The accounting industry is rapidly evolving with the rise of technology. For example, “automation, minibots, machine learning, and adaptive intelligence are becoming part of the finance team at lightning speed” at consulting firm Accenture, as noted in Forbes.
Intelligent technology may seem new, but many companies are already using basic automated accounting processes. Accounting tasks and processes that machines can do or streamline, according to Forbes, include supplier onboarding, accounts payable, audits, procurement, purchasing, expense management, close processing, and customer queries.
Intelligent technology is shaping the future of accounting by impacting the types of jobs that will become available. As advanced systems handle repetitive work, humans will deal with more of the analysis, becoming the crucial link between data and clients. Technology will continue to impact the role of the accountant and the demand for accountants in the future.
To gain a more complete understanding of new integrated accounting technologies and advanced analysis techniques, individuals may want to earn an online master’s in accounting degree, which can help students develop skills in areas such as managerial accounting, data analytics, and advanced financial reporting.
Emerging Accounting Technologies
Advances in technology are taking accounting to new levels. Whether you’re a seasoned accounting professional looking to stay on the cutting edge of the industry or an aspiring newcomer, you’ll want to understand the following technologies that are emerging in the accounting profession.
A significant technology trend is working in the cloud. The cloud allows instant access to resources, such as data and computing capabilities. An important advantage of a cloud-based system is the continual updating of information, which allows accountants and clients to analyze data and make decisions based on cutting-edge information. Additionally, according to the Journal of Accountancy, cloud-based technology can also ensure “constant monitoring, rather than intermittent analysis,” whenever information on the system is updated.
Cloud computing is experiencing rapid growth as new intelligent technologies — such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning — are integrated into the cloud, according to Forbes. As these technologies become more commonplace, the future of accounting is looking decidedly cloud-based.
Automated Accounting Tasks
Labor and time-intensive facets of accounting — such as audits, tax preparation, banking, and payroll — are quickly becoming fully automated. As the application of AI to create self-learning systems continues to be integrated into accounting tasks, technological systems will take on the repetitive and time-consuming jobs, leaving the analytical and managerial tasks to humans. For example, major software vendors, such as Intuit, Sage, OneUp, and Xero, offer automated data entry and reconciliation options using AI and machine learning technologies in company bookkeeping, according to Forbes.
Another example is the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to reduce processing times for audits and contracts down to weeks instead of months, according to the CPA Journal. As Forbes explains, larger firms using RPA AI integration have “increased efficiency and higher-level services,” compared with smaller, non-AI competitors.
Another trend impacting the demand for accountants in the future is blockchain technology, a computer-based recording system that uses cryptocurrency within a user-to-user network. While blockchain may have gained popularity due to bitcoin — a digital currency in which a record of transactions is maintained and new units of currency are generated independent of a bank — the technology has progressed substantially. The attractiveness of blockchain for accounting lies in “the possibility of a new type of accounting ledger — one that can be continuously updated and verified without the threat of being altered or corrupted,” Accounting Today explains.
Because blockchain enables users to access ledgers in real time, as well as create smart contracts and record transactions, it’s no surprise the system is catching the notice of accountants. In fact, many accounting firms already implement blockchain, including the Big Four — EY, PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG — according to Accounting Today.
Required Skills for Future Accounting Professionals
Undoubtedly, the accountant of the future will need to be technologically savvy to evolve with the changing industry. As intelligent technologies progress and more companies move their information to cloud-based systems, accountants need to become proficient in leveraging the cloud to offer clients up-to-date financial analysis and to stay competitive. Accounting professionals who wish to use blockchain will need to be familiar with relevant software programs, as well as how to set up information transfer for ledgers, contracts, and records.
With automation due to become a major aspect of accountancy, it’s crucial to prepare for the future of accounting by developing the necessary skills to perform the administrative, managerial, and analytical tasks that technology can’t do. Additionally, many accountants may take on an advisory role with clients, which means they’ll need to be skilled at analyzing big data to spot patterns and trends. Familiarity with data mining and other data science techniques will be key here.
Relatedly, accounting professionals will also need to understand how to use data visualization strategies and programs to translate all that data into insights for clients and company leaders. Accounting professionals with these skills can use predictive analytics and forecasting to strategically advise clients or organizations. As automation frees up time previously spent on more mundane tasks, accounting professionals can focus on these higher-level analytical skills.
Demand for Accountants in the Future
The outlook for accounting professionals is often tied to the economic health of the country, with improvements in the economy generally resulting in the need for more accountants, auditors, and other professionals to manage financial records. Globalization and increased regulations will also impact the demand for accountants in the future.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for accountants and auditors are projected to grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, which is on par with the projected average for all occupations. U.S. News & World Report ranks accountant No. 13 in its list of Best Business Jobs for 2021, citing its favorable salary and strong job security, among other issues.
Despite many accounting tasks being automated, accounting professionals will never be replaced by technology according to Accounting Today. As the industry publication notes, “technology simply cannot — and will never be able to — solve on its own” the client problems addressed by accountants. In fact, accountants in the future will have the opportunity to develop more advanced skills so that they can increasingly serve as business consultants and strategic partners as opposed to simply financial experts.
Discover Your Future in Accounting
Accounting is undeniably changing, largely because of intelligent technology, including machine learning, AI, and blockchain. As Accounting Today notes, “as with any evolution, whether Darwinian or technological, those who aren’t willing to adapt risk being left behind.”
Future accounting jobs will require dedicated professionals who are ready to evolve alongside the industry. Don’t let yourself be left behind — learn more about how you can gain the skills that can bring your career to the next level by enrolling in an online business degree program — such as Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Accounting — today.