The accounting industry in Australia is on the precipice of change.
It is time for the profession to adapt quickly – to play according to a new set of rules. The impact of the internet, other rapidly advancing new technologies to automate processing and repetitive tasks, and the rise of a global marketplace competing to provide accounting services is creating the pressure for major changes to the way professional services are purchased and delivered. Firms will need to exploit technology to enable a lower cost workforce to deliver commoditised products while maintaining quality and control.
The Internet is breathing life into a new generation of clients who are more informed and who have access to an enormous amount of knowledge – most of this is available at the click of a mouse.
These changes will re-shape the way professional services will be valued and delivered, forcing firms to push down their costs of production, particularly on compliance-based accounting and tax work which is rapidly being “commoditised”.
Some authorities estimate that up to 70 per cent of the work of professional services firms is already commoditised.
It is not difficult to imagine a future where clients are more able to communicate with other businesses and have the opportunity to seamlessly pit one firm against another in order to obtain a better rate for commodity services. We are already seeing the rapid growth of web sites facilitating this type of business model.
How will firms need to respond to be successful and sustainable in the future?
Sooner or later, firms wishing to be successful in the coming years will therefore need to:
1) innovate; to implement systems and processes that enable them to do more with less, and
2) pro-actively deliver true “value” in their services – this value being determined by the client and not the practitioner.
Adopting (or regaining) the role of “first adviser” is critical in underpinning a long-term relationship.
Genuine, value-adding advisory services require a deeper and always-up-to-date understanding of the client’s affairs to offer the solutions to keep them on track toward their goals.
Allocating time to thinking about client’s affairs, offering ideas and advice based on other client’s experiences and always communicating insights into their current business performance will lift your “value profile” with key clients.
These challenges are no longer negotiable if you wish to become a successful “firm of the future”. If you believe the time for change is now, what are you insisting will happen before you start? Being clear about what you're waiting for makes it far more likely that change can be achieved and far less likely that you will continue to stall.
Sooner or later, the future will arrive…