Along with death and taxes, the only other inevitable part of life is change. Once upon time, we marked time over many centuries such as the bronze age, the dark ages and the industrial revolution.
Nowadays, change, driven by technology, impacts on every aspect of our experience of life at an ever increasing pace.
It is really quite weird to reflect on the fact that the internet only became mainstream in the very late 1990's/early 2000's, Facebook was launched in 2004, the first smartphone was only released in 2007, and Instagram is not even six years old. If you need a visual of the rapid change in websites this century, have a look here at the internet archives 'Way Back Machine'.
Yet everything from how we wake (does anyone really still own an alarm clock?), what we eat (and the photo that goes with it), how we connect to family and friends (anyone still make land-line calls?), how and what we purchase (see what Princess Mary wore on Friday, buy a copy-cat version on line from anywhere in the world by Wednesday) to how we travel and where we stay is all driven by technological advancements that have fundamentally and irrevocably transformed the world as we know it.
Historically, impacts of technological advancements have been seen in objects and 'things' such as the humble wooden spoon, the mechanical clock, or the dishwasher, or alternatively in automating repetitive tasks previously performed by humans such as in manufacturing and mining, predominately the domain of the blue collar worker.
More recently, technologically is seeping into the white collar workers arena using AI and machine-learning and access to large data to automate and replicate what has always been considered 'human knowledge'.
The accounting/bookkeeping space is not immune. We may not welcome it, but we need to embrace it, and here's 4 tips to get you started:
1. Become a vertical client-base expert.
Don't try to be everything to everyone, pick an industry like retail or hospitality and learn EVERYTHING you can to become the go-to person. What pain-points can you solve? What software solutions can you provide? What specific industry add-ons exist? What new technologies are on the horizon that you could educate your clients on?
2. Develop peripheral and adjunct business skills.
As someone sitting in the hot-seat of many businesses, you get a global view of what they're lacking. Use these insights. Could you provide a one-stop shop for people setting up a new business? For training staff in a particular industry? For setting up business processes for your current clients? For holding productivity workshops in your local area?
3. Be the conduit of success for businesses.
Use your networks and connections to facilitate partnerships . Connect businesses with app developers or industry specialists.
4. Offer consultancy services that provides insights and interpretation of the data the clients hold.
Just because the processes are automating doesn't mean that businesses understand what it all means. Just because there are more automations and solutions doesn't mean businesses know how to set them up correctly, or manage them, or interpret them.
Gabrielle Osborne (BAcc) is a small business specialist who loves to help business owners focus on what they do best. An innovation enthusiast and determined problem-solver, Gabrielle is also fun to work with.
m: 0410 546 000
'No-code Accounting', a somewhat oxymoronic term bouncing around the bookkeeping/accounting world that even Luca Pacioli could not have envisioned.
I have always loved looking at new technologies and how they impact the way we live. Perhaps it was watching my Dad tinkering on IBM - compatible computers with a whole 5Mb of memory in the late 1980's. I recall some of them having a voice synthesiser where I could type in words and it repeated them out loud in a funny, jolty, robotic voice with an odd american accent.
Typing in rude words with friends, out of earshot of my parents, was endlessly entertaining.
In the 90's I read 'Clicking' by Faith Popcorn on the '16 Trends to Future Fit your life, your work and your business' over and over again fascinated and excited at this new world she described. In truth, she wasn't too far off the trends (cocooning, consumer vigilantes, down-ageing), she just couldn't have know the full impact of a little thing called the internet that was just beginning. (It's still in press if you're interested in reading it, click here)
Since then many brands, businesses and whole sectors have faltered and failed because they didn't respond to emerging technologies in their space. Sometimes watching from the outside, it's obvious - we could all see the potential impact on Kodak of digital technology. Everyone, outside of the Australian car manufacturing industry, could see the writing on the wall. Sometimes it's a shock to us as much as the sector it impacts on -' no way will people put photos on the internet of their homes and allow strangers to come stay with them'. Ooooh yes they will.
So now there's a loud knock at the front door of the accounting & finance industry, and innumerable technologies, automations and non-human ways of working are waiting on our doorstep. Whilst the temptation might be to rip the 'Welcome' mat right from under their feet, the reality is, there is no turning back. And, even for me as innovation-lover, there is an element of unease that comes with disruption and change. Will we lose our job? Our business? Our clients? Our sector?
Lets look at what we know , right now, for sure?
Businesses will be less and less willing to pay a bookkeeper $65/hr to manually transpose an invoice into an accounting programme when there are software solutions that can do that just as accurately and, maintain a scanned copy of the original source document at no, or minimal, cost. However, these apps, at this point, still need setting up and managing (particularly in the infancy of its use) by humans.
Business owners, with assistance from machine learning and AI, are likely be able to have their books reconciled very accurately without us.
Does that mean business owners will suddenly know how to set up a file and do all that we currently do behind the scenes to make it happen? I know it wont mean that they can understand their financial information any more than they currently do? Will they now know why their profit doesn't equal their bank balance, or what their performance ratios mean? Will they know how to check the accuracy of their data? Most will never even conceive the two-sides Lucia spoke of, and largely they may not need to, but we all know the benefits of thinking through tricky things by drawing up a t-account. Bottom-line financial literacy and interpretation is a skill built up over time with experience
Consider also, that those investing in these innovations, aren't saying that EVERY transaction can be coded automatically in the near future. Click here to watch Xero founder Rod Drury's keynote at Xerocon.
Even if 9/10 transactions will be automated in the future, this means, as Andrew Erkins of award winning Digit Book says, one in ten transactions will still need the assistance of a bookkeeper. Now there's positive embracing of change in action right there! (Click here to visit their site).
Small businesses have more access than ever to open API integrations and software solution tailored to their business.
Does this mean they know how to set them up correctly? Anyone, that's seen an ill-constructed mapping of an integration, three months down the track, knows the answer to that. Will the business owner know what integrations are best for them? Will they understand the information the data gives them? Will they have the time, let alone the inclination and expertise to research the plethora of eco-system partners?
Lets not forget in all this, what else humans can offer that automations and innovations can't. 'Human-ness' - all those attributes that we hone and refine in this field through years of service; empathy, caring, kindness, emotional intelligence, insight, humour etc. Knowing our clients, and what they likely will or wont be open to, or what they actually need versus what they think will work. Thanks to technology, we are now connected to a large collaborative community that taps into trends and innovations way before most business owners know of them, and are willing to generously, share IP and knowledge openly. My experience has certainly been that the bookkeeping sector, step up and learn new technologies as they arise - this in itself is a strength.
And, from another angle, does technology always end in tears for humans? According to an article in The Guardian (click here for full article) which looked at 140 years of data, technology has always created more jobs than it has destroyed. One of the key findings is that hard and dull jobs have declined (farewell inputting 178 invoices for a client on the last Monday of each month. I never loved you any way), but more pertinent, that in professional services, technology has raised productivity AND simultaneously employment levels.
At the moment, we have time on our side and a degree of ambiguity as to how it might all play out. I clearly recall doing a project in primary school about how humans would fill in all their leisure time because the thinking back then was that robots would do all the work and everyone would be only semi- employed. Clearly, the reality is we've never worked longer hours in our recent history. Nor are we zipping around the sky in hover- crafts as 'Towards 2000' thought we would be by now.
So lets not panic. Use this time to truly think about the implications of this new world and particularly how you can use it to your advantage by choosing what skills and talents you can leverage it with? Contemplate what parts you love about your work, and the impact technology might have on that. What can you do now to start to prepare? Is it moving more into the training space? Developing a business model around a more consultative practice, or finding an industry, such as building and construction to become the go-to for all integrations and system add-ons? You could start fostering relationships with software solution partners so that you become the conduit to your clients across many industries for your local area. Perhaps choosing on a niche from a function you perform now, such as payroll and becoming the go-to expert. I'll hazard a guess there will even still be some demand (though diminishing) for work performed the 'traditional' way because that's the way some clients want it to be. Make it clear you're that person, if thats where you want to stay positioned.
But most importantly is being open to embracing change. Don't be the last Kodak shop open, slaving away clinging desperately to the old way.
Be curious. Be imaginative. Be resourceful. Be nimble. Be prepared. But don't be scared - years of experience, wisdom, insights and knowledge can not be stolen from you by answering the knock at the door when it comes.
Wow. What an event.
In excess of 2,000 Accountants, BAS Agents, Bookkeepers & Financial Advisors, and one monk all under a single roof. Of course, as the global trail-blazers, we expect nothing less from Xero - I mean what other accounting conference has swings and a DJ at their conference?
I suspect there's about to be an on-slaught of very useful technical blogs bouncing around the big wide world web today, so I thought I'd share a few personal thoughts instead. I'll skip over a few particularly personal tips like - 'never think a white dress at a conference is a good thing' and share my top four.
1. Collaboration creates community not competition.
Many of the accounting and bookkeeping community have connected online and over social media platforms in the preceding twelve months, but never actually met IRL (as the people that swipe left or right call it). These on-line groups have been an immensely generous source for sharing experience and skills.
The traditional wisdom of business would say, hold your cards close to your chest and don't share freely whats taken fifteen years to learn the hard way. But the amazing Xero community turns that on its head and shares like there's no tomorrow and that is an invaluable asset for every single one of us. It builds trust and this was echoed by a woman I have admired for many years, Rachel Botsman. Click here to watch here TED talk on Trust.
2. Ancient wisdom is timeless.
Wait, what? There's a sage on the stage! With a beautiful lotus on the large screen, the sound of Tibetan pan pipes and soft beams of lighting, there was such a sense of peace when I entered the room for the talk by Hindu Monk, Dandapani, that I literally felt my shoulders drop and relax.
This was a talk that had us using our minds to re-visit friend's weddings and dear one's we've lost - a practical exercise in our awareness of mind. I know I wasn't the only one trying to wipe away a little tear. It was a talk that was both remarkably simple at the heart of its message, but with the possibility of profound transformation.
I loved Dandapani's question about who we'd go spend time with and what we'd do if we knew we only had five hours to left to live - AND then use this information as a guide for how we actually spend our daily life. (Another tear for family & friends for whom I am not present enough sometimes).
Another idea was thinking about our energy as a finite resource, in the same way, we do money and, therefore, mindfully considering how we 'spend' that energy. That is, where we let our awareness go throughout our day. As someone with a PhD in Worry, this was a timely reminder to manage my thoughts/awareness instead of being pulled along by it as it senselessly jumps from one (imagined) catastrophe to the next.
Dandapani offers an online course on Mastering Your Mind - click here for more details.
3. The pace of change is increasing
Xero's founder and visionary, Rodd Drury spoke about the future with machine learning and artificial intelligence and it pretty much blew my mind! You can watch the whole talk here (please do, it's awesome).
My take out was if you thought we were currently moving pretty fast in terms of technological impacts on the finance and accounting industry, then hang on to your virtual reality goggles, cause it's only just begun.
Nothing is static for long anymore, and if you don't ride with the wave, you'll end up with a mouthful of sand at the bottom of the ocean. For me it's staying educated and informed, and being nimble enough to adapt. It's exciting! New technology always brings new opportunities.
4. Being In Service Rather Than Being Terrified!
When Melanie Power, Xero Head of Bookkeeping, rang and asked me if I'd get up on stage at Xerocon and share my experience of creating an online presence, I didn't hesitate, I said yes. The reason I didn't hesitate, wasn't because I thought golly gee that's exactly what I love doing, it was because I knew if I did hesitate, I would say no! The five second rule.
I spent the weeks in the lead up to the event, breaking into a sweat every time I saw the word 'Xerocon' pop up on my Facebook feed. I catastrophised the full gamut of all the usual suspects; falling over as I walked on the stage, opening my mouth and no words appearing and just essentially looking and sounding ridiculous.
A skype with outstanding speaker and all-round admirable buddy, Polly McGee (check her many flavours of awesome out by clicking here) gave me a re-frame that changed the whole thing. Basically, 'be in service to others' - that is, less focus on me, more on the people it might help. Someone in the audience might get something that makes a real difference for them and my work is done.
I did get through it with actual words coming out of my mouth, with no falling over and, to be honest, might of kinda loved it, once I got going. Click here for a blog I did previously on positioning yourself on line that goes into more detail than on the day.
So, my question to myself post Xerocon is,
"How can I leverage what I learnt at Xerocon South that supports the direction I want to go in?"
I'd love to hear what your big question is? Feel free to share in comments below.