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Accountancy automation and the future of accounting talent

The majority of employees (59%) believe that they are not being provided with the kind of skills and training that they need to be successful in the future workplace according to PwC's Workforce for the Future 2018 report.

Technology has completely changed the way that some workplaces operate, removing some of the daily tasks usually reserved for human workers and handing them over to automated workflows.

Despite some headlines to the contrary, this has not replaced the human workforce but has instead changed the way they work and, as monotonous and routine tasks are taken away, changed the kind of skills this workforce needs to be successful and meet client objectives.

While this is not limited to accountancy, there is no question that the role and skills of tomorrow’s accountant will be greatly different to those in the workforce today.

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) itself has said that it is now time for employees to be given the skills they need for future careers in accounting.

Data analysis

With automated accounting technology taking much of the routine data entry tasks from accountants' day-to-day work, modern accountants now need to be much more adept at data analysis rather than entry.

Accountants are encumbered with large amounts of data on a daily basis and - given that some of this information is critical for determining the future moves of a business - accountants must become much more adept at determining the relevant information and then using tools to identify the most relevant information and present it in a usable format.

Communications

Along with being able to interpret and collate accounting information using automated technology, tomorrow's accountants must now be much more comfortable communicating this information to businesses - particularly for smaller businesses which may not understand or have the in-house expertise to understand accounting data.

Using data visualisation and dashboard tools and present information in a clear manner which businesses can act upon is going to become much more important.

Soft skills

One of the ironies of the rise of technology within professions like accountancy is that those within the sector are going to have to become more proficient with the traditional "soft skills" which were so important many years ago.

With employees now able to do much of their work "on the go" it frees up their time to actually get away from the spreadsheets and go to meet clients face-to-face.

This traditional relationship building - it could be argued - has got lost along the way in today's paper heavy, form filling centric accounting world, but as much of the form filling and even filing becomes more automated, tomorrow's accountants are going to have to become used to the old ways of client relationships again.

Technology knowledge

While automation is taking much of the mundane paperwork out of accounting, it does mean that modern accountants will have to become much more technologically savvy.

This goes beyond just being able to learn a platform inside out but accountants in the future must be much more flexible and adaptable to consistent change when it comes to technology given the rapid pace with which new systems and upgrades are introduced.

This ongoing cultivation of technology skills will be essential alongside the soft skills accountants will become much more reliant on.

Employers must act as well

All of this is not to say that the burden of new skills and technological adaptability falls squarely on the shoulders of employees.

As accountants become more accustomed with mobile working practices and using technology employers will be under more pressure to offer a more flexible and technology focused work environment.

If an employer fails to understand the importance of the shift that is taking place towards accounting software, they could find themselves on the wrong end of notices being served in favour of a more flexible and most moving competitor.

For more information about how to prepare your firm for the accountants of tomorrow download our "Winning the War for Accountancy Talent" eGuide here

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