Certified Public Accountant, Certified Valuation Analyst, Diel & Forguson LLC
IBJ: Has technology changed the accounting business?
Diel: Technology has made a major impact on our industry. For example, every accounting firm used to have a library. We had hundreds of books in our library, and now we have no library at all. All of our research is done through the Internet. Things like that make it faster to do research because you’re not dragging out all of these books and making all of these notes. Now a lot of that tax research is even imbedded into your software – so if you come to a line in a tax return, you can hit an F-7 key and it automatically goes into the research program and you can research it right there while you’re doing the tax return.
Another change is that people have become very mobile. It’s not uncommon now to have employees who aren’t even in your office anymore. They are able to access the system remotely and do a tax return from just about anywhere. That’s really good; if you have good employees, you don’t lose them just because they have to move somewhere else in the country.
The same is true with clients. We have clients all over the country and even some in Europe. Our software will let us upload their documents. They can scan them and e-mail them to us through a secure portal. The systems are interactive. They can enter the data, transmit it to us, we do the tax return, send it back to them on the portal and they file the returns. It’s all done electronically.
There have been a lot of changes in the industry that have really made this much more of a global environment.
IBJ: Are the days of clients coming in with stacks of paper and boxes of receipts gone?
Diel: No. That still exists, but clients are much more disciplined now. They use software packages, too. QuickBooks, for example, has really reduced the amount of paper clients give us. Now they can give us QuickBooks files on a thumb drive and we can plug it into our software and automatically import the data. We’ll still have to clean it up and make sure it’s all okay, but it’s a tremendous difference from digging through hundreds of sheets of general ledgers and checkbooks and stuff like that. And most of the clients need that financial information on an ongoing basis, so they know what their business is doing.
IBJ: Is the job of bookkeeper gone?
Diel: The job of the bookkeeper isn’t gone, but it has changed and gotten more sophisticated with the use of computers. The little old lady with the pencil and paper is gone. Kids come out of school computer literate – and they’re not going to go back to putting numbers on spreadsheets.
IBJ: Have the technological advances resulted in fewer jobs in the accounting industry?
Diel: I don’t know about on the government side, but on the businesses side, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we have less people. We used to have clerical people; we don’t anymore. We had a person who maintained our library. That job doesn’t exist anymore, and it hasn’t existed for years. About 80 percent of our clients don’t even get a paper copy. They don’t want it and they don’t need it. They get a copy on our cloud on the portal. Most returns are filed electronically now. We used to print three copies; one for federal, one for us and one for the client. Now, 80 percent of our clients get a summary sheet and a form they have to sign to say it’s okay to file electronically, and that’s it. The clerical effort of putting tax returns together is dramatically reduced. Our role has changed dramatically from crunching numbers out to the client to interpreting the data for him or her.
IBJ: Do you have employees who are working elsewhere?
Diel: We don’t currently have employees working elsewhere but we have employees that can stay home and work a day, or whatever the case may be. If one of our staff here has a sick child and he or she wants to stay home, that’s no problem. They can totally be effective from home. We had one employee who stayed at home with her children and she worked from home for over a year. She was here in the area and worked full time from her house and never had to come into the office. And that worked fine. We have a number of people here that if they did move, I would keep them on as full-time employees and just let them work out of wherever they happen to be. The system is up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can work Saturday, Sunday, whenever it’s convenient for you. It has become very convenient.
A number of years ago we lost one of our good staff people who moved to
Seattle. That was before the industry really changed to allow us to do this. Today, if I had that person back, I’d never let her leave. She was too good. Today, we could do that. Then, it wasn’t possible.