If a week is a long time in politics, six months covering accounting technology could reasonably be considered an “age”.
It’s been six months since I returned to AccountingWEB UK, and the pace of change has been such that January’s articles seem tinged with nostalgia, and sometimes regret what might have been – expense management tools, anyone?
The blizzard of news in accounting technology has been as broad as it is frequent: the rise and fall of crypto, a boom in automation and workflow tools, IRIS on the acquisition trail, cybercrime hitting the accounting industry where it hurts, and the IRS is struggling to keep pace with it all.
So what does the accounting technology landscape look like? Going “full Dickens”, this seems like the best of times and the worst of times for accountants. In many ways, we are in the golden age of accounting technology.
To get started, it’s never been easier to open your own business. That’s not to say it’s easy – far from it – but with just a laptop, an internet connection, some start-up money and a little elbow grease, you can crack. Existing systems allow you to work from anywhere, anytime, extract customer information at the push of a button, move it around your system, and categorize it at will.
But at the same time, looking at the bewildering range of options available to accountants, the hype versus reality, and the speed of change in areas like cryptocurrency and the metaverse, you could forgive accountants a look. envious of the simpler times of the past.
And then there’s how the technology is positioned across the industry. One of the biggest changes I have experienced since joining AccountingWEB UK has been the way my writing is viewed, processed and reacted to.
Articles from my previous, more general roles now seem a bit slam-dunk – preaching to converts, if you will. A little slap in the face of the taxman? Well done sir! A waved finger at the latest Big Four escapades there – boo! The local government took your dog away? Weft!
But tech coverage is a different beast. Depending on your role in the profession, you see things quite differently. I’m either a wide-eyed sucker for the software industry or a hardened cynic mowing down the dreams of a dozen new Steve Jobs.
From my perspective, it’s my job to report on new companies or new products, to look at what they do and the problems they claim to solve in the context of the global marketplace, to ask tough questions and to occasionally offer a little commentary.
But a healthy dose of skepticism is, of course, essential. I give my perspective and AccountingWEB readers fill in what I missed along the way. Accountants are, after all, professional cynics.
The 24-month spend cycle for accountants is real, with the industry understandably cautious about change. This approach could not be better exemplified by the recent closure of ClearSpend. Researching a new system takes time – testing and implementing it, training your staff and customers, using social media to tell everyone how wonderful it is. But if it then manages to fade away or pivot to a new industry, you’re the one looking silly in front of your customers.
A salesperson I spoke with recently told me that it took an accountant six years to start a conversation with them. With every in-person event, webinar, or post, they would hang around the edges and only make contact once they were totally happy with what they were seeing. “I wanted to make sure you stuck around,” was the only explanation they gave.
Can this rate of technological change continue unabated? Will newcomers continue to offer themselves in ritual sacrifices to the gods of AccountingWEB commentaries? Keep watching this space to find out.
In the meantime, keep the (constructive) comments coming and here’s another six months on the accounting tech merry-go-round.