The future of accountancy: a gig economy?

The future of accountancy: a gig economy?

Intuit has recently been playing around with the idea of providing bookkeeping services as part of their Quickbooks offering. It’s a model that has worked for them in Turbo Tax Live in the US, which connects users directly with qualified CPAs in order to review their taxes and add legitimacy to the process.

To me, this seems to be an admission that accounting is hard for those without accounting experience, regardless of how beautifully designed QuickBooks might be. The concepts are tough, the rules are complicated, and cloud software is far from reflecting this at the moment. This is a far cry from QuickBook’s assertion that “If you can write a check, you can use QuickBooks.”

By providing bookkeeping services in house, Intuit can control the training and timing. An on-demand bookkeeper who has a deep understanding of both the workings of the software and the accounting requirements seems to be a solid offering to me.

It’s likely to put some pricing pressure on the provision of bookkeeping services too, which many customers may welcome. As long as this doesn’t come at the cost of professional expertise on the part of the bookkeepers, it is a change that I can get behind.

If this service offering is successful, I wonder whether QuickBooks will consider hiring staff that fill more niche, technical roles. Bookkeepers must often work closely with accountants at year end to ensure compliance, and the accountants themselves turn to tax advisors, VAT specialists, amongst others. We may well be seeing the start of the gig economy for accountants and bookkeepers.

This seems to be a further example of software in domains such as accounting moving from ‘Do it Yourself’ to ‘We’ll Do It With You’ models. MindBridge and other analytics companies are doing this in the audit space, and the customers of CRM systems such as CopperCRM are used to this level of service. It’s a model that we’ve adopted at Brevis with our Ask an Accountant feature Live Assistant. As I’ve argued before, getting modern technology to really solve problems requires a deep understanding of both the domain knowledge and the technology.

This is becoming increasingly important as modern software incorporates machine learning and artificial intelligence elements. An understanding of where these techniques excel and where they fail needs to be coupled with an understanding of the business objectives and risks.