Australian retailers are accelerating their online strategies as Amazon plans its assault on the local retail market. Speak to any retailer and they will tell you that their online sales and offline sales trend lines are going in opposite directions. No surprises here, the five most valuable companies in the word by market capitalisation are Apple, Alphabet (parent co. of Google), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Not a bricks’n mortar business amongst them. So how does this translate to accounting and bookkeeping professionals? And let’s not forget the elephant in the room: AI, Artificial Intelligence.

Future-proofing the firm

There is false comfort in the notion that a trusted advisor – be they an accountant or a bookkeeper – is ‘protected’ from the ravages of technology innovation because, they are, well, human and it is humans we seek counsel from. All true but look at the expanding universe of SaaS options now available to the business owner. Being registered as a BAS agent or having the University training of an accountant will remain relevant – just as automation and robotics is making inroads in medical and surgical procedures without discounting the value of the doctor. But automation and AI will literally make processes and procedures that can be automated through SaaS or AI, less valuable. A severe haircut in income is looming.

Skills for success

The trends in automation and digital disruption demand new skills. Accounting and bookkeeping professionals do appear to be hand-sitting, deriving comfort from their professional status. The best way to prepare for a future landscape is to develop entrepreneurial skills.
Technology entrepreneurs are well known for their approach to product or service development: they consider themselves in ‘permanent beta’, like a software release. In practice, they become lifelong learners, ready to adapt or re-imagine their job or business before someone does it to you.

Think like an entrepreneur

Thinking like an entrepreneur may sound like an oxymoron for the bean counter (‘no room for imagination in this work’). Yet customer service is all about being entrepreneurial. The bean counter or bookkeeper does not have much room for the set of accounts but they have total control over how they interact with the client. Try it: do something extra that would make a difference to the client’s small business. Where are the trainers in entrepreneurship for the professional?