From artificial intelligence to robotic process automation to blockchain, technology has seen a greater shift in the last decade than ever before. Big data has trickled its way into nearly every industry in the world and its impact has been profound. Sure, those facets of technology may seem irrelevant to accounting, but they are actually shaping and disrupting (in a good way) the accounting profession as a whole.
Accountants looking to remain competitive, and successful, in the future must take these industry shifts seriously, as data holds the key to effectively serving clients today and, more notably, tomorrow. CPAs are tasked with highlighting business insights based upon their expertise and experience. The ability to gather, organize, and then dig into data (in real time) means utilizing technology strategically.
Today, we take a deeper look into how technology and data are transforming accounting and thus setting the tone for the future of the industry.
Merging Technology and Accounting
As notoriously slow adopters, accounting firms have been slow to jump on the technology bandwagon. Even those who have recognized and acted on the incorporation of new technology are likely at the beginning of their tech journey. So how can auditors benefit from and properly use technology? What are the most significant trends to pay attention to? Where should accounting firms focus their attention in a space that seems overcrowded with options?
It’s easy to get lost in the enormity of the digital landscape, especially for CPAs who simply aren’t used to relying on technology for building their businesses. However, machine learning and artificial intelligence are greatly enhancing the ability for CPAs to serve their clients. From cutting costs to improving forecasts to increasing overall efficiencies, tech savvy accounting firms are quickly pulling away from their competitors.
The following are some of the most significant ways in which technology is impacting and improving the accounting industry:
- Collaboration and consolidation are becoming inevitable. Within the decade, the introduction of blockchain will weed out some of the smaller accounting firms and create some interesting collaborations throughout the industry. Those lacking technology capabilities will likely team up with accountants who are doing it right.
- Cloud computing will be the industry standard. Previously slow to gain traction due to security issues, cloud-based accounting platforms are now secure, robust, and necessary to power the influx of data coming in.
- Automation will continue to grow, but will not fully replace certain aspects of decision making. When it comes to things like accuracy, automation and auditing go together seamlessly. However, accountants will still be tasked with thinking through things like big financial decisions that require strategic thinking.
- Data analytic software expertise will become more and more important. While it is unrealistic that a person with expertise in all of the accounting rules will also be an expert in data, the reality is that staff will increasingly need to know a bit of both. CPAs will be required to maintain a baseline level of technology understanding in order to have educated conversation with data specialists.
- Auditing will continually become more and more driven by data. Combining artificial intelligence and data analytics, auditors will be forced to approach historical financial statements in a more advanced way.
Data used to be entered as a means to adhere to tax and compliance requirements. But as technology continues to advance and infiltrate the accounting industry, data is being used to gain valuable insight today and in the future. As such, CPAs will be leaned upon to not only provide the services they have always offered in the past, but will also be looked to for strategy based on the picture that the data paints.
Gone are the days where auditors analyze data and then neglect to share these findings with their clientele. Technology is forcing auditors to collaborate with their clients and share critical findings that can truly transform a business. To remain competitive and successful, accounting firms must not only keep up with technology demands from their clients, but become proactive in learning the coming trends. In doing so, accountants will keep their clients happy and impressed, and, most notably, properly educated about their own business.