The year 2020 has been a challenging one for nearly every industry, but bookkeepers have proven to be resilient. Despite novel demands and a dramatic shift in the day-to-day ways of doing business, bookkeepers have managed to nurture their client relationships, become more profitable by incorporating more technology, and find meaningful work in helping their clients navigate unexpected challenges. Many even remain optimistic about growth in the coming year.
Bill.com recently gathered the responses of 1,644 accounting and bookkeeping firms of all sizes in the 2020 State of Bookkeeping Practices Survey to identify the services bookkeeping firms offer, how they bill, the technology they use, and their greatest challenges. Designed as a follow-up to the State of Bookkeeping Practices Survey we conducted in 2016, the responses show just how significantly the profession has changed in the last four years.
While the past year brought many things no one would have expected or predicted, a number of positive trends emerged in the industry, even after several months of weathering the pandemic, particularly in the areas of technology, client advisory services, and firm growth.
2020 at a Glance
The overall takeaway of the survey is that the bookkeeping industry is thriving, even in the face of the pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout. Five overarching trends emerged from the survey responses that paint a picture of an industry poised for strength going into the new year.
Growth. Many firms are optimistic about growth, despite everything they’ve been through this year. In fact, nearly 80% of the firms surveyed are planning for significant growth over the next two years. A key part of this is a significant increase in AP and AR services since the 2016 survey.
Cloud Adoption. Companies across all industries found cloud solutions to be indispensable in 2020 as we saw a massive shift to remote work during the pandemic, and the bookkeeping profession was no exception. While a slow move to the cloud had already started in 2016, this year’s events significantly accelerated cloud adoption. Today’s cloud platforms enable new services in bill pay, AP, and AR, making remote work easier than ever.
Technology Services. Technology trends in 2020 aren’t limited to the cloud. As bookkeepers have worked to find the right technology solutions to meet new demands, so have their clients - and they want help. Technology consultation and implementation services, which were not represented at all in our 2016 bookkeeping survey, are now offered by more than half of this year’s survey participants.
Trusted Advisors. More bookkeepers than ever are recognizing that their job is about more than balancing the books, and they are embracing the role of trusted advisor for their clients. Like most things, though, advisory services look a little different than they did even a year ago. Today, bookkeepers are advising their clients in unprecedented ways, from providing moral support to helping them secure assistance through pandemic relief programs.
Workflows. Not surprisingly, fewer firms are resorting to manual processes in 2020 than in 2016. Nonetheless, workflows are still a work in progress, as many respondents admitted that they’re still deferring to clients’ preferences when it comes to relying on manual vs. automated processes, despite the fact that 88% of respondents agree that automation would lead to growth.
The Path to Growth in Bookkeeping
Exciting things are happening in bookkeeping as we enter the new year. The industry is one that’s poised for growth as it managed to thrive through the pandemic and find new ways to serve its clients. Technology is key to that growth, particularly automation – in fact, 94% of responding firms that anticipated strong growth in the next two years believe that automation of bookkeeping tasks will make that growth possible.
The resilience that has allowed bookkeepers to thrive over the past year will open doors to even more growth going forward. For a more in-depth look at the state of bookkeeping practices in 2020, you can download the survey here.