During my talks about the future for accountants I sometimes share a famous quote from Bill Gates.  Before repeating it here, let me just offer some context.

There has long been a tendency to over-hype new ideas and initiatives. Some accountants jump on the bandwagon early which is great. I don’t do that. I often debunk the hype (which explains why I’m considered to be a ‘debunker’).

I can remember saying in 2009 that the hype we were then seeing around cloud accounting was somewhat premature. Back then I debunked the views shared by suppliers and other commentators who were pushing accountants to embrace the cloud. In 2009 I said there was no rush. I was right – then.

Bill Gates put it slightly differently when he said:

“People often over estimate what will happen in the next two years and under estimate what will happen in ten”

I’m particularly taken by the advice he added immediately afterwards:

“Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction”

After revealing this to my audiences I then add my advice to accountants: “You could afford to be inactive in 2009. Not so now”.

These days I am firmly of the view that smaller firms now need to move their own finances into the cloud. Until they do this they probably won’t ‘get’ that it’s all about much more than just online bookkeeping. There’s a whole eco system of apps, add-ons and extensions. If you want to be advising start ups and smaller businesses in the future you need to know about more than just the CONCEPT of online bookkeeping.

If you’re part of a larger firm and advising clients who need to move into the cloud, perhaps you need to start using an online bookkeeping software package yourself. Your ability to advise your clients with confidence and to go beyond the basics will be enhanced as a result. You’ll be better placed to provide more valuable commercial and business advice to these clients.

You will also want to avoid the embarrassment of continuing to work with spreadsheets and other less than ideal approaches to forecasting, analysis and many other related advisory topics.  Are you working with real-time information when you look at your clients’ affairs? Do they have access to real-time data to make their business decisions.

Even just a couple of years ago this wasn’t possible to the extent it is today.

A new mantra I think I’ve coined, relates to that common client complaint about wanting their accountant to be more “pro-active”. Real-time data makes it easier for accountants to give clients the pro-active advice they want. It’s hard to be pro-active when you only have historical data to hand.

You need to be able to have quality informed conversations with clients about moving into the cloud, about their choice of cloud bookkeeping package and all that goes with this. If your ability to offer constructive advice here is less informed than your competition, guess what will happen to your clients and prospective clients?

You will find it so much easier to have genuine, constructive and valuable conversations with clients about moving into the cloud and which software to use (beyond the bookkeeping package itself), when you’re familiar with the options, benefits and issues to consider. The fastest way to do this will often be to put your own practice into the cloud.