How Technology Has Shifted the Roles of Accountants
“Accounting is the language of business,” has been a long-held truth for decades, but in that same spirit, it’s important to remember that language changes over time. This couldn’t be more true for the accounting profession. Technology has steadily optimized the common roles and tasks of accountants, with some of the largest leaps in technology eliminating those tasks and leaving professionals with more time than ever.
The advancement of computing and the internet have allowed accountants to be more efficient at their roles of preparing budgets and taxes, calculating projections with fewer margins of error and expanding their means of communication. And, innovations in how people interact with data and how it fits into the business world have spawned new technologies that have eliminated some of the more mundane and routine tasks that were commonplace.
Faster access to information thanks to the web and, more specifically, intelligent organization, means that a previously common assignment in the accounting office — filing and retrieving documents — has become an antiquated process. A CPA in a small or midsize firm would typically spend several minutes a day, per document, looking for and then filing it back. This can add up. According to a 2018 study by Nintex, 49 percent of workers surveyed said they have trouble locating documents.
Even within a digital environment, it can still take time to find the exact data needed. These interfaces have been consistently improved to make searching for documents faster and more accurate.
The task of filing and retrieving files just scratches the surface of inefficiently spent time. According to a 2018 article by Centriworks, the average finance worker spends 49 percent of their time processing transactions, which is roughly half their day filling out forms and dealing with invoices.
While it’s true that mundane tasks are usually reserved for entry-level workers, the rise of automation and other tech advances in accounting really makes one question what roles novice CPAs and young professionals should have.
Moreover, wasting time on antiquated processes can lead to an increased chance of turnover, in an industry that already faces high turnover. High-skilled employees who don’t feel fulfilled in their work are more likely to actively look for better opportunities.
A Better Way
As automation tools become not only more advanced, but more accessible and intuitive to those who aren’t as experienced in information technology, those processes also become outdated. When the jobs of chasing signatures, manual data entry and certifying compliance are done with the single click of a mouse, think about how accounting professionals will better be able to spend that time.
Optical character recognition, for one, has been developed to not only translate printed text to data but make it easier for systems to conduct full-text searches for documents, bringing up more exact results in a matter of seconds.
As more companies embrace technologies that streamline and even eliminate common processes, professionals should focus on learning how to operate and cultivate new tech rather than compete with it. According to a 2018 blog on job disruption in Accounting Today, the demand for data analysts and experts in the space where technology meets accounting is higher than ever. Skills in critical thinking, creativity, communication and teamwork are also vital.
Andreas Rivera is the marketing content writer for eFileCabinet.com, a document management software comapny. He writes about B2B, Saas and how to address the pain points of business.