Many business owners are still getting used to operating in the cloud but we’ve reached a critical mass in Australia and are deep in the adoption curve. Accountants who have led the transition to cloud are already realising the number of opportunities which open up for them, especially around streamlining compliance and increasing transparency.

Over the next 12 months we’re going to see more users embrace cloud accounting and start to benefit from the productivity gains which the platform and ecosystem of add ons deliver.

Here are a few of the trends we expect to see play out over 2016.

Accountants are about to get hit by the collaboration wave

There’s a new C word that’s going to change accounting this year, and it’s not cloud. Within the industry there’s a push for more collaboration between accountants and clients.

It’s driven by the plethora of portals, tools and technology being released which promote a simpler flow of information and advice between accountants and small businesses. There’s also a push to move from dealing with clients over email, which is often inefficient and lacks context.

Instant chat platforms like Slack and HipChat are speeding up communication and enabling more real-time interactions and they’re starting to change the way we all interact.

Technology is doing more of the heavy-lifting

Automation won’t eliminate accountants, it just frees them up to give better advice. It’s also streamlining your relationships, automating who you need to speak to, when and why. The more you speak to your clients, the more opportunity there is to get more work.

Metrics and notifications around key business activities are also improving which helps boost the quality of communication between small business owners and accountants.

Fixed pricing can’t be ignored

The push for fixed-price accounting from clients won’t disappear next year which means accounting firms will need to determine a baseline price for their services. Value-adds will be the differentiators.

Putting fees up each year is going to get harder and harder – especially when it’s above CPI and you’re not adding any more value to the humble tax return each year. More accountants are starting to put together packages for clients which include a minimum level of business advisory services.

More services are becoming commercially viable

Because of technology, many accountants will be able to offer services which weren’t previously commercially viable for either themselves or their clients. By reducing the amount of time it takes to do a lot of the back-end work, accountants can lower advisory costs to a point where they’re still making a healthy margin but they’re also affordable and realistic for small businesses.

Accounting is working in a very small, global world

We’re also seeing the accountancy profession continue to globalise with small and medium sized firms establishing offices around the world to look after clients doing business globally and help businesses either expand or enter new markets.

However, as tax jurisdictions vary so much around the world, we’re seeing more firms decide to either partner or merge with each other to create a boutique international firm which has experts on the ground. At the end of the day, a journal is a journal, a debit is a debit and a credit is a credit no matter where you are, but every tax office gets their ‘fair share’ in a different way.

The big end of town is after small business

At the other end of the scale, we’re also seeing more of the larger firms realize that they too can service small businesses with the help of cloud accounting platforms. KPMG, PWC and Deloitte have all flagged it as a space they’ll be expanding into now it’s a commercially viable option.

Cloud-based technology and collaborative workflows are blowing accounting wide open, enabling a raft of new business models. It’s a very exciting time to be crunching numbers.

This article first appeared on Digital First https://www.digitalfirst.com/6-accounting-trends-watch-2016/