What are Exact's accountancy plans?

What will the accounting firm look like in 10 years time? I have a good idea but I’d like to start with a disclaimer. In all sectors, including accountancy, more and more lawyers are required as opposed to sector experts due to the advance of the litigation culture. Practical experience teaches us that some waves proceed slower than predicted. Consider XBRL (2005) and the platform for Electronic invoicing (2006). So, to say: ‘this is what the accounting firm will look like in 10 years time’ is a little far-fetched. However, one thing is certain; the sector will still exist. I'm prepared to state that categorically.

Survival of the fittest

In the past, if you couldn't handle change you became an accountant. However, the last 20 years has seen the sector hit by a tsunami of changes. Has the sector been washed away? No. The accountancy sector has grown into the most ‘adaptable’ occupational group, as meant by Herbert Spencer in ‘Survival of the fittest’ (those who can adapt best will survive). The accountancy sector has proven that it can adjust like a chameleon to suit legal regulations, technology and the clients' wishes. What is the outlook in these areas?

Legal regulations

Increasingly more entrepreneurs conduct business abroad. The VAT legislation alone is enough to give many entrepreneurs a headache. This legislation will be revolutionised by the effect of digital invoice flows and technologies like blockchain. This is the area that will give accountants some peace of mind.

Technology

Now that working in the cloud has been generally accepted, artificial intelligence has become the next technology hype. A hype is accepted when the market sees the use of it. At Exact we are always curious about technology. That's why, partly at the request of the accountancy sector itself, we are keeping busy with various different processes to bring the added value of artificial intelligence for accountants to a higher level. We see a wealth of possibilities. We explain our accountancy plans below.

Share data anonymously

We are currently researching how to convert 11 years worth of 300,000 accountancy jobs to anonymous knowledge rules. This enables the automatic booking of purchase invoices, receipts and bank statements. The challenge lies within the ‘correct automatic booking’. You can’t always book the telephone bill under the ‘telephony’ file. This depends on the type of entrepreneur or the entrepreneurs themselves. This is just a simple example of the complexity within the sector. Many more complex bookings exist in accountancy practice. Try automated booking of a hotel invoice, with room hire, accommodation, dinner and breakfast for every entrepreneur without any errors. This is where the ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘anonymous reuse of data’ come into play. Even if it concerns anonymous business rules, we will request permission in advance from the data owners (client, accounting firm).

Mobile online collaboration

Practice and theory demonstrate that you need an enormous amount of history for a reliable booking proposal. Only then can you report and/or benchmark reliably. Even the history of 300,000 accountancy jobs is still too limited for this. Therefore, in cases of doubt, it needs to be extremely simple to get in touch with the entrepreneur. So, online collaboration via a mobile phone is a must. The literature talks about making software ‘social’.

Virtual assistant for non-billable tasks

Artificial intelligence exists also in concepts such as the digital assistant (on your smartphone) and the virtual assistant (HoloLens, VR headsets). This will soon be the entrepreneur's first contact point. It follows up with them if the administration is not submitted promptly and completely. The assistant reminds the entrepreneur to take certain actions that cannot (yet) be automated. Employees then have time to do the more pleasant work, namely to take the client to a higher level.

Technology for promptness

Technology will also play a role in promptness. Electronic invoicing and PSD2 make it technically possible to be constantly up-to-date. For more information, read the ‘realtime banking (PSD2)’ and ‘Blockchain’ articles. Exact will expand the ‘electronic letterbox’ functionally. Soon this letterbox will be able to collect invoices from all types of parties and formats and process them automatically. With these concepts, administrations are constantly up-to-date, as opposed to once every VAT period. An up-to-date, error-free and complete administration is a prerequisite to creating relevant information for entrepreneurs via continuous monitoring, alerting, dash-boarding and cash flow prognoses. This step in automation is a good thing. Not only for the entrepreneurs themselves, but for the entire business world. For an example, please watch the Zembla broadcast.

Integration of software and databases

For many years, total solutions removed the stress for accountants and accounting firms in terms of software. In the cloud era, where technological innovations are proceeding at increasing speed, optimal integrations are a better solution to effectively respond to this. If a software component is no longer adequate, this can rapidly be replaced with another tool. Thanks to cloud technology (APIs), this solution can easily be integrated into the application landscape. Thanks to this, accountants and bookkeepers can always work with the best, integrated softwares (such as Financial, Salary, CRM, Time & Billing, Workflow, Fiscal and Reporting) and take advantage of the same benefits that a total solution offers (once-off data entry, multiple usage).

The client's wishes

A recent survey (Exact SME Barometer 2016 among over 2,500 accountants and entrepreneurs) indicates that 53% of entrepreneurs expect strategic advice from their accountant. Entrepreneurs believe that their accountant should invest more in expanding industry knowledge to be able to advise better. Issues such as correct ‘advisory dashboards’, ‘benchmark information’ and possibilities for ‘Internet of Things’ with Exact software are also relevant this year. Many accounting firms also invest in expanding their coaching skills. We also provide professional “advisory” training for firms' staff members.

Top three business priorities

Entrepreneurs want to run their business; accountants are perfectly suited to supporting them. From the extensive survey mentioned above, it appears that 52% of wholesale distributors and 56% of manufacturers view client expansion, good financing and acquiring the correct knowledge are among the top three business priorities. These are interesting insights that accountants and accounting firms can respond to in their role as chameleon. For this, Exact will launch new services such as Connect (finding new clients), Finance (organising financing) and Share (sharing knowledge inside and outside one's own network).

Collaboration as a strength

The strength of an accounting firm is collaboration with clients, and will remain as such. Technological developments put a different slant on this. Technology allows the cost price of the work to drop. Consider a ‘realtime digital letter box for invoice flows’, realtime banking, automatic booking and the virtual assistant who takes a load of work off your hands. Hence our advice to work with fixed prices (subscriptions) - of course with the required upgrades and different rates for entrepreneurs who meet the completeness and promptness conditions as well as for those lacking this. An error-free and up-to-date administration is a good foundation for new service provision. In future, successful firms will continue to adapt. This adaptability enables them to show how they can take their clients to a higher level, and keep them there.

‘Statement of direction’

As an accounting firm, what can you expect from Exact? Its statement of direction confirms that Exact will provide the transition from the Exact accountancy package to a digital business platform. We started in 2005 with online accountancy software. Integrated salary administration followed soon after, followed by Practice Management, an integrated software package for office automation.

SOD

New in Exact for Accountancy

A wealth of new functions will become available this year. Besides improvements on current functions, workflow will be available. This gives a firm detailed insight into the work, who is busy with what and who is responsible for supplying certain information. An approval module will be made available for purchase invoices. The advice dashboards will be expanded and following through corrections across multiple administrations will soon be easier.

Collaboration

For a complete portfolio, Exact consciously looks for collaborations with suppliers of solutions (App partners) which enables firms to offer their clients added value. Thanks to our solutions, integration and optimal supervision, we take the sector to an even higher level. In 2030, successful accounting firms will be adaptable. This adaptability allows them to show how they can support their clients even better.

Contact Exact for more information and to brainstorm about new opportunities and our accountancy plans.

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