Accounting in the cloud: The potential of cloud computing

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By Nick Huber, CA magazine

26 October 2017

Predicting the future is notoriously difficult, but it seems safe to say that two technologies, cloud and mobile, will play an even bigger role in business in 10 years’ time. How will they affect accountants?

Cloud technology is easy to connect with other sources of data. By linking to IT systems from banks, accountants could in future provide wealth management services for their clients.

The largest UK banks have promised to make their technology more accessible, as part of a reform programme initiated by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority intended to make banking more open and give people more control over their money.

“This is a door being opened for accountants,” said Ian Cooper, Product Manager for accounting software business Digita, part of Thomson Reuters.

The challenge, however, will be in using apps and mobile technology sparingly noted Justin Mays, Head of Research & Development with MyFirmsApp. He explained: “People don’t want thousands of different apps for every step of their day, they want a single app for each aspect of their lives."

Automating alerts and using AI

Justin also highlighted the proliferation of 'virtual assistance'. MyFirmsApp is trialling Amazon Lex’s speech recognition and natural language abilities with a new generation of apps.

Ian has predicted that cloud computing will be used alongside machine learning in the future as it provides more data for analysis. “You need big data sets to apply machine learning and to really get a consistent trend," he said.

Natural language processing (a type of AI that allows you to use your voice to give computers commands) will soon be widely used in business, experts say. It will be built into phones and probably enterprise and financial software. This technology will make it easier for accountants’ clients to access information, and vice versa.

The opportunity for mobile and cloud technology is huge when approached from the point of view of the accountant as the business partner and trusted adviser.

"For example, the accountant could tell their phone ‘Send Mark Jones a request for his May rental income on property 1A’," Ian commented. The client would then be notified on their mobile phone or tablet app.

Due to the level of data practices will have access to, and the fact a lot can be in real-time within the cloud, it will be easier to provide more timely and useful advisory services, such as tax efficiency, real-time reporting and planning for growth.

Greater automation can lead to greater efficiencies and allow practices to focus on the clients that are right for their business model, said Alan Laing, Managing Director for UK and Ireland at Sage.

Changing the way CAs work

The combination of mobile and cloud technology could also change where, and for how long, UK accountants work. Flexible working will be more common.

“Moving your people and processes to a more digital operation can allow for greater mobile working,” noted Alan. “This can help create a happier workforce, and allow a wider geographical customer base to be reached.”

Overall, the benefits of cloud and mobile technology far outweigh any drawbacks, he continued: “The opportunity [for mobile and cloud technology] is huge when approached from the point of view of the accountant as the business partner and trusted adviser.

“The power of using business insights and analytics to support growing businesses is huge. This is where the visionary accountant can lead.”

Nick Huber is a freelance business journalist. The full version of this article can be found in the September 2017 issue of The CA.


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