How New Technology is Changing the Role of Bookkeepers

Technology is changing WHAT we do for our clients, along with HOW we do it.

If you are working with your clients virtually… or headed in that direction, your role is in the process of some major changes.

A large part of the bookkeeping role has been to do “intelligent” data entry so that financial records are accurate. But with the improvements in electronic information processing, much of this is being done by computer programs via the web instead.

Think about how banking transactions can be downloaded directly into QuickBooks Online. Or services like ShoeBoxed can scan paper receipts and categorize expenses for you. Even Bill.com has a feature where they will seamlessly get your faxed or emailed vendor bills entered into QuickBooks for you.

And finally, there are new programs emerging that bring all the financial data together, using the Internet, to feed into the bookkeeping records automatically… from banks, vendors and client sales, using online accounting programs like Xero.com.

What does this mean?

Entering data into bookkeeping software is something that will eventually be nearly eliminated (or at least greatly reduced). Does that mean the role of the bookkeeper will also be eliminated?

No. But WHAT we actually do for our clients… and the value we provide… is starting to shift dramatically. We are moving from entering financial information efficiently and intelligently to get it into the bookkeeping records to managing the financial data flow and interpretation of it. We are facing a unique opportunity to assist our clients with getting the real VALUE from what their financial information means for their business. This prepares them for more productive meetings with their accountants for tax and business planning.

In other words, we are growing into the role of assistant / consultant with our clients to help them get the BENEFIT of their financial information for managing business. This is MUCH more valuable than simply doing the clerical work of keeping records updated after the fact so taxes can be filed. Our services are becoming more present and future focused.

and THAT is a VERY good thing for both you and your clients… if you're willing to step up into this revised role. Of course, with a promotion to higher value for clients comes higher fees, too. It will likely also mean the TYPE of clients you serve will begin to change (improve), too.

So what do these changes mean for you right now?

Be aware that they are coming, and they are taking hold rapidly. You need to pay attention to how your existing clients are reacting to and embracing new mobile / online technology. You also need to choose the changes that you want to support for the future of your own business and the services you provide.

Of course, there will be some clients (and bookkeepers) who will dig in their heels, resist change altogether, and want to keep handling their financial records the same way they always have. If you are one of them, there will continue to be that “old fashioned” business owner who will still need your help… for a while. But know that those clients will be left behind in their market and eventually struggle, and possibly go out of business. How long that will take remains to be seen.

Side Note: There are some very small businesses I've seen who refuse to go to a computerized system and, for example, only accept cash and paper checks. As technology progresses, my prediction is that these staunch low-tech companies will either be forced (painfully) to upgrade their internal operating procedures, or die. 

Why?

Because their archaic ways become very inconvenient for their customers, resulting in making it difficult to do business with them. New customers as well as existing customers will soon go elsewhere to get their needs met by those keeping up with the times.

Small businesses are changing HOW they operate because of the major advancements in mobile and online technology coupled with affordable applications… this includes how they get their bookkeeping done.

So the question is, if these changes are coming – whether we like them or not – what will you do to prepare for it now, and how will it affect the way you provide YOUR bookkeeping services in the near future?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, complaints, excitement, or any other reactions you have to where our services are headed and how it is changing our role as bookkeepers with our clients in the months and years ahead.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and build true win-win relationships.

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6 Responses to “How New Technology is Changing the Role of Bookkeepers”

  • Jackie on June 1, 2011

    This sounds wonderful! The new technology offered to us today is so exciting and refreshing. Gone are the days (or they soon will be) of the old way of doing things. Just think how much more we can accomplish and how many more clients we can help! Yay! Let’s go!!!

  • K Johnson on June 1, 2011

    How does one upgrade themselves virtually for bookkeeping? I do some virtual clients that are just friends of family, but how do I fully upgrade and how do I know what virtual opportunities are legitimate? What is the cost to completely upgrade virtually/

    • Gabrielle on June 2, 2011

      K,

      Working virtually with clients has more to do with the tools you use to accomplish the services your clients need. When you say “virtual opportunities” I’m not sure if you are questioning others who are offering virtual bookkeeping (based on previous comments you’ve posted).

      Don’t worry about what others are doing is the easiest way to get out of that scarcity / negative mindset which will only prevent you from focusing on YOUR business. You are the boss of your own business as a freelancer and if you provide high quality services, you only need to be paying attention to reliable online tools / products to help you accomplish your work. If you are worried about web-based products being “legitimate” (such as those mentioned above… which you shouldn’t since they are all recognized companies by those leading our field and several are even public companies), stick with the well-known brands in our industry.

      As far as cost, that’s not the right question to be asking first. The first question is what are the services specifically you are offering to your clients, and what tools are available to accomplish those services on a virtual basis. THEN start looking at cost / value comparisons. It’s done one step at a time and there are as many tools to pick from. You likely need only a few, and the online tools are usually paid a small amount on a monthly basis. Pricing is almost always very affordable and should be built into your rates with your clients.

  • M. Cook on June 2, 2011

    I agree, this is the wave of the future. The way we do business is changing with the changes in new technology. Either we embrace it, grow and become more profitable to our clients or fall behind and go the way of the dinasours? Thanks for keeping us updated Gabrielle.

    • Gabrielle on June 2, 2011

      I agree with you 100%, Michael. But change is not always something comfortable. So a gradual approach is usually the best way to grow with the technology… and the easiest way to actually enjoy the process! 🙂

  • Virtual Bookkeeping on June 28, 2011

    I was just thinkinghow new technology has chnaged the role of bookkeeping and you have really helped me out by sharing this post.

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