SME accountants can benefit by going digital. Source: Shutterstock

SME accountants can benefit by going digital. Source: Shutterstock

Singapore provides SME accountants with new digital roadmap

GOING digital isn’t easy, and accountants, especially in the small- and mid-sized enterprise (SME) market seem to be lacking the motivation, incentive, and direction to make the change.

To a certain degree, the challenge is that SME accountants often deal with clients in the SME space who have not digitized their finance function.

However, with the Singapore regulator encouraging businesses, irrespective of size, to digitize their accounting, finance, and tax functions, a government push for SME accountants to use technology is only natural.

Singapore’s Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), partnered with the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) to develop the Accountancy Industry Digital Plan (IDP).

According to the press release by IMDA, the IDP is expected to help SME-sized practices, which make-up 98 percent of the accountancy industry, adopt technology for greater productivity and competitiveness.

“Small and medium-sized practices play an important role by providing all businesses, including SMEs, with robust foundational financial, accounting and business services,” said IMDA Chief Executive Tan Kiat How.

The IDP emphasizes the need to enhance digital skills and knowledge, promotes the adoption of technology, and highlights the importance of developing accounting technology and innovations.

“The digital transformation of the accountancy sector and the development of accountancy talent for the future will provide the competitive edge we need to develop Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub,” said Singapore Accountancy Commission Chief Executive Evan Law.

Doing digital is a three-stage process for accounting firms

On the face of it, going digital sounds like a monumental project that is hard to drive without the right kind of support.

IMDA’s Accountancy IDP aims to provide that support by breaking down the digital transformation roadmap into a three-stage development process:

# 1 | Getting digital economy ready

In the first stage, IMDA and its partners SAC and ISCA advise SME accounting firms to adopt basic technology solutions such as practice management, audit management, and tax management to streamline operations and optimize resources.

While not much needs to be done to prepare for this stage, working with vendors and implementing these solutions helps the firm’s leadership get a taste of technology, what it offers, and whets their appetite for larger, more intensive projects.

# 2 | Growing in the digital economy

In this stage, having digital solutions such as practice, tax, and audit management in place, and data tagged accurately and pooled into a data platform prepares the firm for the next stage — analytics and business intelligence.

According to IMDA, SAC, and ISCA, SME accounting practices, in this stage, should invest in data analytics for advisory, and integrate digital solutions for seamless transactions that enable the consolidation of data and help generate deeper insights.

# 3 | Leaping ahead

IMDA, SAC, and ISCA believe that SME accounting firms must, in the third stage, identify advanced digital technologies that help them offer innovative services to customers and develop more intelligent businesses.

It is at this stage that accountants are encouraged to explore artificial intelligence-enabled digital solutions to improve business operations and augment capabilities for services in audit and accounting.