APS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reckon, focuses on software for accountants. Its sweet spot is multi-partner, multi-disciplinary firms across Australia and New Zealand. CEO of Reckon and its APS product, Sam Allert, offers some insights into how the pandemic has affected business, the role of automation, and the threats posed by cybercriminals to accountants.
Q: How has the accounting profession changed during and because of COVID-19?
ALLERT: The pandemic reminded everyone how important the profession is. No-one escaped the impact of COVID in the crazy year that was 2020, but the reality is some industries and businesses not only survived but also thrived. Why? Because CAs were the first responders to our post-COVID economic recovery, advising their clients on compliance, new business models and new operating structures.
Some people said compliance was dead, but we now know it’s not. The government did an amazing job with its economic stimulus packages but, to work out if they qualified for that stimulus, businesses needed to turn to someone. As trusted advisers, CAs were right there telling their clients, “this is what you have to do. This is how you can access government stimulus. These are the business models you will need to embrace, and this is where you will need to cut costs.”
The pandemic changed how every accounting firm works. Some will never return to the office, and some are desperate to get back there full-time. Everyone is either working in some hybrid mode or with clients and partners who are. The technology for remote work had been there for a long time, but COVID brought forward flexibility in the workplace by five years in a matter of months.
Picture: CEO of Reckon and its APS product Sam Allert.
“The technology for remote work had been there for a long time, but COVID brought forward flexibility in the workplace by five years in a matter of months.”
The boom in the use of collaborative tools such as Teams, Slack and Zoom means that the focus is now on automation, collaboration and the integration of systems to keep working in a hybrid manner. Because of that we brought forward the launch of APS Workflow+ during the beginning of the pandemic. It’s a cloud workflow tool for accounting practices and allows a practice to manage jobs and budgets. It also tracks tasks so that partners and managers can see where jobs are at and who is working on them.
Q: What are the latest trends with automation in the accounting profession?
ALLERT: Compliance is the backbone of the financial economy, but recently automation has been very important to it. Any business that was up to date with its compliance and data had the fastest and most reliable access to government stimulus.
By automating compliance, accountants put their clients in the best position to access stimulus quickly and bring new business models to their organisation during a period of incredible uncertainty. Accountants are there to support their clients and APS is here to support accountants by taking integration to the next level.
Q: How have these trends affected your product roadmap and how have you needed to shift to suit accountant and practice needs?
ALLERT: The disruption of COVID confirmed the roadmap that APS already had in place. We have been releasing cloud modules that complement existing systems for a while now, but last year we fast-tracked the release of APS Workflow+ so that accounting teams could collaborate while working remotely. We also integrated our core APS database with SyncDirect and bank-feeds enhancements. This was all part of our normal roadmap – we just accelerated it.
We also added to our product roadmap APS Ledger+ to help accountants reduce the time it takes to create reports and increase accounting accuracy, along with a data visualisation tool called Reckon Insights+.
Our product roadmap already had innovative tools on it, but we’re also agile enough to be reactive to what accountants need today and tomorrow.
Q: What about cybersecurity? How is it impacting the profession, and what do accountants need to know?
ALLERT: Cybercrime is a risk for every business and accountants are no different – no-one is immune to cyber attacks. Scarily, IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach report said the average outlay following a breach is US$3.86 million. That cost alone could put a lot of firms out of business. Ransomware attacks are also on the rise, with attacks occurring every five minutes. COVID posed new cybersecurity challenges for firms because people are working outside the corporate firewall and have to rely on consumer-grade protections.
Q: What are the drawbacks of remote work and what do accountants need to be mindful of?
ALLERT: It’s a real yin and yang with remote work because, to some degree, it’s here to stay. There are positives such as flexibility and an increase in work-life balance, but remote work can also come at the cost of mental health because you lose human interaction and face-to-face collaboration. A trusted adviser isn’t a machine on the end of an email. Advisers need balanced relationships with their clients and their team, which means face-to-face meetings as well as digital.
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For more information, go to aps-software.com