By Daniel Hunter

More than half of UK accountants plan to use cloud technology to cut costs, improve efficiency, open-up new revenue streams and boost client satisfaction, a Xero-commissioned Censuswide poll has revealed.

The biggest contributing factors to the sharp rise in take-up of cloud-based, online software include the opportunity to cut internal overheads such as travel and data input costs (48%), as well as improve service and increase client satisfaction (44%). Providing a point of competitive difference (30%) and demand from clients (23%) were also major drivers.

Having made the switch from static, on-premise systems, 42% of accountants in practices that are already using real-time online accounting software identified the biggest benefit as being the opportunity to boost service standards and increase client satisfaction.

Other major advantages included helping practices to become more efficient (39%), as well as enabling them to modernise their service offering and open up new revenue streams (38%), increasing overall income.

Coventry-based accounting firm, Prime Chartered Accountants, began introducing its small business clients to cloud-based technology around four years ago: “The ability to access the software anywhere makes it very practical to use and motivates users to keep their accounts up-to-date,” says director Laurence Moore.

“Clients love the real-time information it gives them, which allows us to add value on a day-to-day basis. All this has helped us to develop new services and win clients.”

The growing shift to cloud-based accounting software comes at a time of intense financial pressure for many practices with 57% saying increasingly tight client budgets are causing them major challenges. As well as having less money to spend, the widespread use of mobile and tablet devices has contributed to an expectation among customers for faster responses, according to 42% of those polled.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, those yet to embrace cloud technologies could risk getting left behind, especially the 28% who are waiting to see if online software takes off industry-wide before making the switch.

“Traditionally, accounting has not been at the forefront of technology change and while the research reflects the growing appetite and need for cloud-based systems in accounting, it also shows that some practices are holding back because they’re yet to recognise the technology’s potential,” says Xero UK managing director Gary Turner.

“With the rise in clients’ use of mobile technologies and the repercussions of the downturn still being felt, the opportunities cloud-based technology offers modern practices are extremely important, particularly when it comes to opening-up new service lines. In enabling them to become more competitive, it could even help safeguard their future survival.”

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