Digitisation of our daily lives is now de rigeur. And – mostly – we are better off for it. Even the low-tech tradie is all over technology, using mobile technologies, data-driven marketing and a whole range of web-based platforms to enhance their work practices and productivity. Gone are the days of paper invoices for the plumber or electrician; almost all require a digitised payment immediately. It does seem however that significant parts of the accounting and bookkeeping sectors are operating as if they were still in the industrial era.

Business owners have little difficulty adapting to the new digital information age of better products and services, swiftly delivered. Bookkeepers and accountants, on the other hand, are facing a harsh reality: digitise work practices or die.

The shoe box brigade is an anachronism

The first positive experience a business owner has with their trusted advisor occurs well before hand over of financial and business records; it happens when the potential business customer visits the bookkeeper’s website. Tonnes of digital space has been posted on the web to assist the technology laggards in the profession: there really is no excuse for firms not to have a website presence that is contemporary in all respects: pricing options, web-based delivery and e-signature options, bank feeds etc. It remains the case that only a minority of customers have a positive experience with accountants and bookkeepers online.

One major driving force behind a disconnect has been the ascendency of accounting software platforms. These platforms create fertile grounds for disruptive business models that are changing the landscape. Firms that do not keep up, that is, who retain traditional bookkeeping business models, face the threat of being disintermediated. The supply side providers are becoming more powerful in their abilities to reach consumers.

Redefining business models

An intended consequence of the disintermediation of the accounting and bookkeeping sectors is the reality that the major accounting software players have a greater ability to generate, collect and analyse data and  effectively price and distribute products,; they are therefore high- potential partners for firms looking to update their business model. Look across at the digitised hotel accommodation industry where Airbnb now offers host protection insurance worldwide. This cover provides primary liability coverage for bodily injury or property damage. Airbnb has the advantage of integrating insurance distribution into its service offering and has superior access to customer data making it an attractive partner.

Integration opportunities abound for savvy accounting and bookkeeping firms.

A mindset challenge

Being a conservative industry means shifting the mindset and being willing to experiment and let some creativity flow. Borrowing from the text books of leadership, the essence of an agile approach is the mindset of constant learning, designing, delivering, getting feedback, adjusting and re-delivering. This leads to faster adoption of new technology and faster implementation in both new products and services.