cloud accountingOur lives are dominated by technology. From the phones in our hand, to our wearable tech around our wrists, to the tools we use to run our businesses. We’re experiencing a once-in-a-generation shift in the way businesses operate.

For the accounting industry one of the single biggest innovations has been the move to the cloud. Where once we had manual calculations and hours of data entry, technology is stepping in and automating the menial, low-value tasks we all used to spend our time on.

This is freeing the entire accounting industry from the day-to-day drudgery and letting advisors focus more on the higher value activities that help boost the success of their clients.

The shift to the cloud is creating a shift in accounting, especially when it comes to how we perceive and demonstrate value. We’re no longer seen as tax consultants. Working on a single ledger, in real-time with our clients means we’re able to develop closer client relationships and up-level to offer more CFO-type services.

Advisory services are becoming the new norm

In the world of accounting, has been the inventory of a practice. But there’s a limit to how many minutes or hours you can bill when you’re charging out your time in six-minute increments. Moving to advisory services lets you differentiate your firm and generate new revenue. Advisory and consulting services revenue growth was up in 2015 for 32 percent of small- and mid-size North American accounting firms, according to the latest International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) Global SMP Survey. There’s a similar trend happening here in the UK, and right across the world.

To move away from recording your time to a value-based model, procedures and processes need to be automated. Despite the automation factor, it doesn’t change your value to your client. They want you for your expertise and how you can analyse the numbers of their business, not for how long it takes you to run a calculation.

By freeing up your time, accountants can offer advisory packages to small businesses that were previously not commercially viable – either it was too expensive for the small business owner or there wasn’t enough margin in it for the accountant. With better access to data, the role of the accountant as a small business advisor is stronger than ever.

It creates an opportunity to expand services beyond the traditional activities. By providing meaningful accounting information to your clients in real-time, it is possible to offer high-value services such as debtor chasing using automated debtor chasing apps, sourcing funding or finance using secondary finance platforms that take data from online accounting platforms to make rapid lending decisions.

Data is driving deeper insights

The move to cloud has given us unprecedented access to data in real time. Suddenly we have the ability to advise our clients on aspects of their business as they’re happening. You can pull data from a business’s point of sale, employee management, and cloud accounting software to give them detailed, granular and customised advice, quickly.

There are also new products and features that can help accountants in their transition to the cloud and advisory services. Xero now offers integrated payroll and auto-enrollment services to help streamline customer management. We also offer the Business Performance Dashboard to allow you to see detailed analytics reporting so you can see how your businesses are performing at a glance.

Helping small business owners prepare for auto enrolment is a massive business opportunity for the UK’s accountants. Most of the country’s 5.3 million small businesses will have their staging date in the next two years. And many still don’t know how to deal with the upcoming changes

To make it more difficult, many of the UK’s small businesses still use simplistic paper based methods or spreadsheets to keep their books. This makes the more complicated payroll requirements even more difficult. Now is the time a small business needs an advisor on their side.

By helping your clients transition to cloud-based accounting and small business software now, you’re going to help them avoid a lot of pain when they’re required to manage their taxes and accounts digitally by April 2018.