A new report highlights how small businesses turn to their accountants for technology advice. AndZoho partnered with AccountingWeb on the report. It shows small businesses are asking for this advice 83% of the time. And 40% of the accountants say they are asked tech questions up to 20 times a month.
Small Business Trends contacted Andy North at AccountingWeb to learn more. North put the survey together with Zoho. And he started by talking about the kinds of technology accountants most often answer questions about. First, 62% answer questions on desktop accounting software. And 46% answer questions on software training. While 46% answer questions on support services. And 57% answer questions on data security.
North filled in some detail on these numbers.
“By far the most common (according to the survey) is desktop accounting software along with related third party apps and integration. That’s followed closely by the same for cloud software,” he wrote. “Software training and overall needs analysis was also a common area in which businesses sought advice.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports almost 20 percent of SMBs fail in their first year. Half do the same by the end of year five. Technology is a partial answer to higher success rates. Small businesses are turning to accountants for tech help and more than just bookkeeping.
The report shows that business owners see their accountants as much more than just number crunchers. North said the challenge for accountants is to keep pace with the demand. He outlined the reasons he thought accountants are good at this.
Trust is Important
“ First, one of the most important factors when seeking expert advice is trust,” he writes. “Hopefully, the accounting partner has already earned that trust, so it’s a smaller step to ask for advice about technology. ”
The second is the common notion that accountants know everything about how a business functions financially.
“Finally, tech systems are integrated with accounting solutions on the web. The person who knows the accounting system is in a good position to advise on technology.”
Clients Ask For It
Thirty eight percent of accountants supply technological advice because clients ask for it. Still others (21%) reported answering these questions allowed them to use their passion for technology.
Even though they are being encouraged to charge for their advice, some accountants still have misgivings.
Some reported they felt they were out of their depth (22%) while others (19%) worried about liability.
North said there were some consequences for the SMB/accountant relationship.
“It is a shift from being a relatively passive partner focusing on what happened in the past, to a proactive partner focusing on the future,” he wrote. “A major conundrum here is ‘What are accountants actually charging for? The time spent completing a task or the knowledge and advice added to that? Furthermore, firms have to become much better at packaging and selling these services to their clients.”
He also talked about where he sees the trend going.
“I think, ultimately, accounting firms will develop more mature business models. We will see firms across the board offering clearly defined and priced technology consultancy services.
It may eliminate some of the variables and therefore risk,” he said.
He pointed to Zoho as one of the industry leaders. They offer a wide range of the kind of technology needed on one platform. North said this simple platform will make it easier for accountants to provide this type of advice.
“Zoho helps accountants overcome the challenges of giving business advice by providing an all-in-one suite of apps. It connects an accountant’s core focus, finances, with nearly every tool that their client may need,” said Raju Vagesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist in a company release.
AccountingWeb conducted the survey in North American with over 400 firms.