Technological trends have changed how professionals conduct business and will continue to shape the future of every industry, including accounting. Businesses measure success in numbers, which is why accountants are in such high demand.
However, if you choose to pursue an accounting degree and advance on this career path, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest technologies that can make your professional life easier — and make you a better accountant. Being adaptable, future-focused, and comfortable with accountant technology can help you stand out in this highly competitive field.
Accounting technology trends to keep up with
Whether you’re just starting out on the path to becoming an accountant or have been a CPA for decades, you may not have been thinking deeply about the accounting technologies you use. If the accounting software you rely on isn’t current with changing times, you could find yourself and your company behind the curve within a few short years.
Today, clients expect their accountants to offer automated services, and accounting professionals of all specializations are struggling to meet those demands. This expectation isn’t just coming from clientele, either. According to the software solutions provider FinancesOnline, a survey conducted by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants indicated over 50% of C-level executives in the accounting industry anticipate the development of automated accounting systems.
If you’re considering or already pursuing a degree in accounting, technology will be central to your experience. That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of emerging trends. Here are a few of the most important accountant technologies we suggest you be familiar with.
There has been a noticeable shift in cloud computing technology recently that makes it one of the most essential areas for you to watch as an accountant.
According to the IT advisory firm Gartner, worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to grow from $275.5 billion in 2010 to more than $304.9 billion in 2021 — a growth rate of 18.4%.
Many professionals have undoubtedly heard the buzzword “cloud,” but what exactly is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the storage and accessibility of data online rather than on a hard drive. Accessing programs via the cloud gives a free flow of information, no matter where you are or which device you’re using. The cloud also gives clients and colleagues the ability to access certain data, making it easier to collaborate and exchange information.
Cloud computing is already a big deal in accounting, and you can further establish yourself as a forward-thinking leader in the field by brushing up on your knowledge of the popular accounting software options available only in the cloud. These include QuickBooks Online, Kashoo, Xero, and FreshBooks.
Cloud-based accountant technology programs require a subscription agreement to store and access data, as well as to utilize the provided tools and software, such as those for purchase orders, expense claims, payroll, asset management, and even multi-currency accounting.
Given the wide variety of cloud-based accounting options, it’s easy to find the right subscription to meet your changing needs as an accounting professional.
Blockchain technology is poised to change the accounting game — and it can help you stand out if you know how to use it.
In simple terms, blockchain is the distribution and decentralization of database technology. It can protect encrypted data and maintain an expanding list of transactions among all parties involved. Especially in the financial sector, blockchain technology has the potential to transform entire industries.
Accounting is currently based on a double-entry bookkeeping system in which the accountant and independent auditor input and verify a company’s financial information. With blockchain technology, there’s no longer a need for this kind of redundancy, since the data are verified without another party. It’s a complete, automated digital audit of each individual transaction.
It’s widely understood that when multiple parties are involved in a transaction, they tend to keep their own records. This process is inefficient and time-consuming, and there are often issues with reconciling differences between records.
Blockchain uses modern encryption methods to allow companies to use a common data retention infrastructure. That means it allows both sides of a transaction to be recorded at the same time in a shared ledger, even as each accountant, auditor, and the company maintains a privately managed database.
Automated accounting technology
The business landscape is quickly approaching the no-coding era of accounting, which means there will be virtually zero data entry required in the industry. Automated technology has always presented the double-edged sword of convenience against the replacement of humans with technology.
But are accountants’ careers truly threatened, or do they have the potential to become more lucrative than ever?
As industries move away from time-based billing, your knowledge and experience will be your most valuable commodities. Virtual controllers of automated accounting technologies will be in high demand, so even if you have to redefine your role as an accountant, being a high-value virtual controller can help sustain your career path.
Those in the accounting field argue that automated technology will make accountants’ lives more efficient, cutting down the time spent on manual entry and reducing human error. This efficiency can provide accountants additional time to optimize their involvement in a company’s economic strategies. This could translate to higher profitability.
Cloud-based accounting systems such as QuickBooks are considered automated accounting programs, but they represent only the tip of the iceberg. With automated accounting, professionals will be able to utilize the latest technologies that highlight anomalies or patterns without manual data input.
Optical character recognition
In 2016, optical character recognition (OCR) hit the ground running in tax software, making accountants’ lives easier.
OCR applications scan printed and handwritten documents and convert them into machine-readable text. When they can scan a handwritten note (or photograph of a note) and create an electronic document, professionals can quickly share information with colleagues and clients.
The integration of OCR with accounting software allows accountants to perform a simple digital search to find the information they need. They can also digitally copy or edit information as required. The best part is that OCR allows accountants to cut hours of work from such tasks as itemizing receipts, organizing invoices, tracking expenses, and eliminating paper clutter.
Becoming well-versed in OCR, among other growing trends, can make you a highly valuable employee for even the largest accounting firms.
Fortunately, OCR is finding a home in automated, cloud-based applications, including Yooz and Neat. When combined, these trends in accountant technology have transformed the accounting profession of just a few years ago.
AI and machine learning in accounting
While the terms artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning may bring to mind the well-worn science fiction trope of machines supplanting humans, the truth is, these tech-driven innovations can be helpful to accountants, making their jobs more effective and efficient.
Artificial intelligence in accounting
AI can be a game-changer for companies, with Forbes reporting that its use may improve productivity by 40%.
In the field of accounting, AI can conduct repetitive, rudimentary tasks that could otherwise dominate an accountant’s schedule, including auditing, payroll, uploading files, and sorting through large swaths of data.
With these tasks covered, accountants are freed to focus on the job’s more human-directed tasks, such as analyzing and interpreting data once it’s been gathered, and building more effective, efficient recommendations for corporate growth and stability.
Machine learning in accounting
As any accountant can attest, the smallest mistake can cause the biggest problems. Using machine learning tools within an accounting technology strategy can substantially reduce the likelihood of these frustrating, time-consuming issues.
Machine learning tools can develop algorithms that recognize patterns in various math-based accounting tasks, such as invoices or transactions. Once these algorithms are developed and fortified, any miscalculation that causes deviation from the established pattern can be caught before an accountant’s calculations move beyond the problem.
This ability to catch issues sooner than later can have an impressive ripple effect on accounting. Not only does it lead to more accurate reporting, it also spares accountants from pouring time and energy into identifying minor issues during audits. Again, this could save time, which could enable accountants to increase their focus on less mundane tasks.
Explore accounting technology careers
If you are an aspiring accountant interested in learning about emerging accountant technology trends, now is a great time to begin.
Developing a strong understanding of cloud computing, blockchain systems, automation software, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other related technologies can boost your professional value in today’s industry and help you land the clients for a successful career.