SOURCE: SAGE

Sage

April 05, 2017 14:30 ET

Global Research Reveals Accountants Welcome Technology and Automation for Administrative Relief

Report finds accountants globally are optimistic about the future of accounting in the face of rising automation

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwired - Apr 5, 2017) -

  • 38% reveal one of their biggest business frustrations is time spent number-crunching
  • 32% of those surveyed use manual methods as part of their record keeping for clients; 25% Excel and 7% handwritten notes
  • 86% say they would be happy for technology to make the admin elements of their job invisible, so they can focus more on their clients and building their practice
  • 23% would take time off with the extra time they save with automation

Sage, a market leader in cloud accounting software, today announced the results of a new global survey of 700 accountants which shows that attitudes towards automation within the accounting profession are changing as the benefits become clear -- signaling a new era for the accounting practice.

The 'Practice of Now' report, conducted for Sage by independent research company Viga, reveals that 96% of those surveyed are confident about the future of accountancy and their role in it, despite 68% seeing their role changing through automation in the future.

"Technological change can be divisive -- some are quick to adopt while others are more hesitant. This research shows that the majority of accountants see the empowering opportunity that automation can create and how it will free up more of their time so they can focus on their practice and their clients," said Jennifer Warawa, EVP Product Marketing, Sage. "As artificial intelligence and bots become progressively more intuitive, there is even greater potential for a future of invisible admin to help accountants focus on more strategic areas of their business. The industry must come together to support these changes and help eliminate any barriers or fears that can hold accountants back from the benefits of the increased efficiency that automation will afford them."

U.S. Specific Data
The report also showed that 89% of U.S. accountants view automating data entry and reporting as a way to create more value add service for clients. Currently 77% use a cloud-based practice management solution to help serve their clients, while the majority stated that the most important service accounting software provides is automation that frees up time for clients and empowers staff to spend less time crunching numbers and do more analysis, which leads to greater job satisfaction. In an industry moving towards automation, 99% of U.S. accountants surveyed voiced confidence about the future of accountancy and their role in it, while 58% see their role becoming more strategic, allowing them to provide more financial advice to customers.

Further Global Findings from the Practice of Now Include:

Cloud Adoption: With cloud now seen as table stakes in most organizations, cloud-based solutions among accountants are proving popular:

  • 57% say their firm invests in the best technology available, including cloud technology, to help offer the best services to their clients
  • 67% have adopted a cloud-based practice management solution
  • Security is seen as the biggest barrier to adopting cloud technology (37%), while 14% say it's client concerns

Admin & Automation: Many accountants surveyed find admin tasks such as time spent number-crunching frustrating and can see great benefits in automation such as it freeing their time to serve more clients and creating more services for their clients. However, some still worry about how technology will impact their role:

  • An overwhelming 86% agree that by automating data entry and reporting, they would be free to create services that add value for their clients
  • Accountants are on the fence as to whether admin is enjoyable or a frustration with 35% saying it's the most enjoyable part of their role while 38% say time spent number-crunching is their biggest frustration; regardless, they are in agreement that it takes up a lot of their time
  • 38% believe the biggest threat to the accountancy profession is new emerging technology that can do some of the jobs they currently do
  • 23% would take time off with the extra time they save with automation

Future Gazing - Optimism Prevails: Despite fears and frustrations, accountants have an optimistic view of the future of their profession:

  • 96% of those surveyed are confident about the future of accountancy and their role in it; 47% are very confident & 49% moderately confident
  • 68% see their role changing through automation in the future; 43% believe it will change through automated admin and 25% see some of their work becoming automated but still applying that information under their control
  • Over half accountants surveyed (53%) see their roles becoming more strategic and being able to provide more financial and business advice to their customers
  • When asked what the biggest threats to the accountancy profession are, 36% believe it to be self-service accounting solutions, with 25% saying it's customers not understanding the full benefit of working with an accountant

Methodology:
The State of Accounting research was conducted by research & data collection agency Viga, on behalf of Sage, between the 13th and 27th February 2017. 700 accountants, from entry level to C-suite, were surveyed online across seven markets, including the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, France, Spain and Ireland.

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