A recent survey found that “technology issues” were one of the four top challenges facing small accounting and financial services businesses. Technology is simply moving too fast for them to keep up, and most are either still stuck with manual processes, or burdened with legacy systems that don’t work well for them.
Another report on the small business accounting and financial services industry forecasts four critical trends that will determine how successful these firms will be in coming months and years. Here’s how IT technology can be used to address each of these trends.
Increased Focus on Client Service
In general, interactions between financial services, accounting firms and their clients have evolved from face-to-face meetings to continuous encounters via phone, email, and other technology avenues. This means deploying and making greater use of communications technologies; collaboration tools—including file-sharing services such as Egnyte—videoconferencing systems, and shared calendars. Small businesses in this industry need a rich portfolio of such communications tools at their fingertips to make client interactions both easier and more productive. According to the report, 80% of businesses classified as “very prepared” to deploy technology say that such solutions will have a “huge” impact on their success.
Ability to “Future-Proof” Technology Investments
No one has a crystal ball to see into the future. How are you supposed to make technology investments that don’t tie you into aging or obsolete technologies? One easy way is to deploy anything-as-a-service (XaaS) technologies (URL TK). With these solutions, you’re not buying hardware or software, but merely “subscribing” to resources that make it possible to keep your business secure, enable close collaboration between employees and clients, or fuel your voice system. With XaaS, you’re never behind the times because the systems are continually updated. Plus, you have better cash flow, as there’s no need to make any capital investments.
Nearly 80% of “very prepared” small financial services and accounting firms say mobility will play a “very significant” role in their businesses within the next five years. For example, mobile technology allows professionals to visit client sites and provide their full range of services there, rather than having to be in their own offices anchored to desktops. As an added bonus, for the 93% of accountants who say they’ve already implemented mobile solutions or have plans to within the next three years, the No. 1 benefit they’ve realized is improved client service (58%). No. 2 is improved productivity (55%). And No. 3 is improved work-life benefits for staff (49%).
Increased Use of Social Media
Small financial services and accounting firms are becoming much more sophisticated in their social media sites to market their businesses, engage clients online, and monitor competitors. 69% of “very prepared” firms have already implemented social media as a business tool, while 28% plan to in the future. Strikingly, among “less prepared” firms, 55% are already using social media for business, while 34% plan to in the future. Firms say the biggest benefits are enhancing client satisfaction and attracting and winning new business. Social media can also help small financial services and accounting firms to establish trust with their customers—a very important commodity when dealing with people’s money.
The most striking finding from the survey: firms that rated themselves “very prepared” to meet these trends “strongly believe” that technology is the key to managing change and driving better business results. Although some small financial services and accounting firms are still struggling to play catch up, most understand that they now compete in a market that increasingly rewards the most tech-savvy players. This is a good place for them to be as technology for small business continues to evolve.