COVID-19 is driving a borderless accounting profession

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A new era of work was ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations quickly adapted to the remote workplace, relying heavily on the cloud, Zoom and other technologies to conduct business (not as usual). Several months into this gigantic work from home experiment, accounting professionals around the globe are settling into this new definition of the “workplace.”

What changed: In-person lunches became meetings over Zoom. Trade conferences evolved into virtual ones, superseding the usual networking cocktails and branded pens. What happened: The work kept going. Accountants found new ways to innovate. Hesitant clients (finally) learned how to utilize the cloud. Most businesses still made profits.

Small businesses around the globe adapted quickly thanks to technology. In the first quarter, there was a 2.2 percent increase in cloud spending and a major drop (16.3 percent) on spending for non-cloud infrastructure, according to data from the International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker. There are many advantages to cloud-based solutions. In a time of physical distancing, information can be easily accessed by members of the team, no matter their location. This often stores a digital "paper" trail to find and fix any issues, which also is key in preventing fraud. The cloud offers secure virtual storage that is safe in case of fire, flood, theft or other disaster that would ruin physical records or hard drives.

The cloud is also an underutilized secret weapon for accountants, as it is a critical component in building a better experience for accountants and their clients. In fact, you might say this is the biggest disruption to the industry since the introduction of the calculator. Businesses are jumping on board to shake up antiquated industry norms. Forget the billable hour. Let’s charge for the work as a whole and get it done correctly and efficiently. The cloud enables access anytime, anywhere — whether that’s from a desk or your Peloton. Tap a remote offshore team that can pick up the backend work so you have more time with your clients and family. The accounting firms leading this charge are implementing innovative programs to get to the heart of the work: focusing on the client.

There is an untapped synergy between accounting firms and potential partners across the border. If the pandemic has a silver lining, it’s that the global accounting world is becoming smaller and borderless. Debits and credits are the same no matter where you are. There’s a new shared language, and it’s technology tools.

Throughout the pandemic, technology has continuously brought us together. Post-pandemic, accounting firms and small businesses alike should capitalize on technology to provide a better experience. Cloud accounting is just one tool that is advancing the industry into becoming more collaborative and borderless. COVID-19 put a spotlight on what needed to change in antiquated processes, and the accounting profession has embraced this change with enhanced cloud-based solutions.

Powered by technology, the accounting profession is ripe for disruption when led by forward-thinking companies who want to come together to push the industry envelope. The cloud enables this type of creativity. New services and processes, such as value-based pricing, offshore teams and tech, enable the accounting profession to reach businesses of all sizes, creating virtual CFOs for small businesses who never thought they could afford such a luxury at a fraction of the cost. It’s time to redefine the accounting experience and propel the industry forward. As we look to the months ahead, these innovative changes will become the new norms. Which side of history do you want to be on?

Kristen Keats, CPA, is CEO and founder of Breakaway Bookkeeping & Advising and Twyla Verhelst, CPA, is head of the accountant channel at FreshBooks.

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Coronavirus Cloud computing Accounting software International accounting Collaboration tools