Accounting professionals are increasingly mobile, with 81 percent reporting they spend time working away from the office. The average number of hours a week professionals work remotely ranges from 5.8 hours for those in mid-size firms to 8.6 hours for those at large firms.
Additionally, firms of all sizes expect an increasing number of their staff will spend more time working remotely. Among key benefits firms report from enabling mobile workers are:
- Improved client service;
- Improved productivity; and
- Work/life benefits.
“Mobility is allowing firms to cast a much wider net in attracting clients and firm talent, and it’s allowing for anytime access and supporting the way many CPAs and their clients entering the market now want to work,” Robert said. “These professionals expect to be able to use platforms such as CCH Mobile to quickly access tax research, software, journals as well as the latest tax industry news.
Professional use of social media remains in its infancy across parts of the accounting profession, but firms report they will be quickly embracing social media to strengthen relationships with clients and peers. According to the CCH Technology Survey, 90 percent of large firms have or will implement social media within three years, compared to 66 percent of mid-size firms and 39 percent of small firms.
Today, the average number of hours professionals use social media professionally also varies, with accountants at large firms spending 5.6 hours per week using social media compared to 1.8 hours for accountants at small firms. LinkedIn and Facebook were the leading social media sites accountants said they used professionally.
The greatest benefits professionals say the firm overall realizes from social media include:
- Improved client service;
- Increased profitability; and
- Improved support for mobile workforce.
Overall, large firms are more likely to leverage web and social media compared to small firms. But firms are still under-leveraging the collaborative power of social media, with only about one-third of firms maintaining involvement in professional online communities.
More than one-half of professionals (58 percent) reported they were concerned about social media security and privacy.
“It’s important for firms to set policies, adopt best practices and train staff on how to effectively leverage social media for building professional connections,” Robert said. “Social media can play a powerful role in everything from getting closer to clients, improving your marketing, engaging with peers for expanding knowledge and strengthening relationships; it also is an important resource as more firms begin to explore Big Data.”
Two in three professionals (67 percent) believe Big Data will have an impact on the accounting industry in the future. Professionals surveyed also identified analytical and problem-solving skills among the top skills CPAs need to have in the future.
In fact, Big Data has the potential for significantly changing tax and accounting professionals’ work. For example, bots could be used to scour the Internet for a client’s financial transactions with that information then pulled into the tax return, further automating tax preparation. At the same time, many companies are challenged by a shortage of data analytic talent.
“The role of data scientist is a natural fit for accountants and plays right into one of their strongest skills,” said Robert. “It also is a way accountants will add even greater value to clients in the future.”
Technology Innovation: Crucial to Future Success
Today, most firms acknowledge that they take a wait-and-see approach to technology. However, many professionals also realize that their firm will need to move to a first-to-adopt approach to be successful in the future. For example: