Soloists Drive Mobile Tech Trend in Accounting
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Smallest practices find new profits in going virtual as larger firms would prefer to cut staff and delay tech upgrades.
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If you’re a sole practitioner, there’s a 4 in 10 chance you’re reading this outside the office – at home, on the bus, maybe while waiting in line at the DMV, according to the Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey.
The new survey of almost 300 professionals shows that 44% of sole practitioners report they work out of the office more than a quarter of the time, placing them in the vanguard of the mobile workforce trend. In fact, 5 percent use no office at all, reporting instead they work virtually – maybe from home, car, a client’s desk or even a Starbucks. (Though we suppose those Grande Mocha Light Frappuccinos add up.
By comparison, accountants at larger firms are relatively deskbound. Large firm practitioners, working in firms of 50 or more persons, were the most officebound, with none reporting that they work out of the office more than 50 percent of the time.
“Although many firms have dreamed of ‘going virtual,’ with employees working from home all of the time, only 2 percent of all respondents report that they do not have a physical office,” according to the report’s authors, Randy Johnston and Leslie Garrett.
Notably, 3 percent of large firm accountants report they have a virtual office.
At small firms, with up to 10 people, 1 in 5 accountants report they book more than 25 percent of their hours out of office. At mid-size firms, with up to 50 persons, it’s 1 in 4. At large, 50-person-plus, firms, it’s 1 in 5, including the 3 percent with completely virtual work spaces.
The authors suggest that practice owners are casting a wary eye on mobile, wireless and virtual solutions, mindful, first and foremost, of the costs.
“A desktop computer costs less, can be used for a longer period of time, and gives better performance than a comparable laptop,” they say. The value proposition, they add, “is not understood or there is no perceived ROI to the technology.”
But many professionals would beg to differ once work-life benefits, client service and other relative intangibles are factored in.
For soloists, there’s another big reason to go virtual: profit.
Some 48 percent of sole practitioners say working from home is one of the most “effective” ways of controlling costs. At larger firms, the go-to tactics for cost controls start at staff reductions (according to 29 percent of accountants at mid-size firms) and delaying tech upgrades (31 percent at large firms).