As accounting firms seek stability post-pandemic, many professionals are wondering what the future of accounting holds and how they can better prepare for unforeseen circumstances in the coming years.
Digital transformation has been an underlying topic of discussion in the accounting world for some time now and the recent events of this year have only served to further its importance. Although relying on a global pandemic to push advancements in your operations isn’t always the safest bet and there’s no doubt the future of accounting can be hard to predict.
However, there are solutions available now that can help safeguard your firm and make it more resilient to unexpected change. We believe the following technological solutions are defining the successful accounting firms of 2020, and will continue to do so in years to come.
A report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants states that 55% of professional accountants and C-suite executives expect the development of intelligent automated accounting systems to have the greatest impact over the next 3 to 10 years.
This is good news for accountants, who have long been bogged down by repetitive, manual tasks such as invoicing, bookkeeping and financial reporting. With intelligent automation, much of the mundane legwork is removed from the equation, giving accountants more time to focus their attention on data analysis and providing better value to clients.
If you’re frightened of losing your job to a machine, don’t be. If anything, artificial intelligence and its handling of complex data will make you more effective at your job. Stephanie Weil, CEO of Accounteam, a Silicon Valley-based accounting firm, elaborates in this Forbes article:
“Having machines to do all these tedious and repetitive tasks could sound scary for many accountants because they are also very time-consuming and thus very lucrative. However, if the AI system is well configured, it can eliminate accounting errors that are generally hard to find and thereby reduce our liability and allows us to move to a more advisory role.”
Artificial intelligence can analyse large, complex datasets with greater speed and precision than humans, leading to higher productivity, faster turnaround times and increased accuracy. Moreover, the technology can significantly lower costs by taking on tasks such as expense management, auditing and accounts payable and receivable.
By having AI conduct the administrative or data-heavy tasks instead of employees, a firm can simplify and streamline operations in service of a better customer experience that ultimately drives growth.
Stronger security safety measures
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed increased scrutiny on data protection and cybersecurity. Many accounting firms have had to adapt to remote working without much in the way of preparation. This rushed shift in operations may have exposed existing security flaws — or created new ones altogether — for firms that weren’t already using online communication tools like Zoom and Slack.
Of great concern to an industry that deals in sensitive data, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive uptick in phishing and scamming tactics as more firms are forced to do business digitally. This concern is compounded by recent findings from cybersecurity firm BullGuard:
- 43 percent of SMEs don’t have a cyber-defence plan in place
- One in five UK and US-based small companies are not using endpoint security
In an interview with Accounting Age, BullGuard CEO Paul Lipman outlines what firms should be doing to protect themselves and their clients’ sensitive data: “You should be using commercial-grade anti-malware on all of the devices you use to connect, whether it’s a device that has been issued by your firm, or if it’s a personal device that you’re using to connect. It’s ultimately the last line of defence, and it’s critical that you have that in place.”
Cloud accounting software
Cloud accounting software allows firms to store large amounts of complex data in highly secure data centers, where information is routinely backed-up to protect against unforeseen events like power outages or natural disasters.
Because the software simplifies and streamlines previously time-consuming tasks, cloud accounting is fast becoming the preferred way of doing business between clients and accountants. For clients, this means having easy access to their financial data and fewer visits to their personal accountant. For accountants, this means no longer being bogged down by laborious tasks like drafting reports and importing data by hand.
There are five primary benefits to adopting cloud accounting software:
- Financial data can be accessed remotely, from anywhere and on any device.
- Access to financial information from a central location on the internet makes it easier for staff, clients, and stakeholders to collaborate on engagements.
- As it’s stored digitally, financial data is safe from physical dangers and human error.
- Cloud software allows data to be single-sourced, meaning the information can be reused throughout the engagement.
- Accountants needn’t worry about software updates, as these are carried out automatically.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the need for digital transformation in the accounting industry. To have a place in the future of accounting, firms require an agile, proactive approach to remain successful and maintain customer confidence.
If you have any questions on how you can futureproof your firm with the latest accounting technology, or require guidance on the correct measures to implement as we adjust to the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic, get in touch with a CaseWare consultant.