FreeAgent gives five trends coming to the accounting industry in the next few years.
What trends should practices prepare for in 2024? In a recent webinar, FreeAgent’s Tony Stevenson FCA chatted with Glen Foster (Dext), Ryan Pearcy (Scrutton Bland) and Rebecca Williams (Eccounting Made Easy) to get their thoughts on the industry landscape. Here are five accountancy trends they identified to watch out for in 2024 and beyond.
Despite being an issue for the last decade, the shortage of talent coming into the industry is often deprioritised, with practices having to keep up with frequent changes in legislation and technology.
Rebecca highlighted that one of the reasons for the drop in applications could be related to firms and practices not offering the right benefit packages to candidates, making their offers less attractive to top talent. In fact, accounting and bookkeeping jobseekers now often gravitate towards jobs in different industries - e.g. tech, business or even AI - that offer competitive benefits such as flexible working arrangements.
The panel agreed that when it comes to recruiting, much of the industry is stuck in the past and it needs to keep up with the times if it’s to have any chance of solving the talent crisis.
Ryan highlighted that the increasing consolidation of apps and technology is set to have major implications for the accountancy industry.
The advent of accounting software has already impacted practices significantly, and in 2024 and beyond we’re likely to experience the consequences of certain platforms receiving investment. If a particular app is acquired by another provider, for example, it may affect accountants and bookkeepers who invested resources into establishing a relationship with that software provider.
As the panel explained, it’s all about balancing expectations and about practices doing their due diligence. Glen added that accountants and bookkeepers have to understand the problem they’re trying to solve, why they want to buy a certain product and how they will implement it within their systems. Then, even if the software provider gets acquired, accountants can count on the fact the product is a valuable addition to their tech stack.
Artificial intelligence (AI) dominated headlines and social media in 2023, and given the impact it’s set to have in the workplace, AI is likely to remain one of the burning issues of 2024.
At FreeAgent, we covered the topic in depth, giving our insights and asking experts to chip in with their thoughts during a recent webinar on the impact of AI in the industry. We’ve also made use of the technology in our product to speed up processes, for example with Smart Capture, an AI-powered tool to automatically categorise expenses.
There’s excitement around the positive changes AI could bring into the industry, but with it also comes scepticism and even fear. Where and how can AI fit into your strategy? The panel agreed that if an AI tool doesn’t support your practice’s goals or help streamline your processes, you shouldn’t rush to adopt it.
Integrating tools for the sake of following a trend is rarely going to produce useful results. As Tony explained, accountants shouldn’t simply “buy AI” but consider it carefully and only commit to it when it adds clear value to their practice.
Using social media as a marketing tool can be a powerful addition to a practice’s commercial strategy, and this trend isn’t disappearing any time soon.
When it comes to accountancy and social media marketing, Rebecca highlighted that there’s a common misconception about accountants and bookkeepers having to share technical knowledge online for their efforts to be worthwhile. It’s quite the opposite, she added - in fact, extremely technical content is less likely to perform well. It’s important to find a balance between educational and entertaining content. A great example would be stories about particularly memorable or impactful client experiences.
The panel agreed that social media done well can become a full-time job. From searching for topics to editing, posting and scheduling, a lot has to go on behind the scenes for a social media strategy to be successful.
On this topic, Tony suggested using AI tools to help with content creation, but to be careful: badly done or rushed posts will be easily spotted by your audience. Posting on social media simply because others are doing it is not the right approach and is unlikely to deliver impactful results.
The industry is increasingly comfortable with the idea of cloud accounting and building the right tech stack. However, with more and more tools entering the market, accountants and bookkeepers need to work on how these are actually used within their practices.
How can practices keep up with the speed of adoption and integrate the right tools for their strategy? As Rebecca explained, the most important question to ask is how you’re going to use any new tool you’re considering: what problem is it trying to solve?
Digital tools should be adopted strategically, she added, especially when it comes to training staff. Glen agreed that in the accounting world, 2024 will be all about doubling down on the tools that add value to your practice and making them work effectively. Keeping up with the speed of adoption means making the most out of the products you’re adding to your list.
You can hear our experts’ thoughts in full by watching the webinar recording.
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