There is a paradigm shift in the accounting industry that is transforming the services clients expect and value: clients primarily value strategic guidance that helps them to improve their business decisions. Accounting is no longer just about compliance and record keeping—it is also about managing financial data proactively to deliver meaningful financial information that is timely and accurate. This shift is leaving many firms wondering whether to invest in technology or its people. While technology is better at managing data, accounting and finance professionals are better at delivering strategic advice. Senior-level financial executives and accounting firms need to invest in innovative solutions as well as a highly trained professional finance and accounting staff.
Investing in Technology
Without a doubt, the introduction of cloud computing is having a transformational impact on the accounting industry. While the cloud allows accounting firms to collaborate with their clients through access to the same financial systems, technology that streamlines data processes is where the transformation is taking place.
Automated workflow technology is structuring finance, accounting and its related meta data—all while eliminating tedious processes, improving efficiency, limiting risks and reducing human error. Structured accounting and finance data is an evolutionary process: when structured data accumulate into financial information, it becomes exponential and creates new and novel information that assists companies in making better business decisions. With electronic workflow processes that are configured to maintain best practices, not only can data be viewed and accessed from anywhere, tasks can also be performed from anywhere with reduced effort.
Without an electronic workflow system in place, teams are left using accounting software in a piecemeal fashion, juggling a wide range of tasks and relying on paper or email trails to support the process. Accounting technology is shifting towards automating and standardizing processes—and if firms do not adjust, there will be a steep learning curve that will leave them behind.
Technology and Talent: The Force Multiplier
The accounting industry was once fearful that technology would replace people. However, technology presents a real opportunity for accounting and finance professionals to improve their skills and add value to their clients. By standardizing and automating processes, technology empowers accounting and finance professionals to spend less time working on mundane processes and more time providing financial management services that utilize higher-level skills—including professional judgement and strategic guidance. And, that’s where talent steps in.
Since there is more demand than supply of accounting professionals—especially those with technology skills, talent acquisition is becoming a key focus of many firms. Today’s organizations need to invest in professionals that not only have a wide range of skills, including an aptitude for financial analysis and knowledge of accounting procedures, current tax laws and government regulations, but also those who are willing to stay ahead of accounting technology trends. In order to recruit and retain top talent, firms need to provide a challenging work environment with the opportunity for continuous learning and career growth.
Technology is constantly evolving and demands continual improvement. Staying ahead of accounting technology requires equipping forward-thinking professionals with the tools they need to deliver innovative solutions. That’s why accounting and finance firms at the forefront of a changing industry know that investing in technology and talent go hand in hand.
Ted Rose is the President and CEO of Rose Financial Services (RFS).