How will accountants adapt to industry transformation brought about by technology?
Technology has brought about a big transformation in many industries and the accounting profession is one of them. Automation, cloud-based applications and SaaS solutions are all examples of these emerging technologies, which will continue to have an effect on the profession in the future. Accountants have to embrace these rapid advances in technology to remain relevant and successfully meet their clients’ changing needs.
Although a number of jobs may become redundant as a result of these changes, according to the Future of Jobs report 2020, by World Economic Forum, 97 million new jobs may emerge by 2022 which is a clear indication that emerging technologies are helping the economy to grow. There is an increasing demand for data analysists, specialists, and IT services in which accountants can find a role within all this.
It is thus important that accountants recognise that the finance functions are changing and ensure that they adapt and react positively to this change. Accountants must ensure they have the right mix of people, skills and technology in order to enhance their efficiency of adjusting and adapting alongside the evolving technology.
The skills which once dominated the accounting profession are changing rapidly, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) have automated complex and repetitive tasks. Therefore, administrative tasks, which previously required human intervention, no longer need to be human-intensive tasks anymore.
The role of the accountant:
1. Accepting and evolving with automation and AI
Automation and AI have released accountants from carrying out repetitive tasks and this should be looked at as an opportunity for growth as this type of automation saves the accountant a lot of time whilst also performing the task in a more efficient way, with less errors.
Moreover, accountants can shift their focus into moving to a more advisory role by helping the business make informed decisions and guide them into implementing emerging accounting automation technology. The advisory role has to broaden to include risk assessments, predictive analysis and the effective use of visualisation tools.
2. Personal responsibility for learning and career development diversifying skills
Each and every accountant has the responsibility to take learning from being a passive compliance-based approach, to one which is specialised and driven by the market’s needs.
Technology is reducing the need for traditional accounting skills and increasing the demand for other skills such as business planning and advisory. Accountants must be ready to learn new skills and adapt to an ever-changing environment.
Furthermore, accountants will need to develop stronger analytical skills especially the ability to understand how vendors, employees, and customers interact, and how business is conducted and measured. They must also have the ability to analyse large data using their professional judgment. This means that they must be competent in working with structured and unstructured data, and evaluating this data to ensure it completeness, accuracy and relevance.
3. Greater client focus
The accountant is responsible to help management, as well as their clients think beyond the traditional numbers and introduce them to the world or efficient emerging technologies that can be beneficial to them. The expectations of the client have changed and it is up to accountant to recognise and meet these new expectations.
New technologies have also impacted how we communicate and changed the channels of communication. The current pandemic has shown the value of these technologies and have hastened their adoption. The accountant of tomorrow must be adept in using these technologies as well as other, such as social media.
With the help of technology, accountants will be able to work more efficiently and become more productive, providing more value to the client. The role of the accountant needs to be re-imagined and a new set of skills is required for accountants to remain up-to-date with all the technological trends.
Key success factors for Accountants to adapt to change efficiently:
- Behavioural competence: Accountants should use critical thinking, adaptability and curiosity for learning to respond to a rapidly changing technological environment whilst always remaining agile to embrace change in their work place.
- Digital acumen: Accountants need to ensure they are always up-to date with new emerging technologies which impact their industry. They must also gain more knowledge on how to evaluate risks and addressing security issues in the digital world, which is becoming increasingly important.
- Growing skill sets: Emerging technologies have led to a requirement for broader skill sets. Financial and management accounting capabilities will always remain important however accounts must increase their knowledge on strategy formulation and execution, financial insight, data analytics and risk management in order to adapt properly to these changes.
How can Deloitte Help?
Deloitte’s Accounting Operations Advisory team has been helping organisations in the following areas:
- Providing training to upskill both accounting skills and soft skills;
- Help in embracing technology and AI through a team of experts with digital and accounting expertise, which can assist for designing the right infrastructure, assist with the selection of appropriate technology and act as implementation partners;
- Help create a platform for management accounting and better reporting to the board to act as collateral for strategic decisions, whether through use of specialised software or excel based dashboards for small to medium size entities; and
- Help to create forward looking information to the board as opposed to historic reporting.