While most small and medium enterprises (SMEs) believe that their accountants are tech-savvy, many are actually using outdated technology solutions – choosing to keep expenses down by not investing in innovative new technological offerings. In fact, according to the SME Survey 2018, more than a quarter of SMEs (27%) still use Excel spreadsheets for financial data capturing and reporting.
One of the key aims of SME Survey 2018, has been to take an in-depth look at the future of the accounting function and the role the accountant plays in these businesses. It is a role that is evolving rapidly, says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx and principal researcher for the SME Survey.
“While 86% of SME decision-makers indicated that the main reason they use accountants is for bookkeeping purposes, a growing number (41%) also turn to them for financial advice or to serve as the organisation’s tax specialist (40%),” he says.
However, when asked whether they were happy with their current accounting software, a near-unanimous 93% of SME owners indicated that they were satisfied with what they had. However, this correlates closely with 87% of respondents saying that their accountants were either very tech savvy or at least somewhat savvy. Of course, Goldstuck adds, the mere fact that a quarter of SMEs still make use of Excel spreadsheets demonstrates that there is no correlation at all between the sophistication of the software being used and their satisfaction with current processes.
“The general consensus seems to be that, as long as it is doing the job it is supposed to do, owners are not going to delve too deeply into either what else their accounting package can do, or how it actually does what it does. All they are concerned with, ultimately, is that it is able to assist them with their financials and produce the numbers they need.”
This attitude, he continues, is underpinned by the fact that three quarters (74%) of SME owners indicated that they have no plans to change the accounting software they are currently using. The remaining 26% correlates very closely with the 27% who are still utilising Excel.
“This is despite the fact that there are some fantastic new accounting packages available, specifically designed with SMEs in mind – simplifying the usually complex financial aspects of business. There is also a corollary to this, namely that, as more SMEs adopt such technology, more accountants will follow suit, optimising the more advanced services like tax specialisation and the provision of financial advice.”
SME Survey is the original and largest representative survey since 2003 to measure the forces shaping SME competitiveness in South Africa.