If Hindsight is 20-20, How Well Did We Predict the Future of Accounting?

Three years ago, we dusted off our crystal balls, and looked ahead to the potential future of accounting with the Intuit® 2013 Future of Accountancy Report, a comprehensive report detailing the demographic, social, economic and technology shifts that would significantly impact both the accounting profession and client interaction over the next ten years.

Fast forward to 2016, we’re re-examining the status of the accounting industry and are gearing up to release an updated report in partnership with Emergent Research at QuickBooks® Connect, Oct. 24-26 in San Jose, Calif. Before we unveil the findings in the coming months, let’s revisit our past predictions to see which prophecies have come to pass.

1. Prediction: Global Business Environment
There will be mounting competition from banks, internet firms, government agencies and other financial service companies, sparking a need for accounting professionals to master new skills.

Reality: “We want to be the very best, that no one ever was.” 

Accounting professionals have had to step up their game to rise above the masses. Clients don’t want generalists anymore, they want specialists – professionals who differentiate themselves through new qualifications, higher standards and greater knowledge. To meet this need, Intuit launched the hugely successful Advanced Continuing Education Program for ProAdvisors®, helping them maintain their advanced status and empowering them to grow their firms.

2. Prediction: Accounting Profession’s Shifting Business Conditions Creates Threats and Opportunities

Automation and outsourcing will also continue to impact the profession, replacing manual processes and labor, especially for routine and lower value services.

Reality: “When opportunity knocks, open the door.”

The demand for consulting and advisory services will continue to rise as businesses and

consumers look for help and expert advice in navigating an increasingly complex world. In fact, the growth of Intuit’s ProAdvisor Program to more than 150,000 globally reflects how important it is for accounting professionals to become QuickBooks experts, allowing them to differentiate based on a highly specialized skill. As businesses continue to increasingly look to outsource part or even all of their bookkeeping and accounting functions, accounting firms with the right skills and systems are ideally positioned to win this business. In fact, Intuit’s Find a ProAdvisor website receives more than 700,000 unique visitors, with more than 130,000 connections between accountants and small businesses each year.

3. Prediction: Online, Mobile, Social Technologies
Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices will become the main tools for accounting professionals to allow for greater flexibility via the cloud.

Reality: “Here, have an accountant in your pocket.”

Mobile is the name of the game and the cloud is the game changer. We now live in a world that’s on call, on demand, all the time, and accounting professionals have embraced the flexibility and mobility afforded by the cloud. QuickBooks Online has over 400 apps in its arsenal, and more and more firms each day are “appifying” their practices in order to eliminate inefficiencies and provide their clients with real time customer support. Not only that, but firms have turned the Web into their new lobby, leveraging social media and letting their LinkedIn profiles or YouTube channels act as their digitized “word of mouth” to attract new clients.

4. Prediction: Demographic Shifts

Millennials will look for careers that provide work-life balance and flexibility. They will opt to outsource tasks such as payroll, healthcare/benefits programs and compliance.

Reality: “Out with the old and in with the new!”

By 2020, Intuit estimates that 80 percent of small businesses will be using the cloud to conduct and manage their businesses. Also by 2020, the AICPA estimates that 75 percent of the accounting profession will hit retirement age. As baby boomers retire their suits and ties, tech-savvy millennials are driving the Digital Revolution, leaving no stone – and no accountant – unaffected. These young’uns have grown up tapping and swiping a screen versus handwriting, and are looking for careers that provide the work-life flexibility they crave, such as starting their own business, as well as looking for accounting professionals who are comfortable using the technological tools they know and love. As this new sector takes over the workforce, time is now the master currency, and digital and virtual interactions are increasingly becoming the norm.

At Intuit, we never stop “future telling.” We projected that the accounting profession would face stiff competition from other institutions, conduct business via the cloud and observe an overall digital revolution across the board. Today, we are continuing to witness these trends in action and expect further dramatic shifts as more clients come to expect “anywhere, anytime” service in an increasingly complex, global arena. However, one aspect remains a constant hallmark of the accounting profession: trust. Accounting professionals must continue to act as trusted advisors to their clients and offer invaluable council to help businesses make sound financial decisions – and this is one prediction that is sure to come true.

You can download the Intuit 2013 Future of Accountancy Report to get a refresher but keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming forecast!