Speaking to SMSF Adviser, Planet Consulting founder Rob Pillans said there are a number of ways in which technology and its effect on the industry will play out this year.
Cyber security is already a huge issue for firms and will continue to be this year, said Mr Pillans. It’s apparent that some of the cyber criminals out there have worked out that accounting firms are good targets because accountants hold a great deal of valuable information about their clients.
“That's a huge challenge for accounting firms, as it is across the business world, and it absolutely needs to be taken seriously by accountants,” he warned.
“There are also some new rules that come into play in February about having to report breaches of security in certain circumstances.”
Making sense of applications and software
Firms are also continuing to be challenged in many cases by the sheer volume of applications that are coming out that could be potentially used in their firm or with the client.
“You only have to go to events like ATSA or the Accounting Business Expo or other big events to realise how many options there are for accountants,” he said.
“I think making sense of all those choices is going to be an ongoing challenge for firms, and I think making the most of technology and using what we have to the fullest extent continues to be something that firms should focus on.”
Expansion of services
While accounting firms have been bombarded by different groups in the industry, particularly the software providers, encouraging them to expand their services beyond compliance, Mr Pillans expects there will be more accounting firms looking to build their non-compliance services this year.
These non-compliance services, also referred to as advisory services or value added services can greatly benefit business clients in particular he said.
“It can be things like three-way budgeting and forecasting, it can be helping your client with business planning, and providing what's now often called the virtual CFO service,” he explained.
“We're certainly going to see continued efforts from firms in 2018 to try and build their service offerings, in that advisory type space, although I do see that that's proving to be a challenge for some firms, because they're still perhaps struggling to get beyond the compliance burden but I do sense a shift.”
Mr Pillans said he views this as a natural evolution for accountants, and while many accounting firms have been providing these services for some time, there’s still a lot who are not.
“I do think in 2018 we'll see a further shift in that area.”