I’m Talking About a Mobile Revolution—Are You Ready?

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IMGCAP(1)]Mary Meeker is famous for her technology reports. In her 2014 Internet Trends report she shows tablets growing faster than PCs ever did. Total global tablet units shipped surpassed laptops over two years ago. While it's true that tablets are not necessarily replacing PCs and laptops, it doesn't matter. These devices are becoming more ubiquitous.

Whether you’re a vendor or an accounting firm, this mobile trend can’t be ignored. Your clients are using these devices and will continue to use them more and more. Delivering a report that is tablet-ready or a website that is optimized for mobile are just table stakes. If you want to win, going above and beyond and designing a mobile experience will certainly land you more clients. And it will land you the type of clients you want.

Mobile technology is revolutionizing everything. Pick an inanimate object and ask yourself what it will look like five years from now. Take a suitcase for example. Five years from now, it will likely have its weight displayed, GPS capability, a digital locking device similar to the fingerprint feature of the iPhone 6, and maybe self-driving wheels motored by a smartphone.

To some this may sound crazy; to others it sounds obvious. The bottom line is that “technology is eating the world” as successful venture capitalist Marc Andreesen says. We are seeing whole industries completely upended.

I believe the accounting industry is at the beginning of this shift. I don't see the shift happening overnight like we’ve seen in music and movie rentals, but there will be a point where you will start seeing your clients go elsewhere because you aren't offering the kinds of technology they want. Think about your next generation of clients who are used to apps and collaborating in the cloud with Google docs. Are you able to work the way they want to work? Yes, this technology shift is already happening, but not on a wide-scale basis. Yet.

We recently ran a survey among our accountant and small business base of customers to gather some insights. It was very clear that tablets have made their way into small businesses and also small practices. Over 90 percent of Xero accounting professionals use a smartphone and a laptop. Over 60 percent use a tablet. What's interesting is that the numbers are identical for small businesses. It indicates a symbiotic relationship. Accounting professionals and small businesses are using the same systems to work together on common goals. Whether it's analyzing a balance sheet, setting up a budget, or coding accounting transactions, these activities can be done together, looking at the same information, at the same time. Devices like the tablet and the mobile phone have simply made it easier to do all these things from anywhere.

More than half of Americans don't go to bank branches anymore. They rely on PCs, mobile or laptops to do their banking. It’s a trend that isn’t slowing. And we are seeing more and more accounting firms that don't own a server. That means they are hosting everything on the cloud, eliminating many of the IT headaches like firewall issues, security issues and upgrade nightmares. All of it is taken care of by the software vendors.

The face of the profession is changing and the mobile revolution is well underway. With massive changes like this comes incredible opportunity and the firms that can change the fastest will be the beneficiaries.

Jamie Sutherland is the president of Xero US.

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