Drones Set to Disrupt the “Ideas Accounting Firms Won’t Pursue” Niche

By | February 1, 2017

In a recent Journal of Accountancy piece, a bunch of people with way too much time on their hands to consider things that will never happen seem to think that drones are the next wave of innovation for accounting firms.

Mind you, it was only a few years ago that one Big 4 firm made the innovative decision to ditch Lotus Notes, so naturally it can be expected that conservative scaredy cat accounting firms would jump on this tech.

“Accounting may seem an odd fit for drones, with attention more often focused on how the flying machines deliver packages or are used in war zones,” writes Sarah Ovaska-Few. “But those tracking the new technology say unmanned flying devices have the potential to bring new ways of doing business to accounting firms big and small.”

Julia Morriss, coordinator on the AICPA State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Team, seems convinced that commercial drones are the way of the future, and the trend will “make a big difference for any firm.” Cue eyeroll here.

We reached out to her to get an idea of what specific applications she might see for drones in accounting, particularly in the audit space, and she pointed us to the National Conference of the State Legislator’s website, which makes no mention of drones replacing first year auditors at inventory counts any time soon. Sorry, you guys.

Despite totally dodging our question, the Journal of Accountancy says Morriss anticipates small- and medium-size firms to adopt drone technology as an add-on service to enhance routine audits or asset assessments. Would you like a drone with your walkthrough, sir? And would you care to supersize that to a large drone?

And then you have Dick Zhang, the totally not biased CEO of Identified Technologies Corp., a Pittsburgh-based company that sells specialized drones with computing and photographic abilities. Zhang sees drones deployed by accounting firms to, say, measure the assets of firms with giant holes in the ground. Drones used in this capacity could fly over for measurements and photos for clients with “large mineral deposits” or “mining operations.” “Their balance sheets and their assets are literally sitting on the ground,” he said.

PwC is already on board with the technology in Poland, using “drones and geospatial data analytics to help clients.” Which, again, is a far cry from disruptive technology lightening the workload for auditors. Ever the innovators, they see an opening for both using the technology themselves and, of course, helping clients integrate the technology into their own operations. Psst hey pal, ya ever tried… a drone?

Michal Mazur, partner and head of Drone Powered Solutions at PwC for Central and Eastern Europe, said, salivatingly:

We are currently in discussion with several major companies from a wide range of industries about how they can use drones to improve their business processes. This got us thinking about the potential value of the global drone-powered solutions market. With an estimated market value of over $127 bn in commercial applications, drones are making the transition from novelty item to indispensable business tool.

Of course it got them thinking about the drone-powered solutions market, or rather how they can get a piece of it. When it comes to accounting firms, we all know “innovation” is code for “we can make money off this.”

That’s why the idea of small to mid-size firms embracing drones is that much more laughable. These are the guys who still have “please consider the environment” notices in their email signatures, you really think they’re going to be out there piloting drones? If you believe that, I have a $127 billion market to sell you.