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Here’s a question for you: Does it seem logical or valid to compare accountants to Olympic gymnasts? (Answer: No, probably not.)

written by Editor, 19 June 2014

Blog by Andrew Flanagan, Digita Managing Director
The purpose of referencing gymnasts/accountants in my address at our London and Leeds User Conferences was merely to draw attention to the concept of “Agility”; agility in a business sense.

Does it seem logical...

I believe that as we progress through the next few years, agility – the ability to adapt and change what we offer our customers, and how (via what means, using which systems) we offer it – will determine which businesses will thrive and survive and which will not. And this will apply to accounting practices and to software providers alike.

The times are certainly changing, and fast. As an example, consider this: it took 7 years for global sales of PCs to reach 1 million units, whereas Apple reportedly sold approximately 9 million units of the iPhone 5c in the first 3 days following its launch in 2013.

The proliferation of mobile technology has meant that for some, work-life balance has become more of a work-life blur. In the near future we can expect to see new devices such as wrist mounted units and devices controlled by eye movement or gesture. We will interact with the Cloud wherever we are and obtain information differently, through contextually-relevant information being provided to us by smart devices/applications/providers, that have learnt to understand what information we need or are interested in.

Today we have the mobile web – the use of smart phones, tablets etc for business. Bring Your Own Device is part of this, where our colleagues expect to be able to connect their own smart devices to office networks and business systems. But how will the Cloud affect accountancy practices in the near future?

At the Conferences, I referred specifically to 2 developments that I believe will change the way that we accountants work:

• The so-called “Internet of Things” – the concept of smart devices connected to, and communicating autonomously over, the Cloud; and
• Big Data – the idea that soon all data and transactions will be exchanged, assembled and filed electronically.

These are merely two that I have chosen to highlight. There are, and will be, other developments.

In 2013, we surveyed 1400 accounting firms with AccountingWeb. This revealed that about a third of firms are either using some Cloud applications for their business or are about to. It also showed that accountants perceive remote access and 24/7 assistance to be increasingly important to their clients. Accountants’ attitudes to Cloud seem to be changing.

At our London Conference, one of our customers, Jessica Pillow, who runs a fast growing practice in Malvern, gave an inspiring demonstration of the benefits of adopting an end-to-end Cloud strategy that extends from the minute a client makes a transaction, right through to eventual electronic transmission of the accounts to Companies House. One of the key advantages of using the Cloud is that clients and accountants can work on Cloud applications together, creating greater efficiencies and encouraging a closer working relationship.

But it is not only technology that is changing. Legislative/regulatory change is also ever present. As examples: FRS 102, the continuance (or not) of FRSSE, iXBRL detailed P&L filing, changing IFRS formats, changing requirements at Companies House. This is happening too, in parallel with the changes and challenges stemming from technology.

At Thomson Reuters we have a track record of dealing with change. We released our first Digita tax compliance product, Taxability Pro for DOS, in 1992 – twenty-two years ago. We dealt with the migration of solutions from DOS to Windows, and now we stand on the threshold of another migration: this time from Windows to Cloud. Today we offer our Digita Professional Suite over the internet as Digita Virtual Office, but we are already building the Cloud-native solutions that we believe the Profession will need in the future – solutions that are being built specifically to cater for the needs of UK accountants. Our aim is to provide our customers with choice: the freedom to choose when to adopt the new technology. And in parallel, we will continue to maintain our desktop solutions for those customers who wish to continue to access our software by this means.

It’s not all about software and technology though. We value the relationships that we have established with our customers. We aim to be a technology partner, supporting our customers through the coming periods of profound and rapid change, as we embrace the Cloud and whatever follows. Whether we’re as agile as an Olympic gymnast, or not.

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