Industry Trends That Can Make You a Better Advisor

Now is a time of big changes in the accounting profession. From time-saving tech to the continued expansion of social media, trends are creating divergent paths for accounting firms. On one path, accountants take advantage of existing technology to move out of data entry and into offering high-level advisory services to clients. The other path leads to obsolescence.

Here are the top four trends that will let accountants move beyond data entry and compliance to build client relationships that result in better profitability and job satisfaction.

1. Cloud Computing

Experts have predicted that 2016 is the year accounting starts to move to the cloud in earnest. A 2015 survey by Capterra found that only four in 10 accounting software users are in the cloud. The move to the cloud means accountants can access files more efficiently, saving clients and accountants time. It also means accounting advisors have an opportunity to become their client's virtual back office or CFO. Accounting firms that embrace the cloud can collaborate online with clients, providing real-time insight to help them make better decisions.

2. Optical Character Recognition

Optical character recognition (OCR) is technology that makes your office scanner useful for more than photocopying and document storage. OCR turns images into searchable text. No more reviewing shoeboxes full of receipts, or trying to decipher handwritten descriptions and amounts. OCR allows clients and accountants to upload receipts and invoices right into online platforms. It pulls out relevant text and data, which results in less time processing documents.

3. Social Media

Firms that use Twitter, Facebook and other social media often see these platforms as a means for self-promotion, but the real value may be in what you learn rather than what you put out there.

Follow your clients’ tweets, blogs and Facebook posts to learn about what they are thinking and doing. Better than an annual- or semi-annual conversation, social media allows you to get a real-time, honest view of what is keeping them up at night, allowing you to swoop in and address those pain points.

When you do push content on social media, provide information that adds tangible value and focuses on the needs of your audience. Pushing information about your products and services is not engagement; it's advertising.

4. Thought Leadership

It’s not enough to know everything there is to know about taxes, accounting standards and business. Clients today expect thought leadership, not just expertise.

Use social media channels to show you’re an expert beyond taxes and accounting. Tweets, blog posts, articles, and even speaking engagements and firm roundtables that focus on certain niches can demonstrate the value you bring to your clients’ businesses as a strategic advisor.

The Result is Better Job Satisfaction

Changing technology is set to make the back-office work like bookkeeping, data entry and compliance all secondary to advisory work. This is not a threat to the profession, but rather a welcome opportunity. Clients don't value the time it takes for you to manually enter the shoebox full of receipts. They value the answers you provide. They want value beyond compliance services from a trusted advisor who will help them grow and run a better business.

Accountants and clients alike are ready to break free of the drudgery of paperwork. They want to focus on what they are most passionate about. For clients, that is their core business. For accountant advisors, that is moving beyond data entry to spend more time building relationships with clients and becoming a valued advisor.