Technology has been impacting the finance function and the accountancy sector for a while now; take the recent introduction of cloud accountancy, for example. Cloud accountancy has allowed the same functions (and more) to be achieved at a significantly reduced cost compared to previous infrastructure which required heavy implementation and support.
Although this technology has become widely accepted, as other technology evolves within finance, there are still concerns. These could stem from a lack of understanding or lack of information, but it is actually more likely to come from the fear that technology is going to replace finance jobs.
In some circumstances, these concerns are justified.
After all, with fewer requirements for accountants to carry out manual processes, the role of the accountant and the expectations businesses have about what they need to provide, is changing. Therefore, process-based data entry or consolidation style roles, will (not might) be reduced! But this is not to say that the human workforce is to be completely replaced by ‘machines’ it’s to say that technological advancements are not to be underestimated. Sitting back and hoping for the best, is what will cost jobs. But there is a solution. If accountants can be responsive, flexible, and agile, then technology is there to be utilised with the accountants and not instead of. Introduced and utilised correctly, technology can be used to the accountants’ advantage and will create endless opportunities for those who can recognise the potential.
The opportunities I’m referring to are around how the role of the accountant, both in practice and in business, will evolve. There is an opportunity to move away from ‘traditional’ routine and repetitive tasks, where finance and accountants work in silos from the rest of the business, conducting slow and manual processes; as per the previous narrow scope and definition of the role. Technology will help by giving accountants the opportunity to move into a more advisory, and analytical role, engaging with their clients and business to strategise their business ambitions.
Some ways technology will enable this are by:
- Removing focus from data entry – the focus around data can now be its content, the analysis of this and therefore, the data’s true value. Prioritise on outcomes as opposed to process.
- Providing real-time information – the ability to interact with your client or business as and when things are happening is invaluable. You can be pro-active instead of reactive.
- Linking in non-financial data – the possibility of quantifying other elements within a business to relate back to business strategy gives a better, more comprehensive understanding.
- Accessing pick ‘n’ mix solutions – API’s (application programming interfaces), will allow accountants to pick and choose what solutions are most suitable, based on the exact requirements and ambitions of a business and what they would like to achieve.
Ultimately, the fourth industrial revolution needs to be embraced by those within accountancy, and the available technology needs to be accepted and utilised. Ultimately, business owners and decision makers are aware it exists, and if their accountant isn’t making suggestions about what they should use, or providing them with solutions, then they will find another who will. Accountants must embrace the changes and use the technological tools available at their disposal. Technology is not a threat. Technology is going to revolutionise the finance function and encourage businesses to expect more; so, isn’t it time to offer more to your clients and business stakeholders?
Technology will help, and not hinder, the progression and success of the accountant in practice and in business. But accountants must be ready to step forward and not be left behind.
If you're ready to embrace new technology in accounting, why not give our free guide a read to find out how accounts payable (AP) automation can revolutionise your accounts department.