Accountants face irrelevance if they don't keep up with the continuing changes in technology, according to Jon Baron, managing director of Thomson Reuters' Professional Tax & Accounting.

In his opening keynote at the company's 33rd Annual Synergy Users Conference in Miami Beach, Fla., Baron encouraged attendees to focus on business agility and take note on how new technologies are pushing accounting firms to reinvent themselves. He pointed out how a culture where data is "available anytime, anywhere, on any device, and on any user interface" is the driving force as to why businesses and professionals are causing the accounting profession to "adapt." If not, they may have to "face potential irrelevance."

Baron emphasized the importance of firms needing to move beyond after-the-fact and compliance work and adapting to a world where there are more Internet-connected devices than people.

"Clients want more than just compliance," he said during his keynote. "What keeps me up at night is that 30 to 40 percent of accounting firms are operating in a manner that is out of sync." In order to shrink those numbers, he advised firms to become collaborative, trusted advisors to their clients, and said they need to ask themselves whether they’re providing services in a way that is aligned with the world of today and meeting the expectations of today’s clients. “Tax prep and compliance work are merely the price of entry in today’s profession, due to increasingly sophisticated technology in the hands of consumers and ubiquitous access to information. Technological change is happening at an unprecedented rate, so the key is to be agile, open to change, and ready to leverage technology to benefit firm staff and clients. Business agility is critical for creating opportunities and elevating client service.”

Baron also shared a number of mobile enhancements and real-time client collaboration tools that will give accounting firms profits a boost by streamlining workflow and making data collection and management more automated and efficient. He demonstrated some of the CS Professional Suite features and functionality that will help firms attain those goals, including:

  • New mobile capabilities in NetClient CS that will enable firm clients to snap photos of source documents with their mobile devices, then upload them directly to NetClient CS for access by the firm. Firm clients will also be able to send documents directly from Dropbox to the firm.
  • New mobile notifications and functionality for firm clients, including mobile notifications that alert clients to missing source documents and mobile notifications to the firm when new source documents are available on the portal.
  • New integration between Workpapers CS and NetClient CS that enables practitioners to drag and drop client source documents directly to the Workpapers CS binder from NetClient CS. Workpapers CS enables practitioners to manage all types of workpapers, *New integration between Workpapers CS and the Source Document Processing service that automatically labels and organizes scanned client source documents, then sorts them into a binder folder structure that mirrors the UltraTax CS input screen folders.
  • A visual update for iOS 7 that offers a more streamlined interface. “It’s estimated that there will be 40 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020,” Baron said. “Faced with that incredible pace of change, firms need to constantly challenge their core assumptions and retain the agility to adapt. We’re working hard to create the tools that will help firms adapt by driving efficiency through workflow and using mobile and the cloud to build better connections with clients.”

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