Recent discussions in the accounting industry have centred around the idea that “compliance is dead”, sparking the notion of a retiring accounting and bookkeeping profession. Equally so the birth of a progressive practitioner that diversifies into value-added services has already incited the transformation of many practices at the fore-front. Is “Do or Die” imminent for the survival of the industry?

The current talk is based on changes that have been brought on by technology. Automating long-winded tasks such as data entry with bank feeds and converting scanned source document into transactions within the accounting systems are just some of the productivity improvements replacing many billable hours. To propel the issue, adding the ability to lodge business activity and PAYG statements directly from within the accounting software may suggest to business owners that DIY accounting is achievable.

In an attempt to salvage revenue, ‘Fixed Fee’ billing incorporating additional services and software subscriptions has been recommended over the traditional ‘Hourly Rate’. This concept however, wants a shift in business model that does not sit comfortable with such a traditional industry. The risk of not having enough buffer to charge for the unexpected customer and/or staff ‘blooper’ is just too great.

Mel Power from Xero, advocates for the Bookkeeper when she writes, “But it’s wrong to suggest that this change is a death knell for bookkeepers.” In her article The Robots are Coming… But Bookkeepers are Still Safe, Mel is suggesting that the mindless mechanical traits of an automated system are unlikely to replace the quality and accuracy of the information that goes with the advice delivered by the qualified bookkeeping professional. She in particular highlights that software may know the “how” but has it’s shortfall in differentiating the “why”.

Robots have long since changed other industries. Manufacturing has seen a big change to more productive labour costs. We have come to accept being greeted by automated messages when seeking out call centres, so why should our industry be immune to these changes?

How is this affecting organisations that have been at the perils of their accountants not only for good advice but for tax planning and lodgements, preparation of activity statements, complex FBT solutions, capital gains tax etc.? Can we really replace the profound relationships Bookkeepers foster with their clients. A connection built over many years, based on the trust gained from good advice given and the attentive ear provided unconditionally in sharing the ups-and-downs of business cycles.

Mel further summarises that “Automation will indeed replace the need for drawing in, organising and tagging financial data. But I don’t foresee any near future where a robot can accurately – and empathetically – advise a small business owner about what that data means for them and their employees.”

Accountants and advisors now have an opportunity to devote more time to helping clients with planning for their future. Forecasting what lays ahead, as opposed to reporting on what has happened in the past helps businesses to grow and remain sustainable. In turn providing real value and enhancing their clients, not just maintaining ATO compliancy.

Calxa has long provided a solution to its Partners to make the leap into management reporting to aide their income stream. Not only by automating the labourious data entry tasks of budgeting but in delivering visual reports that Bookkeepers and Accountants alike can rely on painting an easy to understand picture for the client’s state of affairs. It seems a natural and easy progression from the routine compliance gig. Features like report bundling and upcoming scheduling of reports sent directly from the cloud may seem like an ‘Invisible Accountant’. And may be it is – all the work is done in the background with more time spent on the golf course nurturing client relationships. That’s not a bad future to work towards.