About 87% of SMEs prefer to work with tech savvy accountants

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The majority (87%) of SMEs prefer to work with  accountants who understand technology, according to a survey of over 600 South African accountants and SME owners conducted by Xero, in partnership with World Wide Worx.

Most accountants (88%) think that in-depth knowledge of technology and automation will be crucial to the success of the profession within the next three years. Professionals will need to upskill, and 80% of accountants acknowledge that they’ll need some kind of training in the next five years to adapt.

Respondents identified mobile technologies (59%), automation (29%) and AI (22%) as some of the most exciting new innovations, although a worrying 15% did not know enough about any to be intrigued.

Technology has enabled SMEs to automate many of the tasks traditionally performed by accountants, such as data entry and bank statement processing, and as a result 31% of SMEs surveyed do not think they will need an accountant in 10 years’ time.

However, the research identified an opportunity for accountants to remain relevant through offering value-add services such as business consultancy: 23% of SMEs report frequently asking their accountant for non-financial advice, and 27% report doing it more than once. The potential for added value is considered ‘very important’ by 62% when choosing an accountant. As a result, accountants are the most trusted advisor for 65% of SME owners.

Technology will help enable this by increasing flexibility: 59% consider technology to be highly important in terms of freeing up time for consultancy beyond day-to-day numerical work.

“Twenty years ago, at the beginning of my accounting career, we were updating financial records manually on DOS computers. Xero’s research has illustrated that, in 2017, the technological landscape is rather different. Although technology poses several challenges for the profession, we shouldn’t panic: accountants aren’t going to become obsolete, and SMEs will still be in need of their services for years to come. What Xero’s research illustrates is a need for a broader realignment of the accounting role: one that focuses on strategic and advisory functions as much as financial management,” says Cindy Dibete, South African Institute of Professional Accountants Chairperson.

“We are entering a period of rapid technological change within the accountancy profession. From automation to artificial intelligence, accountants are having to upskill and evolve their offering. The report has shown that South African accountants are preparing for change, but they need to ensure they’re clued up on the next big tech innovations and affirm their status as the SME owner’s most trusted advisor. If they can do that, the future looks bright, as 42% of accountants peg South Africa as the country to watch for future innovations in the profession,” says Colin Timmis, Xero SA Head of Accounting.

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About Author

Thabo Mphahlele is the BizNis Africa Head of Sales and Marketing. Mphahlele was previously MultiChoice Production Support Analyst responsible for developing and monitoring applications. In addition, Mphahlele develops and automates batch scripts and is responsible for the daily infrastructure maintenance at MultiChoice. As a Production Support Analyst, he is responsible for incident analysis solving , developing and constructing business reports for SQL and Oracle and implement change controls for the business. Additional responsibility includes monitoring system performance via SOA, Kibaba (Elasticsearch), H.P BSM, HP Sitescope. Mphahlele is responsible for creating infrastructure performance reports through HP Ops Analytics, monitoring payments via Splunk and in-house built-in tool and disaster recovery simulation and testing. At Nashua Mobile, he was responsible for application development and enhancing the web sites At South West Gauteng College, he was the IT Technician and Network Administrator. During his tenure at Double Digit Media, he was he focused on application and web site development for new and existing clients Mphahlele contributes as a Content Manager for BizNis Africa.

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