I attended a conference the day before and listened to a series of speeches on digital disruption. For those unacquainted with digital disruption, the term basically refers to the change brought about by new digital technologies and business models that are affecting the current value proposition of existing goods and services.
This phenomenon is expected to eliminate up to 60% of jobs in areas such as clerical work and professional services in the next 10 years. Recently, the Canberra Times also published an article about Australia’s digital transformation led by the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) of the Australian Government Department of Communications. The article estimates that approximately 25,000 public servants will either lose their jobs or undergo reshuffle owing to the impending digital transformation of the Australian economy.
Based on my accumulated knowledge and practical experience in bookkeeping, I foresee many bookkeepers encountering difficulties in finding or securing jobs in 10 years’ time. Currently, 80% of bookkeeping entails data entries—for example, entering bills into the accounting system, entering time sheets for payroll, and performing manual reconciliations. Fast forward to 10 years later, 99% of businesses will be using cloud accounting systems which enable sales invoices to flow directly from suppliers’ accounting systems to customers’ accounting systems. Drafted bills will be set up in the customers’ accounting software, awaiting approval and payment. Today, there are softwares which are capable of automatically creating bills that ready for approval and payment.
Another time-consuming aspect of current bookkeeping and accounting systems is having to deal with business transfer payments. Due to the high level of responsibility and dedication needed for the task, each time a bookkeeper acts on behalf of business owners, it will involve at least three staff and multiple cross-checks. Therefore, in 10 years, I predict that such manual tasks will be handled by a handful of large establishments, such as a clearing house, which operate digitally. There will be no need for debt collection as bills and sales will be processed real-time. There will be no need for BAS agents as the system will report GST automatically to ATO for each transaction.
I could go on about the impacts of digital disruption on the Australian bookkeeping industry, but what I would really like to see is the automation of the current tax system in 10 years’ time. That is, ATO will be able to calculate tax payables and refunds on individual transactions so that it no longer has to perform audits, and accountants no longer need to prepare tax on behalf of their clients.
Today’s digital technology also enables us to collect data from multiple sources and collate them into any format we want, and this is known as big data mining. Unfortunately, I also predict that there will not be many bookkeepers in 2025, but there will still be a few outstanding bookkeepers who would have adapted well and taken on advisory roles in the digital economy. I hope to be one such bookkeeper. So, if you are interested to know more and get involved in this digital disruption, come talk to my team in Tailored Accounts! We have been staying informed and riding on the digital transformation in the last four and a half years since we converted to Xero and QuickBooks Online, and began using their add-on products and services.
Harry Hoang is Tailored Accounts Executive Director
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