Moving to the cloud – Benefits for the accountant/small business client relationship

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Cloud migration is a growing trend among small to medium sized businesses in Australia. Accounting practices are also embracing cloud technology – The May 2015 Cloud Readiness Survey from Digital First demonstrates that the shift to the cloud is happening. Nearly half of the respondents (43%) see a major shift to cloud software likely to be happening within the next twelve months.

Easy to use and affordable solutions now allow business owners to manage their finances with ease, 24/7 and from any location – all that is required is an internet connection and a browser. Many business compliance tasks that were once only performed by accountants are now more easily managed by the business owner. With the quick adoption of these solutions, how does that affect the relationship between the small business owner and the accountant? What services will accountants provide now that so many of the daily tasks are being handled by cloud based solutions?

Cloud accounting solutions were not created or marketed to replace accountants but are designed to work in tandem creating an opportunity for accountants to become more trusted advisors and consultants to their small business clients. The accountant editions of many online accounting solutions like Sage One, provide customisable dashboards which give clear visibility on how small to medium sized business clients are performing in real time which leads to a more deeply informed advisor.

Small businesses clients have indicated to their accountants their biggest concerns are cash flow management, expense management, tax and superannuation obligations, all of which are easily managed by the range of available online accounting solutions. Any time access to their clients’ data provides a timely opportunity for accountants to strategise about the future rather than the past.

Online accounting solutions were developed with the small to medium sized business in mind – created to allow users to focus on the business of doing business and achieving their goals and not the maintenance of support systems. Accountants who once spent their days and billing hours inputting bank transactions, managing GST reconciliations, payroll, and other day-to-day business management tasks have now transformed into the role of trusted advisor offering their clients higher value. Accounting practices are spending less time on the compliance side of the business and taking on stronger advisory roles offering their clients a more strategic level of service.

The freeing up of time provides the opportunity for firms to offer services like:

• KPI and trend monitoring
• Budgeting and cashflow forecasting
• Preparing your business for sale
• Business valuations
• Succession planning

The Cloud Readiness Survey also revealed that accountants see multiple benefits for their small business clients from cloud migration. 70% of respondents ranked higher productivity as a very important factor (for their firms) when it comes to migrating to the cloud. 62% of respondents see the cloud migration as an opportunity to offer their small business clients a more robust range of advisory services. More than 60% of the survey respondents stated that adding this level of business advice would deepen client relationships.

To achieve this new level of service, accounting firms recognise that they must spend more on software to run their businesses and increase productivity. Accountants who take advantage of these cloud technologies can service more clients from a larger area with a higher level of service.

Cloud migration is still in the early stages but it is clear that it is happening. The next few years will be transformational for small business owners and the accountants that service them. As both groups move to embrace and adapt to this new technology, small business owners will be able to spend more time on their business passions and accountants will change the way they do business and the services they offer, working more collaboratively with their clients, freeing up time to offer higher value services.

Lukas TaylorAbout the author:

This article was written by Lukas Taylor, General Manager of online accounting and business service provider, Sage One Australia.