Technology of the future and how it will change the way compliance is delivered
Dean Shepherd is Lead Product Manager for Compliance at Tax & Accounting, Wolters Kluwer UK. He has over 20 years’ experience as a practising accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser.
Dean believes the industry is ripe for disruption and advises accountants to keep a watching brief.
All around us we see technology disrupting every industry. No sector is immune. Social media has changed the advertising industry beyond recognition. Technology has transformed ride-sharing and food delivery. Fintech is revolutionising the normally staid financial services sector.
Retail, in particular, has been turned upside down. Whatever a conventional retailer can do, e-tailers can do faster and at a lower cost.
Imagine even 10 years ago enjoying same-day delivery, having a shared timeline with the supplier and being able to track your delivery at every stage or switch it to a more convenient time. This visibility of the delivery pipeline would have been unthinkable. The ‘sorry we missed you’ card through the letterbox was a fact of life. We knew nothing better. That has all changed.
Every one of the global technology companies that now pervade so much of our lives were once small start-ups. They came from nothing, with no baggage to hold them back. They were free to look at the world in new ways and leverage technology to realise their vision.
Rising customer expectations
While we may regret the impact these disrupters have had on more traditional businesses – particularly the demise of the high street – we have to admit that they have forced their competitors to up their game.
Today’s high levels of flexible service, once considered exceptional, have become the norm - the accepted minimum that customers take for granted. It raises the bar for service ever higher, to avoid disappointing those customers.
Innovation is all around us and yet in our own industry, the accountancy profession, very little has changed significantly since double-entry bookkeeping was adopted as standard practice many years ago. In my view, this means the fuse for disruption is ready to be lit, and may even be overdue.
Imagine if the practice management software you use internally became a collaborative tool, accessible by you and your clients. You could give clients greater visibility not only of their own to-do list, but of which member of your team is processing their VAT return, accounts or tax return, what stage it’s reached and when it will be completed for their approval.
What if they could simply swipe right or left on an app to approve the work or send you a message at their own convenience? Maybe the information you’ve requested could flow straight from the client’s phone into your personal tax software and update the tax liability on the fly, while being immediately visible to your client through the same app.
Will someone build this? Will enough accountants use it for it to be a disruptive force in the industry? Only time will tell. One thing is certain - UK accountants need to be prepared for whatever the future may bring.
The new kids on the block
Look around you at those small start-ups and you will see it’s already happening in the profession. Fledgling accountancy practices are springing up with no offices to their name. For these digital natives, communications with clients and colleagues are electronic right from the start, making distance no object in building their practice. All their compliance work is processed and stored in the cloud.
They work in the way the next generation of business owners prefers. Unencumbered by the usual overheads, they can keep their fees down and react nimbly to changing circumstances. They have been ahead of the game in recent months in already being set up to work from home. The world is their oyster and they are nipping at the heels of more conventional firms.