In-demand technology skills: use, monitoring and control
A survey at the end of last year showed that a whopping 78% of small business owners would consider changing their accountant to one who is using the latest technology.
Canopy, a cloud-based practice management software provider, polled over 1,000 small businesses and found that 63% said their current accountant doesn’t offer an online portal, while 70% said they would be interested in switching to an accountant who allows them to take photos of their documents for sharing. But this is the tip of the iceberg.
Advances in technology are taking accountancy to new levels. Everyone, from students to seasoned finance professionals, need to understand the impact of developing and emerging technologies in accountancy and, as importantly, understand how they will affect their roles and responsibilities.
As Jim Hinchliffe, ACCA commercial manager for Kaplan Financial, says: ‘The fourth industrial revolution has started, and blockchain, robotics and AI are here now.’
What’s more, technology use, monitoring and control is one of the competences highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report as skills that employees need to have to make them as employable as possible.
Without doubt, the accountant of the future will need to be technologically savvy to evolve with a dynamic industry. As intelligent technologies progress and more, companies move their information to cloud-based systems, accountants need to become skilled in capitalising on the cloud to offer clients real-time, up-to-date financial analysis and to stay competitive. Accounting professionals who wish to use blockchain will need to be familiar with relevant software programs, as well as how to set up information transfer for ledgers, contracts and records.
With AI due to become a fundamental aspect of accountancy, it’s crucial to prepare for the future of accounting by developing the necessary skills to perform the administrative, managerial and analytical tasks that computers cannot. Additionally, many accountants may take on an advisory role with clients, which means they’ll need to be proficient at analysing big data to recognise patterns and trends. Familiarity with data mining and other data science techniques will be crucial.
Relatedly, accounting professionals will also need to understand how to use and translate data into meaningful insights for clients and boards. Accounting professionals with these skills can use predictive analytics and forecasting to strategically advise clients or organisations. As automation frees up time previously spent on more mundane tasks, accounting professionals can focus on these higher-level analytical skills.
Security, confidentiality and client protection have always been cornerstones of an accountant’s job and technological advances – while undoubtedly useful – also present some fresh challenges.
‘As more businesses move their services to the cloud and the tech in use develops and becomes more complicated, technology use, monitoring and control skills are becoming more important,’ says Phil Boden, director of permanent placement services, Robert Half UK.
‘Being able to monitor infrastructure and identify and fix malfunctions, disruptions and other issues is crucial for businesses to be able to keep data secure, respond to threats and continue to provide a quality service to consumers. Without monitoring and control, businesses can find themselves in crisis, with reputation and customer loyalty and consequently revenues at risk.’
‘These technologies are still tools that need to be part of the control ecosystem,’ warns Hinchliffe, ‘[and] in fact the more intuitive and autonomous these technologies are, the more control required.’
This article was first published in Student Accountant in June 2022