How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are Necessary
Accountants are no strangers to inventions. Known inventions such as the abacus, calculators and computers have helped complete tasks quickly and in less time. However, today’s technology is complex and is reshaping the world of accounting. Such new technologies include big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, block chain, payment systems, mobility and social collaboration, among many others.
How Technology has Changed the Accounting Industry
Accounting, a traditional field, has not been immune to technological innovations. Initially, an accounting department would rely on IT leaders to make its technology decisions. Today, CFOs are increasingly taking part in decision making when it comes to the implementation of new technologies.
These changes are due to technological innovations in the accounting industry that have contributed to improved productivity and operational efficiency. The replacement of manual accounting with computerized tools has contributed greatly to reducing errors, resulting in more accurate reporting.
The accounting industry has reaped many benefits from adopting technology. Such benefits include virtual storage of documents, compliant online tools for accounting and taxes, use of communication platforms that ease connecting with customers, forensic analysis tools, and filing financial details with authorities.
Technology such as cloud computing means that a CPA can collaborate with clients in real time. This means that you are able to provide your clients with frequent business insights for performance monitoring and decision making.
All this makes it crucial for any company or professional to adopt these new technologies to remain competitive in today’s digital world.
Impact on the Accounting Profession
There is mixed opinion regarding how technology impacts the accounting industry. With the new technologies adopted in accounting, the accountant and finance professionals are expected to master new skills beyond numbers.
As accounting technology continues to evolve, there are considerations about necessary skill sets for new hires. Recruiters also are searching for candidates with extra skills relating to emerging technological trends.
Obviously, some roles such as manual entry and calculations have become obsolete. But technology has introduced new roles that require that accountants to approach the business environment differently so as to drive value. This calls for a mindset ready to embrace the constant state of change.
Why It's Necessary to Have IT Skills
Today it’s not enough just to have basic training for software programs used in accounting. CPAs are now becoming part of strategic planning teams. Their new roles include developing new processes, giving advice and even performing future forecasts. You may find an accountant working with a system programmer when developing a digital financial process.
This means that apart from learning accounting practices, an accountant should know how to integrate accounting processes with IT programs. Systems used today require technical skills. Such systems include strategic software applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems. Other technologies such as cloud computing have taken accounting to new levels that require advanced skills.
We also can't ignore the fact that technology has also brought with it new challenges. Data security is one such challenge. This requires that accountants also be equipped with knowledge on protecting data and computer systems against cyber threats.
Technology Skills for Accountants
As we have seen, the accounting industry has been impacted by technology. For an accountant to remain relevant in the accounting industry, here are some necessary technology skills:
- Knowledge of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems
- Experience in cloud computing
- Data analytics skills
- Knowledge of business intelligence software
- Understanding how processes work
- Advanced Excel ability
What the Future Holds
Initially, it was thought that the advent of accounting tools would make the accountant redundant. But these tools have helped professional accountants become financial advisors, business counselors and strategists. Hence, the growing automation of accounting tasks presents a great opportunity for professional accountants willing to take up new skills.
It is critical that accountants understand the importance of investing in themselves. This will require learning skills beyond number crunching and preparing tax returns.
It’s also important to note that apart from technological skills, the new work environment will require additional skills such as customer service, business insight, flexibility, communication skills, regulatory knowledge and leadership abilities.