With rapid advances of AI technology in recent years, there are few industries that haven’t felt the pressure of potential redundancy. From marketeers to designers, factory workers to Hollywood stars, there are some who feel very real threats to their livelihood. Could this also be true for accounting and finance, then? With accounting software becoming ever more sophisticated and, most importantly, interoperable, could your finance department actually take leave of its humans?
This is a huge buzz phrase in many organisations. Some even require specialist consultants to manage the process in the best way. Digital transformation is defined as an organisation’s process of adoption and implementation of digital technology. The aim is to increase or create value by deploying technology in a continuous way. For example through creating new or modifying existing products, services and operations. In addition, business processes themselves are evolved into a digital format. This in turn drives change and potentially rewires the structure of the organisation itself.
While some businesses may have leapt to adopt digital ways of working quicker than others, there’s no doubt that it’s a very real issue. Indeed, those businesses who have been slow or unwilling to adopt digital transformation may find themselves left behind. Finance teams are just a part of the general move to these ways of working. While such a long established part of an organisation can easily feel threatened, it’s important to understand how accounting technologies really work and how they can actually benefit financial and accounting processes.
By far, automation technologies have had the biggest impact for financial teams. While accounting packages of the past rarely talked to other systems a business may use, this is no longer the case. Therefore the need to manually input data across programmes has, in the main, ceased to be. So why are automation technologies a positive within a finance department?
Fundamentally, there are a significant number of hours saved by not having to manually transfer data across systems. With this task removed, financial teams can work more efficiently and proactively.
For many people, the automation of data transfer and processing has meant that their roles are actually more satisfying. This is because finance teams have become more integrated and engaged with the business.
We’re not saying that anyone is lacking in attention to detail! However, automated accounting systems are able to very quickly and accurately process data, remove duplicate records, and identify any missing data or data discrepancy.
The days of paper finance systems weren’t actually that long ago. These systems were clunky and insecure, and early technologies were susceptible to security failures. The current generation of accounting software allows finance teams to work in the knowledge that data and communication is secure.
Similarly, filing systems of old would take a huge chunk of time to search should you want to access a file or specific piece of information. Digital systems now enable search and retrieval with just a few clicks. As packages now have the capability for integration, the business and its finances are more closely linked. This allows data to be accessed and used more strategically.
So, for more mundane tasks that can be automated, accounting software is clearly helpful rather than threatening. The key for candidates moving forward is to understand and work with this technology.
By learning to optimise up to date accounting packages, financial professionals can become less focussed on reporting the past and more focussed on modelling and forecasting the future. This means that financial management roles of many organisations undergoing digital transformation have evolved.
Specifically, the role of higher level finance professionals requires strategic thought rather than simply balancing the books. This means that, by harnessing the technologies available, finance teams play an integral role in creating an agile organisation.
As the digital transformation of business progresses, it’s really important for players in the industry to fully understand the capabilities of accounting technology. This will be a key skill in career progression for finance professionals.
While software packages can be tailored to fit an organisation, it’s important to remember that accountancy and finance exists across industries. From entertainment to manufacturing, services to charities, financial management has a role to play. While many principles remain constant, specific industry experience and knowledge is something that only human workers can provide.
Different industries are subject to different regulations that impact accounting processes. Truly understanding and complying with these regulations is a very human skill. This is because there can be nuances that an algorithm simply can’t balance.
It takes an understanding of the language of finance to comprehend the data, reporting and forecasting that accounting software generates. This then needs to be communicated to others in the business. Clearly this is an integral part of the finance team’s role. This is why it’s so important to find the right fit between a professional and a job spec. Different industries need different personality types who can liaise between finance and the business in the most effective way.
An interesting way that AI in accounting software will affect personnel is through the standard career path. Where in days gone by, accountants would begin their career in a mundane and often repetitive role, this no longer needs to be the case. Far from making roles redundant, technology is actually making roles more interesting.
Well implemented accounting automation should remove the mundane and frustrating parts of a role, leaving room for growth, management accounting, and strategy. This means that all levels of finance professional can expect a more varied and exciting range of job roles available.
Future Finance Roles
In order to make the most of the more interactive finance roles on the job market, accountants should take the time and opportunity to learn and use digital tools. This paves the way for them to become expert in current technology as well as expert in an accounting skill set.
While on the surface, its focus on numbers and data makes it appear that finance and accounting is ripe for being replaced by software, this is not the case. When utilised well, accounting software is a tool that enables finance professionals at all levels to become more strategic and central to the core of the business.