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Digital transformation is lagging in the accountancy profession

While there is substantial room for growth in digital transformation in accountancy, the commitment to and advancement of it, is slow. This is according to insights from the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) 2021 Existing and Prospective Member Survey.

Modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are not used, or are very rarely used, by as many as 51% of surveyed respondents. Barriers to digital technology adoption include budget restraints (36%), customers not liking change (21%), uncertainty around what is involved coupled with limited knowledge of the digital journey (15%), and limited professional resources (10%).

“The majority of respondents understand technological innovation to be imperative, but many Professional Accountants (SA) either don’t have or believe that their companies don’t demonstrate a forward-thinking approach to technology integration,” says Shahied Daniels, SAIPA Chief Executive.

SAIPA’s members include Professional Accountants (SA) in practice, in academia, and in corporate and public organisations. To bridge the digital divide in the accountancy profession, the institute has developed a Digital Hub, which has launched with its flagship resource: the Digi-Kit. This resource contains digital tools such as VoIP and cloud solutions and applications that lay the foundation for each member’s digital transformation journey.

“We want to encourage our members to rethink and redesign practices and service offerings with a focus on leveraging mobile connectivity, data analytics, cloud computing and incorporate these tools into their business models,” says Daniels.

Created in partnership with Vodacom Business and NtaNet Solutions (Pty) Ltd, the SAIPA Digi-Kit incorporates business-ready digital resources that will help members improve their own business model efficiencies, while strengthening their client relationships.

“Digital technologies fundamentally change the customer’s engagement and experiences, and are an enabler to drive organisational efficiencies and growth ambitions. Remaining adaptable to the ever-changing technology landscapes and going on a digital transformation journey ensures the successful navigation and sustainability of any profession,” says Furzana Sadiq, Director at NtaNet Solutions.

On the importance of digital transformation, William Mzimba, Chief Officer of Vodacom Business, says technology is advancing at a rapid pace, with smart accounting software streamlining many traditional business tasks.

“While this is great for business – offering faster, more affordable outputs that are more accurate without the risk of human error – it means that accountants need to transform the way they work to continue to deliver value. Automation technology can produce raw data, but it’s the interpretation of that data and its application for business forecasting that brings real value.”

The Digital Hub and Digi-Kit is an enabler for Professional Accountants (SA) to leverage technology to deliver this value, so that they can take on a more advisory role for their clients by interpretating data-driven insights.

“Digital transformation is the most visible manifestation of a progressive organisation and profession. As symbols of business continuity and sustainability, it is critical for South African businesses, SMEs, and entrepreneurs to continuously evaluate their digitisation capabilities and adapt their strategies to realise growth opportunities,” says Daniels.

With the tools for digital transformation at their fingertips, Professional Accountants (SA) can easily transition away from the perceived traditional bookkeeper role to offer a strategic business advisory service that delivers insight and value to customers while ensuring business sustainability.

The Digi-Kit is the first of many digital-transformation resources SAIPA will launch on its Digital Hub. Affordable and efficient tools related to cybersecurity, hardware, and a digital marketplace for practice management will be added to the platform soon. For more information, visit www.digitalhub.saipa.co.za

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