Professional practices are continually evolving along with the technologies that are critical to their success. Over the past 20 years, accounting firms, engineers, lawyers and other professionals have seen their productivity skyrocket as a result of this improved tech.
2020 was a year that challenged all businesses to adopt new technology, while trying to figure out the new way of business on the fly. The result was a meteoric adoption of existing technologies that weren’t prevalent in most businesses.
With the basic business structure shifted so dynamically in 2020, what can we look forward to in the next year?
1. Remote Workforces Are Staying
Remote work has been possible for many professionals for at least a decade. However, few firms made a routine practice of it, even if the technology was mostly adequate for the work.
Looking back, it seems the primary roadblock to fuller implementation wasn’t technological, but rather cultural. Firm management didn’t want to disrupt what they saw as a fundamental nature of their practice: a centralized office with standard open hours, office doors, cubes, and a break room.
Management also feared a lack of productivity or responsiveness when workers were left to their own devices. On the contrary, a study by Prodoscore shows that even though hours worked in 2020 was down, productivity levels increased by five percent. This means workers were literally doing more in less time.
Remote work options will continue to be widely accepted into the future, as firms see no decrease in productivity, along with higher morale and retention rates among staff, particularly those with young families.
2. Remote Technologies Will Get Better
While the basic technologies for remote work have existed for at least a decade, that comes with a big disclaimer: Some professions need to use software that, until very recently, may not have been remotely accessible, or may have only had “light” versions of the system available in that manner.
Fortunately, in the few years before Covid, many professional workflow systems, like BQE CORE, were fully redeveloped to be accessible on any device, anywhere, and in their full-powered state. This means whether managing accounting functions, HR, projects, client tasking or any other functions, the users can have total control whether they are in the office or not.
As we continue through the next year, and in perpetuity, look for this to be the norm: There is no reason to tie your firm’s productivity to a few thousand square feet of office space in downtown.
3. Remote Conferencing Will Be More Natural
Workplace video conferencing has been around for 30-plus years. In the early days, it was exhaustively expensive and complex but has now gotten pretty commonplace. In addition to computers, it’s even achievable over smartphones and most other devices.
The pandemic didn’t change the technology, it simply led to much higher use, propelling Zoom to its place as a household name and more business-focused conferencing apps like Teams into daily use. The benefit of higher adoption rates will be improved functionality, as those companies invest in more natural-feeling interactions and smoother conversations.
4. Artificial Intelligence Will Continue to Help Professional Firms
Firms have made large strides in moving to a digital workflow, and are now implementing practice management systems with built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. These systems “learn,” meaning they actually get smarter the more they are used, so the possibilities for enhancing productivity are immense. The automation of routine tasks and increased insight into financials are at the core of these benefits, which lets firm staff dedicate more time to profit-generating services.
5. Cybersecurity Will Gain Even More Importance
Phishing scams, malware, and hackers will always be a risk, but new security technologies will further enable firms to reduce that risk, by applying smart learning systems to weed out and quarantine suspicious messaging and even phone calls.
By reducing the amount of these scams being presented to staff, the risk is greatly reduced, as human error is the biggest threat to your sensitive data.