In every aspect of our lives, technology is changing the status quo — and the tax and accounting profession is no exception.
Technology is helping firms simplify work, improve communication and save time and money. Yet it’s also challenging business as usual, requiring firms to reassess long-standing staff roles, processes and revenue streams.
We asked Thomson Reuters product managers to identify the top issues affecting their areas of expertise. Here are their predictions for 2018 and beyond.
Christina Wiseman, Product Manager, Centralized Services and Transitions
When we think of cybersecurity threats, we imagine the bad actor actively breaking into our systems. We don’t realize we can unintentionally cause a security breach by clicking a link or opening an attachment.
Security issues often occur when a firm lacks a workflow for onboarding clients and sharing information. By having processes, policies and tools in place, you’re more likely to notice when something is awry.
Everyone in the firm — from the owner to the entry-level staff member — must make security a daily consideration, recognize scams and work with clients to help them protect themselves. They need to see themselves not only as potential victims, but also as potential heroes who can stop the bad actors.
Christie Johnston, Product Manager, Firm Workflow and Administration
In firm management, the most important issue for 2018 is seamless communication between staff and clients. If we decrease the quantity of interactions, we can increase the quality of communication, along with the efficiency of the work.
The best software tools provide a secure portal that allows firms to send client requests and customers to access information 24/7 on any device. By helping customers serve themselves, staff can focus on meaningful discussions and save time spent trading emails about documents and data. When your firm runs smoothly, your staff is happy, your clients feel cared for and your business will grow.
Louie Calvin, Senior Product Manager, Accounting and Payroll
Accountants may spend as much as half of their time on manual work like data collection, data entry and bookkeeping. But advances in technology are eliminating the need for human involvement in those tasks, and that’s a good thing.
In 2018, accountants will be more focused on interpreting data and guiding their business clients forward, which is really what clients want.
Today, firms are providing clients with financial statements, cash-flow statements and balance sheets — deliverables that can be difficult for clients to understand and provide only a historical view of the business. Thanks to advances like real-time integration with financial institutions, accountants will be able to provide more impactful and accurate reports that guide budgeting and forecasting.
Matt Towers, Product Manager, Audit and Engagement
Overauditing is a costly mistake that needs to be addressed by most firms. Firms tend to conduct audits the same way they did in previous years, partially out of fear of missing something.
As they focus on improving the profitability of auditing, firms should also focus on proactively requesting information from the client and looking for ways to reduce workload and redundancy. Much of the information needed for an audit can be acquired virtually — collected electronically in advance of the audit. That may mean spending less time at the customer’s office, which lowers the cost of doing business.
Jordan Kleinsmith, Senior Product Manager, Tax
2018 may be the first year in which the income tax preparation business, the biggest revenue stream for most firms, is significantly challenged.
Several forces are combining to reduce tax preparation revenues: the popularity of do-it-yourself tools, the difficulty of replacing baby boomer clients with millennials and unmet client demands for self-service and proactive guidance.
Though many firms lament pricing pressure from competitors, the true problem is that tax preparation is increasingly commoditized. As more clients retire and fall below filing thresholds, firms need to reassess their technology and client engagement models to provide greater value and revenue.
2018 Focus: Enhanced Product Integration
Lance Lane, Product Manager, Third-Party Partnerships and Marketplace
It’s my job to understand how third-party partners can help Thomson Reuters meet the growing and changing needs of our customers, and to build relationships with key vendors and service providers to the profession.
My main focus is driving our open-platform initiative, which will extend the reach of Onvio by enabling marketplace partners and technology developers to build powerful connections into the Onvio ecosystem.
We’ll give developers access to the tools needed to link their solutions to Onvio, and we’ll provide customers with a marketplace where they can review and evaluate applications that offer seamless integration into Onvio.
Keep up with the latest information all year long in the CS Professional Suite and Onvio blogs. Visit tax.tr.com/blog.