Published on 6th May 2019
The accountancy profession has come a long way from the times of manual bookkeeping and ledgers. However, in the age of rapid digital progression its likely that the coming years will bring an unprecedented amount of disruption to this business function. So how is accountancy likely to change, and more importantly how can you future-proof yourself?
What are the key changes impacting the future of accounting?
In the modern digital age, the main driver of change for most industries, including accounting, is the rapid and unceasing advances in technology. It is safe to say that the increasingly varied and sophisticated uses of everything from data analytics to blockchain are revolutionising the accountancy job function.
Dr.Scott Showalter, chair of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, and professor of practice in the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University explained to Accounting Today:
"The introduction of data analytics and innovative technologies, such as artificial intelligence, bots and drones, provides the opportunity for the greatest change in the accounting profession since the passage of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, no matter the discipline, whether audit, accounting, tax or advisory, all will be affected by these innovations."
The exact nature of the changes presented by new technologies is still unclear. There are strong suspicions that increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence could be used to automate many data processing aspects of qualified accountants roles. Tools that currently enhance job functions may soon be able to perform them independently, and further improve how companies collect and track data.
New technology is automating basic accounting processes.
We are also already seeing an increase in the presence of IT functions (business analysts or systems specialists) sitting within finance teams in larger companies. This could mark further integration of software tools into the financial mix.
Another significant impact on the profession is the increasing prevalence of security threats in the wake of digital storage and globalisation. Instances of cyber fraud and theft of personal information have highlighted the importance of enhanced digital security. Discussions of improved surveillance and online security are now a new normal for businesses as they seek to cater to customer demand for digital services. There is potentially a significant opportunity for the accounting profession to help assist businesses in navigating the digital landscape and providing online security.
How will this alter the accountancy skillset?
The depth and breadth of the changes on the horizon suggest that significant changes to the accounts skillset are being demanded. Currently, there is little specificity over exactly what will change, however, there are some certainties:
- Improved soft skills: As some of the more technical and traditional sides of accountancy have been made more accessible by automation, the soft skilled, non-automatable aspects have become more valued. This includes everything from commercial manager to analysts and finance business partner. Roles, where an in-depth understanding of accounting is essential but equally important, is the ability to manage and communicate these needs and processes to other business departments. Developing these soft skills will significantly increase your future value.
- Commercial management: The ability to develop and improve business processes to drive efficiency and profit is incredibly valuable to companies. It is also an area which very much complements accountancy experience. Combining a technical understanding of financial events with experience driving processes and transformation projects is an increasingly sought after skill set.
- Business partnering: Cultivating a wider understanding of the business environment, potential opportunities and strategic relationships is another area of expertise which is increasingly in demand.
- Embrace change: Finally, as the potential for dramatic change moves closer, being ready to try new approaches, adapt to new technology and seek ways to improve is an essential mindset and a skill in itself.
There is an increased demand for soft skills within finance.
How can accountants future proof their career?
Education is important throughout a career and never has it been more essential for the accounting profession. Here are some tips to keep your skill set relevant and useful in the coming years.
Grow your network
Opening yourself to new professional opportunities starts by making good connections. Getting in touch with experts in your industry and keeping up to date with relevant trends will always be important.
Seek out learning opportunities
Whether its pursuing formal qualifications or simply expanding your knowledge of processes within your own department, gathering a broad range of skills and experience gives you the flexibility to shift wherever the industry heads. As soft skills also become more in demand, taking time to work on communication and management applications will also be useful.
At Ambition, our specialised finance recruiters have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. To learn more about what employers want and potential technology shifts get in touch with our team today.