Everyone tells us about the pace of change and how fast it is. But when we step back for a moment, there are three separate issues to consider and the real rate of change for your practice may well be slower than others would have us believe.
Too many people seem to focus on only one of the three issues that determine the real rate of change that impacts accountants’ businesses.
New tech on the market
This first issue is the speed of development of new technology intended to make life easier for accountants and for their clients.
When you’ve been part of and then reporting on the profession for as long as I have, you have to accept that the pace of such change we are now seeing is faster than ever before.
This means there is constant pressure to try new stuff. And other commentators repeatedly telling you to beware the rise of the robots due to the developments in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), machine learning and Artificial Intelligence.
All of this is true in principle – although we’re unlikely to ever see physical robots in accountants’ offices. But the underlying point is well made.
New tech in your office
The second issue however is also worth keeping in mind. This is that the speed of change outside of your office only impacts you when you reach out and choose to join in. When you ‘buy into’ the new software, solutions, systems and apps.
Obviously the purveyors of such new tech are keen to encourage you to invest, as are the magazines, websites and conference organisers who rely on the advertising and promotional spend by the purveyors of all this new tech.
They all warn you of the dangers of missing out. In so doing they frequently down play the premium price you will have to pay to be among the pioneers. And they downplay the likely pain that is often borne by those at the forefront of developments before they become mainstream and day to day issues have been resolved.
You are also often told that clients will be demanding that you upgrade to use this new tech and that you risk losing clients to more modern accountants who have embraced the newest technology.
Is this true actually?
The third issue is the key one. This is the one that is sadly frequently overlooked all together. It’s the client service point. BUT looked at from the perspective of the client.
Until existing clients and prospects start demanding that you start using new tech, there is often little to prompt this. Other than all the advertising and promotion!
Yes, it’s a shame that more clients don’t push for you to embrace new tech etc as much of the new tech will create efficiency savings and sometimes cost savings too.
But, as I keep pointing out, most clients don’t care what systems, processes or software you use to do the work you do for them. They just want it done. They pay your fees and they largely ignore adverts suggesting that there may be better, cheaper or faster services available. In the same way I ignore adverts for retirement homes, sporting events and dating sites. None are of interest to me.
Equally, none of the adverts for bookkeeping software, for example, resonate with your clients – unless they are in some way dissatisfied with your service or feel they are paying you far more than they consider to be good value for the service they perceive they are getting from you.
On the other hand, perhaps YOU want to invest, to move with the times and to ensure your practice is at the forefront of tech developments. I’m all for that. And bigger practices are under even more pressure to do this if they want to attract and retain the best millennials in the workplace.
But, in less ambitious firms, until clients start to demand that things change, the real rate of change will be slower than many people suggest.