Practice Management Sage

Accounting in 2019: Changing Priorities

Written by Jennifer Warawa

New technology will drive your business’s evolution in 2019 and beyond.

Accountants have witnessed massive changes over the last few years, driven by the emergence and swift development of new technologies, and the resulting evolution of client demands. This year will be no exception.

More than half of IT professionals expect the tech ecosystem to expand rapidly over the next two years—citing emerging tech and client demands as the top two catalysts, according to a recent report from the Computing Technology Industry Association. This continued evolution of the ecosystem will have a huge impact across all professions—accounting included.

With 2019 coming to a close and new technology developing, what can accountants expect in the year ahead?

Here are three things accountants should be thinking about in 2019:

Moving beyond “busy season”

New U.S. tax legislation, self-service software and new client demands have left many firms putting less emphasis on the traditional busy period. For example, with the new tax simplification laws in the U.S., accountants will likely spend less time doing consumer tax work—giving firms the opportunity to serve not only as financial resources, but also as trusted strategic advisors.

Additionally, with the increasing integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation into accounting practices, accountants can lean on technology to speed up tasks like bookkeeping that are time consuming and repetitive when done manually. AI and automation expedite the administrative tasks that contribute to the heavy workload in busy seasons, freeing up accountants to focus on building better client relationships and thinking strategically. In 2019, accountants will spend less time on the number crunching and paperwork associated with recurring periods of high demand, and instead will start thinking about how to move closer to the strategic counsel role.

Specializing to stay competitive

An overwhelming 67 percent of accountants feel that the profession is more competitive than ever, according to Sage’s 2018 Practice of Now report. A “one size fits all” approach will no longer cut it. Today’s firms need to specialize their services in order to attract and retain clients, and generally stand out from the pack. For example, firms can reflect upon the types of industries their workforce is best equipped to serve (based on skill set, past experience, etc.) to identify an industry of focus for the practice.

In the new year, take advantage of advanced technology, identify the type of client you are best positioned to work with, and move toward providing thorough knowledge and counsel to address the needs of a specific, impactful vertical. Instead of offering the same range of services across clients and staying vertical-agnostic, success in the future will mean zeroing in one or two verticals and becoming the go-to source in those areas.

Embracing tech before it’s too late

It’s clear that practitioners are facing steep competition. How an accounting firm responds to the challenge of this competition is ultimately going to determine their success or failure over the next five to 10 years. One way to ensure a firm stays ahead? Embracing emerging technology, before it’s too late.

In fact, 64 percent of accountants reported that a top reason for adopting new technology was to promote efficiency, and just less than half (44 percent) cited the ability to improve service quality. Amid this steep competition, accountants must take any opportunity to optimize efficiency and quality of service—or otherwise risk being left behind. In 2019, digital transformation is crucial.

Next year, firms will continue to adopt cloud technology, AI and automation, and at the same time navigate new financial policies and legislative reforms that will impact the status of their business. From new technologies to new ways of providing value, now that it’s January, accountants can look forward to another year of transformation.

About the author

Jennifer Warawa

Jennifer Warawa was born and raised in Kelowna, BC, Canada and owned a business there for over 12 years, providing consulting, accounting, and bookkeeping and marketing services to small businesses. Jennifer currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and works for Sage as Global Vice President of Product Marketing for the accountant market segment and Sage Live. Jennifer has a passion for entrepreneurs, small business, public speaking, writing and helping others achieve their highest potential.