From the outside, accounting may seem like a world based on tradition—but accounting firms rely on innovation to make sure their clients receive the best possible financial results. The field of accounting has undergone significant transformations over the years, adapting to changing business landscapes and advancements in technology.
At BILL, we work closely with accounting firms to make sure small and midsize businesses receive the support they need. If you want to stay up to date with the latest accounting trends that are reshaping the industry, we have the lowdown for you.
How has accounting changed over the years?
The accounting industry has experienced a remarkable evolution, influenced by various factors such as regulatory changes, technological advancements, and shifting business practices. Gone are the days of manual bookkeeping and time-consuming calculations. With automation and cloud-based accounting systems, accounting and finance professionals can now streamline processes, reduce errors, and focus on more strategic tasks.
This shift has transformed the role of accounting firms to become valued advisors who provide insights and strategic guidance to businesses. But accounting trends continue to evolve.
Why it’s important to adopt the latest trends in accounting
Understanding the latest accounting trends allows you to stay relevant and competitive in a fast-paced business environment. Adopting these trends offers several advantages, including increased efficiency, improved accuracy, greater client happiness, and the ability to provide valuable advisory services.
By leveraging technology and automation, accounting professionals can reduce costs and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. And staying ahead of the curve can also attract top talent drawn to innovative workplaces.
5 accounting trends to follow in 2023
These accounting industry trends are popular for a reason: they benefit both the accounting firm side and the client side. Check out our list of the top accounting trends to watch for this year and beyond.
1. A move toward spend management
If you want to know about accounting trends, you want to talk to the experts at CPA.com. We spoke with Kalil Merhib, the Executive Vice President of Growth & Professional Services at CPA.com, to learn more about how spend management is making an impact on leading accounting firms.
According to Merhib, a low-hurdle opportunity that firms are exploring in 2023 is expense and spend management advisory. “Spend management offers a relatively easy pathway to higher-value advisory,” he explains. With spend management, all company funds are brought together in one central location so finance leaders have full visibility into cash flow and can set, track and control spending before it occurs.
These technology-enabled spend management capabilities deliver on clients’ growing need to better understand spending patterns, gain spending efficiencies, reduce waste, and stick to their budgets. Merhib explains, “This can lead to entirely new—and more valuable—client conversations and firm growth.” That’s something that anyone in the accounting industry can benefit from.
2. Integrating robotic process automation
You probably didn’t think the list of accounting trends would include robots, did you? Many in the accounting industry already use automation for all kinds of tasks, but robotic process automation (RPA) is an accounting technology that’s making a big impression this year.
RPA automates predictable, repeated workflows through software or “bots” to save time. For example, downloading data from an email to a file index, then moving it to a spreadsheet for a journal entry. This is most useful when there is low-value, manual work, and it can function as a handoff.
How is RPA different from accounting automation in general? When we talk about accounting automation, we usually talk about centralizing processes, such as document management, approvals, and workflows in one place. This kind of automation transforms a manual, physical process into a digital one—such as moving bills from paper formatting to digital storage. But when we talk about RPA, those processes are purely digital. Both reduce repetitive tasks. This innovation in accounting can save time and effort for accounting firms and business owners.
3. Using artificial intelligence in the accounting industry
As far as accounting trends go, this is a big one. AI is a buzzword in a range of fields this year, and the accounting industry is no exception. Many platforms have been using AI before it was a trend, including BILL, which offers AI-enabled business payments.
New AI-powered tools offer many opportunities for innovation in accounting processes, but also pose several risks. For example, you should never send proprietary information into a tool like ChatGPT because now they can use that information in future answers generated for other users. And while ChatGPT might be able to help to a small degree with outsourcing accounting functions, it’s important to remember that the platform isn’t infallible—in fact, it makes mistakes pretty often. This just means you should only use it for tasks where the results can be double-checked by an accounting and finance professional.
As AI continues to improve, it will hopefully offer more time-saving abilities, such as data analysis, to benefit your accounting services—so you and your team can focus on higher-level priorities. And at a time when accountants from the baby boomer generation are retiring, AI might be able to help bridge that talent gap for some accounting firms.
4. A shift from hourly billing to monthly services fees
Accounting trends aren’t all based on technology—many firms in the accounting industry have been moving toward monthly service fees for the last several years. This trend allows accounting firms to provide transparent pricing models, enabling clients to better manage their budgets and fostering stronger relationships. This approach aligns with the evolving needs of clients and the quest for greater efficiency and value.
The rise of client advisory services (CAS), along with increases in automation and efficiency, have only added to the need for monthly billing in 2023. The change means it makes more sense to charge based on the value of a service—not how much time it takes to complete a task. Instead of meticulously tracking billable hours, which often left both accountants and clients with constraints, many accounting companies are making a move to monthly service fees. This gives accountants more leeway to focus on advisory work and services—and deliver greater value to clients.
In addition, this model allows for more accurate budgeting and financial planning because no one is surprised by the bill at the end of the month.
Billing problems related to hourly billing are one of the reasons why SMBs will sometimes seek out different accounting firms. In fact, 67% will leave a firm because they received bills higher than expected, and 63% will leave if their firm bills them every time they reach out for questions. With so much on the line, it’s no wonder that monthly service fees are such a popular accounting trend.
5. New approaches to attract talent
Accounting firms recognize the need to adapt their approaches to attract talent. More and more people are prioritizing workplaces that offer a better work-life balance. They value their personal time and usually don’t want to work excessive hours. In response to this shift, accounting firms are reevaluating their traditional work culture and exploring new approaches that prioritize employee well-being and flexibility.
One approach is to offer work-from-home options for firm employees. The post-pandemic shift to remote work has demonstrated that employees can effectively carry out their responsibilities while enjoying the benefits of a flexible work environment. Accounting firms have realized that by offering work-from-home options, they can tap into a wider talent pool and attract top talent—who might prioritize a more flexible work arrangement.
By leveraging automation, accounting firms can reduce the need for long hours of manual data entry and processing. This allows firms to create more meaningful and intellectually stimulating roles for their accounting professionals. Automation also facilitates work-from-home options. With automation tools accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, accountants can seamlessly work remotely, maintaining productivity and collaboration with their team.
How BILL can lead you into the future of accounting
Accounting trends will change over the years, but one thing remains constant: BILL offers the tools accountants and small to midsize businesses need to automate the future of finance.
BILL provides solutions for accounts payable, accounts receivable, and expense management—and it can help drive you into the future of accounting. By leveraging BILL’s advanced features, accounting professionals can help businesses streamline their processes, eliminate difficult and time-consuming manual data entry, and improve accuracy.
Our software centralizes processes, integrates with existing systems, and enables accountants and business owners to automate tasks effectively. Automation also allows accountants to spend more time on higher-value activities, such as analysis, strategy, and client advisory services—instead of tracking down receipts.
By adopting BILL and encouraging their clients to use it, an accounting firm can stay at the forefront of accounting trends, enhance their service offerings, integrate with the accounting software they already use, and prepare for emerging accounting trends and the future of accounting.