There’s a lot to be excited about in the accounting industry and after a rough financial ride in recent years, it’s great to start looking at a few positives.
For in-house accountants the challenge of keeping businesses afloat through tough economic challenges has been immense and consultants too have had their work cut out. But the world has kept spinning and the future is looking decidedly brighter, so in this article we take a look at what trends you will see emerging in the accounting industry.
Quite frankly, if you’re not operating cloud-based software you’re in danger of getting left behind. Cloud accounting practices have quickly taken over from more traditional approaches gaining attraction in SMEs and larger companies alike.
There are several compelling reasons for this. On the client side, having work done in the Cloud is fast, nimble and accessible like an ERP system from NetSuite. It’s also safe, offering a greater degree of security and accessibility, very attractive to a lot of larger businesses.
On the accountant’s side, Cloud-based technology means work has become increasingly more flexible. Being able to access clients’ accounts off premises offers greater flexibility and means you don’t even need to be in the same time zone to achieve your goals. As working from home becomes very much working from anywhere except home, this practice will undoubtedly become more attractive.
Artificial Intelligence has its detractors, usually those who either don’t believe it can work or don’t understand how it works. But AI is smart and it’s getting smarter. This is a technology that’s learning more quickly than ever. For accountants (and their clients) this isn’t anything to be scared of, quite the opposite – it’s good news.
Smarter software includes such staples as Xero and Intuit which, though relatively straightforward to install and set-up, are highly sophisticated when it comes to carrying out inputting tasks and reconciling data. The time saved letting these programmes loose on the books is invaluable and as an intelligent technology, most AI does have the ability to adapt to your specific ways of working.
There was a time when to be an accountant, all that was required was bags of experience, a bunch of professional qualifications and an ability to remain unflappable in the face of mountains of data and mis-filed tax returns.
However, with big technological changes today, accountants must have an ever-evolving set of skills. Client expectation has changed along with the technology and being able to work at a much faster pace is rapidly becoming the norm. Getting answers quickly, prioritising workloads and working to even tighter deadlines are every bit as essential as knowing your way around a calculator.
Terms that might have previously been unknown may well find their way into your vocabulary and into the list of assets to your name. Take for example, blockchain and in particular bitcoin. This digital cryptocurrency carries with it many benefits, not least how secure it is and the ease of transfer between users.
Many accountants are already well into dealing with the outcome of this technology but for those yet to encounter it on a professional level, it’s well worth getting to grips with accessing ledgers in real time, creating smart contracts and recording all transactions.
Perhaps following on from this is the need to change the way data is considered. While once data was simply collected, perhaps as evidence of transaction or compliance, nowadays data is a commodity in its own right.
Specifically the action of analysing data for commercial benefit. That might be to get a jump ahead of a competitor or to improve a company’s systems and performance. Whatever data is used for, accountants must demonstrate they understand its importance and know how to analyse and present it back to a client. So much so, that much of an accountant’s time will be spent or delegated out to preparing presentations and reports that explain in some depth what that quarter’s data is pointing to. Trends help form decisions and the responsibility for spotting those trends will fall onto the accountant’s shoulders more and more.
The days of simply crunching the numbers and making sure the figures looked right for tax purposes are long gone. Now and going forward, an accountant will be expected to operate as a strategic partner – no matter the size of the operation.
Alongside the usual duties of helping customers become highly tax efficient and of ensuring deadlines are met, tomorrow’s accountant will need to become an expert analyst, financial advisor and problem solver. Despite the onslaught of evolving smart technology, solving those highly nuanced, granular issues that arise in every business will fall to the experienced accounting professional. While Artificial Intelligence might be able to crunch the numbers on staffing levels, only someone who knows a business inside and out can suggest why letting go of the intern makes more fiscal sense in the long run than a middle-manager who adds huge value to the team.
Tomorrow’s accountant will be in demand more than ever to act as a trend spotter and voice of reason and logic. Their role will change along with the evolution of software but for many businesses, small and large, this voice and reassurance that comes from an accountant who knows their stuff can never be replaced.
Despite the challenges of the last few years, the future has many more opportunities for the professional. Embracing change and anticipating the needs of clients in a fast-paced world will become essential.
It’s time to take accounting to the next level and onwards towards an exciting future.
Caroline Kelly is a journalist and copywriter who loves to write and run. Trained up in the newsrooms of her native East Sussex, England, she has lived and worked in Switzerland and Singapore. Obsessed with research and story-telling, Caroline writes in financial niches for print and online publications. Her website can be found at: https://carolinekellywriter.com/
Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.