Sage published research today which demonstrates the pace of change for accountants as client expectations shift. Automation and AI are being considered and adopted by more than half of the surveyed accountants to reduce repetitive tasks, freeing them to provide valued consultancy and advice to their clients.
Speaking to 3,000 accountants globally (across UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Australia and Ireland) for the annual Practice of Now research found that 42% of clients expect their accountant to provide business advice, forcing accountants to review how they could lighten their administrative burden to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is providing businesses with smart automation and solving many productivity challenges. Accountants are also realising the benefits that AI could provide to their practice. 49% would like to automate number crunching, data entry, email and diary management and 66% say they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
Commenting on the research, Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage said “Today accountants are seeing AI as purely an automation tool, but the number of accountants who’d invest in AI will increase over the next two to three years as they start to see the true value of intelligence services. For example, accountants will be able to scale their operations by using AI to review millions of transactions that would have traditionally taken hours to do manually – spotting anomalies and making recommendations.”
Head in the clouds
As the landscape changes for accountants, research shows that a clear majority (67%) believe that cloud technology makes their businesses more successful. Client collaboration and improved service offerings were all cited as benefits to embracing off-premise technology.
Technology brings clear benefits for accountants. It is however clear that there is a need to learn new skills, anticipate the future and reorient thinking to put their firm ahead—all whilst adapting to the increasing needs of clients and offering competitive services.
Key UK findings include:
- 83% of clients are demanding more today than 5 years ago
- 42% of clients expect business advice
- 67% of accountants believe that cloud tech makes their role easier by enabling collaboration with clients
- 53% of accountants have already adopted a cloud-based practice management solution
- 45% of UK accountants describe themselves as early adopters, which is above the global average of 39%
- Over half of UK accountants (63%) say that practice revenue has increased in the last 12 months (in comparison to the global figure of 56%)
- More than two in three accountants are turning to artificial intelligence to:
- improve interactions with clients
- improve the services they offer
- reduce time wasted on repetitive tasks
- avoid mistakes
Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances at Sage said: “Accountants have been distracted by the suggestion that offering additional services could take away from their core accountability of offering taxation services and advice. But as the cloud has become mainstream, accountants are realising there’s more opportunity than there is risk. Those prepared to embrace new ways of working and evolve their business model really are reaping the benefits.”