RICHMOND, British Columbia, March 15, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Sage (FTSE:SGE), the market leader in cloud business management solutions, today announced independent research “The Practice of Now,” which demonstrates the pace of change for accountants as client expectations shift. Conducted by Viga and commissioned by Sage, the study revealed that automation and AI are being considered by two-thirds of accountants to help reduce repetitive tasks, freeing their time to provide valued consulting and advice to their clients.

Surveying 3000 accountants in the UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Australia and Ireland, the global report found that 42% of clients expect their accountant to provide business advice, forcing accountants to review how they could lighten their administrative burden to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud-first software are providing businesses with smart automation and solving many productivity challenges. Accountants are also realising the benefits that AI could provide to their practice. Almost half (49%) would like to automate number crunching, data entry, email and diary management, and 66% say they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Commenting on the research, Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage said “Today accountants are seeing AI as purely an automation tool, but the number of accountants who’d invest in AI will increase over the next two to three years as they start to see the true value of intelligence services. For example, accountants will be able to scale their operations by using AI to review millions of transactions that would have traditionally taken hours to do manually – spotting anomalies and making recommendations.”

Head in the clouds

As the landscape changes for accountants, research shows that a clear majority (67%) believe that cloud technology makes their businesses more successful. Client collaboration and improved service offerings were all cited as benefits to embracing off-premise technology.

Technology brings clear benefits for accountants.  It is however clear that there is a need to learn new skills, anticipate the future and reorient thinking to put their firm ahead—all whilst adapting to the increasing needs of clients and offering competitive services.

“When I first started out in my career in IT, customers would simply choose their preferred software, and we would work with them to integrate it and create monthly or quarterly reports,” said Andrée Dubé, Sage Accountants Network Partner and President of Integratech.ca. “Now, with the variety of platforms and data sources available today, customers require real-time access to all of their data no matter where they are. Working with the latest solutions like Sage 50 allows us to not only meet the demands of our accounting customers who are more informed than ever before, but to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to handling new applications and emerging technologies.”

Key global findings include:

  • 56% of accountants say that practice revenue has increased in the last 12 months
  • 39% of accountants describe themselves as early adopters of technology
  • 67% of accountants say cloud technology is improving client interactions and service offerings
  • 66% saying they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
  • 55% of accountants plan to use artificial intelligence to run their business better
  • 53% of accountants have adopted a cloud practice management solution

Canada-specific findings include:

  • 79.1% believe that clients expect more from their accountants than they did 5 years ago
  • More than half (50.8%) increased their practice/business revenue over the past 12 months
  • Nearly forty-percent (39%) say time constraints represent the most significant obstacle to providing business advisory services to clients
  • 66.5% say that efficiency and time savings drive them to adopt new technology
  • 62.2% would be willing to invest in technology to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks that they currently manage manually
  • 47.2% believe that artificial intelligence, such as chatbots and smart assistants, will improve the way that they run their business.

Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances at Sage, said, “Accountants have been distracted by the suggestion that offering additional services could take away from their core services, such as tax and compliance. But as the cloud has become mainstream, accountants are realising there’s more opportunity than there is risk.  Those prepared to embrace new ways of working and evolve their business model really are reaping the benefits.”

Research Methodology:

The Practice of Now research was conducted by research & data collection agency Viga, on behalf of Sage, in early 2018. 3000 accountants, from entry level to C-suite, were surveyed online across seven markets, including the UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Australia and Ireland. 

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