Do Bookkeepers Need to be Worried for the Future?

Cheryl Knight
WiseClick Director
Partner Carbon Balcatta

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Do bookkeepers need to be worried for the future?

Accounting software products code transactions themselves now don’t they? What is a bookkeeper for then?

This is nothing new for me to hear this. I have heard these types of comments all my working career, since 1999. As an MYOB professional I have always had phone calls from business owners telling me that the box says that it is simple to use and they are disappointed.

MYOB always had a skilled sales team that would do anything to sell a software box. I gave up on the dream of advising new business owners about which software to use. They generally arrived on my door with a software that had already been chosen for them (wrong or right) by a sales person or their accountant. It was our job to make sure they could use the software and that they could report tax figures correctly. The other part of my business was to upskill experienced staff with quicker and more effective ways to attack the business flow of information using the software they had chosen.

Bookkeepers are much more than data entry clerks

Over to the new cloud software products like Xero. I agree that they are easier to use but the sales story is still the same. Xero, MYOB and Intuit are software companies and they are in the business of selling software. I overhear conversations where people are saying that Xero does the work itself via bank feeds and just smile quietly to myself.

It’s pretty much the same message from 1999, of course they will send that message out into the public, they want to sell their software, why would they tell potential customers that bookkeeping and accounting is complex and they can’t do it all themselves? Their buyers would just hear “More Costs” and walk away.

Xero does make my day a little easier as they push clients towards us advisors with little popup reminders “We recommend that only your accountant of bookkeeper create journals” for example. Their focus is not on selling the software themselves and instead on letting the trusted adviser know its benefits so they can sell it for them. I get far less people coming to me these days with the wrong software, which is great.

Xero are even working towards remembering how all their customers’ code transactions, using “machine learning” software.  By using that information they want to suggest how to code transactions for brand new Xero users to help them out. Once again this does sound scary, what will be left for bookkeepers to do? This idea scares me a little as generally it’s the bookkeeper that gets called in after 6-12mths to undo the wrong coding.

So if a bookkeeper is not a data entry clerk then what are we? We find that our business experience lets us help our clients to use the sections of their software correctly, let them know what is available to them in the software and what would suit their business. Which features are worth turning on in the software. We will ALWAYS be reviewing and correcting transactions, especially those that have auto coded as there will ALWAYS be mistakes and there will ALWAYS be those transactions that the client has never had to deal with before and needs help.

Bookkeeping is not and never has been simply coding and recording transactions. It has always been about improving how all of the software users in the business do their job and making sure that their techniques are up to date and current.

It has always been about being the decipherer of the accounting speak and helping the owner to read the financial reports and understand them. It has been about knowing the business life cycle and giving the business owner an idea on where they are headed, giving the client advance warning on taxes that they will have to pay and how much to pay. Advising owners when to put monies away for possible future tax bills and how much to put away.

The bookkeeper is often also the backstop. We have loyal clients that know how to do their bookkeeping but use our services as they know that we will push through to get the lodgement in on time.  We keep them up to date with their lodgements and financials while they are so busy running and advancing their business.

Don’t get me wrong, I am busy future proofing my business as most of us are. Come to think of it, I have always future proofed my business. There is a lot of hype out there (as always) about bank feeds and outsourcing taking our income from us. We have to always watch our backs and push to value add for our clients.

We are offering cashflow reports, comparison reports and other helpful information for our clients to fill any gaps re the data entry work that we have lost. In fact that type of work excites us more anyway. Our core business is still BAS preparation and it’s hard to get away from that; but you just have to provide value for money, what client can argue with that?

I have been in the bookkeeping industry since 2009 and every year things change and grow, so in conclusion I feel that as long as you move with the times your job as a bookkeeper will be a full and rewarding one.

Until next time,

Warmest regards

Cheryl

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