The 2019 Good, the Bad, the Ugly of Australia’s accounting profession: 3 key insights and what they mean for your practice

This year’s Good, Bad, Ugly report revealed some interesting and surprising insights, not least of all that in a data-heavy, digitised world it’s the humanity of the accounting profession that will be of increasing importance over the coming years.

The full report steps through a wealth of data collected from accounting practices across Australia, providing analysis on key trends and benchmarking information for businesses of varying sizes.

Here, we highlight just three of the key insights we uncovered and what they mean for your practice.

1. Evolution, not revolution: If you’ve ever left behind a trendy fad diet not long after starting, you’ll know that real change takes time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to getting in shape, and as we found in this year’s data, our businesses are no different.

How do you go about implementing change in your business? If you’ve been frustrated by an initiative falling over or your team not buying in to a new process, it might be time to revisit how you’re managing change. Start by regularly reviewing key processes and critically evaluating whether they are still serving you. Then nominate champions across your practice to have ownership over different areas or key business processes. Empower them to manage and monitor the process and stay up to date with changes/legislative impacts so you’re on top of it and ready for tweaks/refinements as they’re needed.

The same should apply to your technology stack. The 2019 Good, Bad, Ugly Technology Report revealed the number one technology challenge firms are facing is not fully utilising the existing technology they have. It’s much easier to ensure you’re maximising your current systems than to implement an entirely new product or solution. By nominating software owners or champions you can more easily stay up to date with changes, ensure you’re getting bang for your buck, and not be caught out by versioning surprises!

2. Bringing clients on the journey: When it comes to change, one that is certain is the demographics and make-up of our client base. As your business adopts and adapts your use of technology, or perhaps introduces new and complementary service offerings, have you considered how you’re positioning your practice and supporting your clients to come on the journey with you? For example, while it may seem unnecessary to take action and implement new technology in the face of an older client base – not moving will put the next generation of clients at risk.

This hasn’t always been top of mind for many – given advisers have typically focused on transactional deadlines over relationships. But our changing use of technology is creating capacity for individual advisers to now have the time and space to focus on building client relationships and ensure their long-term success across generations. Have you mapped out a plan to support them to be able to do this?

3. Finding, and using, time: You might have read the point above and find yourself thinking “what extra capacity”? But the results from this year’s study found that productivity (a measure of charged hours against available hours) is decreasing, the median result showing productivity for all FTEs at 51.6%. This is good news in some respects, because it means firms are getting through the work quicker, thanks in large part to automated technology.

If your productivity results are significantly higher and your primary revenue source is traditional compliance, it might be time to review your support systems: your software should be a help, not a hindrance. Start by mapping out the 3 most time-consuming processes in your business to help identify where to direct your focus. Key areas we see opportunity to streamline or automate systems: keeping your workpapers up to date with legislative changes, and minimising the cost of clunky document management (take a look at how Smart Workpapers and HowNow Document Management can assist your practice).

However, the decline in productivity also suggests that firms aren’t filling the capacity that technology creates or turning that into additional revenue. Short of reducing hours, it’s clear that sales skills – our ability to find and win work – are becoming a necessary staple for practices that want to continue to grow.

The trends revealed in this year’s Good, Bad, Ugly report are surprising, and offer much food for thought as to how we position our practices, and people, for the future. In the face of improved technology and changing client demographics, it’s never been more important for accountants to step out from behind the spreadsheet and focus on the human side of the business.

Click here to purchase the full report to uncover the full range of insights and see how your practice stacks up and read the full details.

Ready to start your evolution now? Book a discovery call to explore how our range of smart solutions can set your practice, and clients, up for success.