn more.

 

Cloud technology is a critical factor for working securely from home.

Industry surveys concluded that a majority of medium to large-sized firms have transitioned (or are transitioning) their employees and applications over to cloud technology.

The added security that cloud technology provides is a major benefit to remote workers everywhere; it comes as no surprise that it’s been coined the “new norm” for firms’ IT infrastructure.

Firms handling taxpayer information should review the security requirements of the IRS Security Six.

The six security requirements mandate security training for all employees, a written information security plan “appropriate to [the firm’s] circumstances,” and more.

 

All accounting professionals need a failsafe internet connection and a modern workstation while working from home this tax season.

All internet service providers (ISP) should be redundant and utilize dual broadband routers with automatic failover to minimize downtime.

ISP contracts should be reviewed at least every two years, including the consideration of new providers and cellular device options.

 

The laptop is (officially) the new desktop.

Laptop specs should always include i7 processors, solid-state drives (SSD), and 16 GB of RAM. Some of my favorite business-class laptops to recommend are from Dell, HP, or Lenovo.

Increase accountants’ number of displays so their office and remote work workspaces consist of triple/dual-oversized monitors.

“81% of workers believe higher resolution, enhanced ergonomics, and better color improve overall working experience.”

Source: IDC Trends Whitepaper sponsored by Dell: The Future of Work: Accelerating Innovation with Monitors to Drive Business Outcomes, March 2020.

 

Because of increased digital collaboration vs. paper, firms should account for reduced printing volume when deciding whether or not to renew their copier leases.

 

Disrupters

API, RPA, Machine Learning, AI, Big Data Analytics, and Blockchain.

Advanced accounting information technologies such as Application Program Interfaces (APIs), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning, Artificial/Augmented Intelligence (AI), Big Data Analytics, and Blockchain are rapidly converging.

Designate an internal person to monitor these accounting solution advancements, as they could (and will) help transform the firm in the future.

 

Join us next week at the GEAR UP 2020 Online Conference to learn even more.

2020 Tech, Trends, and Disrupters

Presented by Roman Kepczyk and Jordan Kleinsmith

Friday, December 11 from 8:00am-12:00pm EST

Sign up for their virtual presentation here.

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