My biggest take away from the event was the impact cloud technologies are having on accounting firm business models.
The use of cloud-based accounting systems such as Quickbooks Online is fundamentally changing how accounting firms interact with their clients - and fundamentally changing industry business models.
The traditional way accounting firms service their clients is a different time - different place model. The client sends their data to the accountant (often in shoe boxes or other non-digital formats), the accountant organizes the data and then sends the information back to the client.
Data requests and questions tend to follow this same pattern. The client calls or emails a question and the accountant figures out an answer and gets back to the client at a later time.
Cloud services replace this slow, iterative and inefficient work process with real-time, 24/7 client data collaboration. Cloud services also allow accounting firms to create self-service applications for their clients.
These changes don't sound that big, but their impact on accounting firm business models are enormous.
It's changing how accountants service their clients, how they charge (from hourly rates to value-based pricing), the type of skill sets they need to be successful and leading to more firm and practice specialization. It's also creating new opportunities for accounting firms that can successfully adapt to the cloud.
We document many of these shifts and changes in our recent Future of Accountancy report.
As we've discussed in the past, the accounting industry is an excellent case study for what's happening more broadly with knowledge work and work in general.
Because of this, we suggest firms in all industries think about how cloud technologies are or may impact their business models.
For those interested in how accounting industry business models are changing here are a few resources to check out:
BMRG: They provide advisory services related to the shifts discussed above. They have an interesting looking webinar series on business planning that starts in December.
Supporting Strategies: They are an accounting firm who has created a new business model by focusing on being the outsource provider of accounting services for small businesses. Their site does a nice job of explaining the benefits of this approach.
Backops: a startup providing cloud-based back offices services to small businesses. Interesting approach and business model.