The fundamental objectives of accounting have remained largely the same over time: help clients get a better handle on their finances for the benefit of their entire organization. What has changed recently are the methods we use to complete these objectives. In the last few decades, the biggest driver of change has been digital technology and the internet. Advancements in software have allowed accounting firms and their clients to handle typical project tasks with a much greater degree of simplicity.
As an industry, accounting firms have been embracing new technology in a few specific ways. If you’re interested in the most important technological trends that will likely affect your firm in 2024 and beyond, here are the areas where we suggest focusing your attention:
1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
OpenAI’s ChatGPT platform has been the dominant name in the AI space for a while now, especially since the company’s highly publicized corporate power struggle this past November. Truth be told, a big percentage of discussion about AI today comes down to media hype. But despite the buzz, AI is making real inroads in many industries, including accounting.
The practical applications of artificial intelligence for accounting firms are being developed and refined on a day-to-day basis. But we already know of some effective ones:
- Asking AI to look through a spreadsheet and process ranges of data
- Having AI assist in developing communications with clients
- Creating an AI-powered dashboard that gathers different metrics in one place
- Offering personalized recommendations for client questions based on unique characteristics
Data suggests nearly one in four of the top-performing client advisory service (CAS) firms are already using artificial intelligence in some way. As the technology continues to develop and better understand accounting needs, the number of accountants using AI will only increase.
2. Blockchain accounting firm applications
Blockchain technology refers to a system of tracking transactions using a distributed ledger as opposed to one central authority like a bank or software company. The blockchain application most people are familiar with is cryptocurrency, which uses the tech to create a decentralized currency that relies on a single source of transaction history verified by other members of the network.
And while plenty of accounting firms are experimenting with cryptocurrency – from accepting payments to offering crypto accounting services – we expect to see even more development with blockchain as it relates to security and ledger verification. Imagine a complex business with many different departments and revenue sources being able to verify its records automatically with just a few verifiable formulas. Major names in accounting like Deloitte are preparing us for blockchain to be a significant new technology in our field – it can’t hurt to spend some time thinking about whether or not blockchain could be applicable for your firm as well.
Much of the latest research about consumer preference – in both B2B and B2C sectors – finds that people would rather get an answer on their own instead of having to correspond with someone at the company or deal with a complicated tech support system. This trend carries over to the accounting world as well. From your clients’ perspective, it’s a lot easier to log in to a portal and pull up a file or document they need, as opposed to having to call or email someone at your firm to have them devote time to help.
This self-service trend in accounting doesn’t only apply to client relations. New accounting practice management software has made it easier for firms to manage team members by letting them take care of administrative tasks on their own, including logging hours and submitting expense reports for reimbursement. This is a win-win for everyone involved: firm employees don’t have to wait around for their supervisors to process important reports, while the firm itself doesn’t have to spend time adding up hours billed or manually calculating utilization rates.
4. Access to work from any location
Computers have come a long way from their early days when massive behemoths of machinery filled up an entire room just to power one device. Today, most people carry around a powerful pocket-sized computer in their smartphone. At the same time, manufacturers of laptops and tablets have realized that portability is a key element. Some of the most sophisticated computers are now also the most portable.
For employers, these trends in hardware development underline an important conclusion: today’s workforce wants to be able to get their jobs done from anywhere without having to be in an office for eight or nine hours a day. Just as hardware devices have evolved to support this trend, we’ve seen an uptick in software solutions that provide cloud compatibility. Cloud-based team management tools like Paymo, Notion, and Teamwork are some of the most popular in the world because they can be accessed from any location on any device. Even industry-specific software is being built with convenient remote access in mind.
As this trend continues to grow around the world, make sure your firm is ready. If you haven’t already started adapting your operations and policies to a remote-first workforce, now is the time to get started.
Don’t be intimidated by 2024 accounting firm trends
While technology changes at a rapid rate, accounting firms operate with a singular goal in mind: providing the best possible financial services for clients while adhering to the dates, deadlines, and delivery methods set in contracts and letters of agreement.
If you spend some time thinking strategically about these and other trends in accounting, you’ll find that you can actually position your firm to use these trends as an advantage. Smaller accounting firms may not have the resources of a massive enterprise, but they do have a key edge when it comes to pivoting their firm to adapt to the latest trends in the field.
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