Nobody knows exactly what the future of accounting will hold, but one thing is certain — technology will be involved. This era of innovation, collectively referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, means improved efficiencies, potential cost savings and new opportunities for companies and employees alike.
By eliminating task-based work, technology such as AI and the Internet of Things will give your team of accounting professionals the chance to take on fresh responsibilities, advancing even further their increasingly valued roles as advisers and analysts.
Success for accounting functions during this transformation requires proactive leadership. As Robert Half Technology Executive Director Jeff Weber says, “Don’t just dip your toe in the water if you want to bring about digital change in your organization. Likewise, don’t jump in haphazardly. You must be thoughtful and focused in your approach. Otherwise, the change will fail, or it simply won’t happen.”
Here are five ways to prepare your team for the future of accounting, where failing is not an option.
1. Transition to the cloud
Cloud technology — a broad term that describes a range of online-based software and services, eliminating the need for in-house servers and locally installed systems — provides finance and accounting professionals with several benefits. One is easier sharing of information, allowing critical files and data to be passed between colleagues in different locations, if necessary. They enhance collaboration through a continuous, mobile-ready connection that automatically syncs data whenever there’s an internet connection. In addition, cloud financial solutions can provide more security benefits than traditional in-house systems.
According to Robert Half’s latest Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Functions report, 75 percent of accounting and finance leaders polled in the United States said they were either already using cloud-based solutions or planned to do so in the near future. Consider joining their ranks by using the cloud for needs such as file sharing, data storage and invoice processing. A key side benefit is that it frees up your staff for more critical tasks.
2. Consider various types of technology
Explore opportunities to use machine learning and automation, which can take over repetitive functions, like data entry. Another innovation to consider is blockchain, which is essentially a shared and fixed digital ledger. Originally created for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain technology has evolved significantly and, according to a Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey, will increase the need for specialized accounting in the years ahead and also push financial professionals to expand their skill sets.
3. Diversify for the future of accounting
Finance jobs today encapsulate everything from expense control and reporting to cybersecurity risk management. That means the accounting team of the future will require individuals with a diverse set of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds.
Finance professionals will not only need a digital mindset to be able to use emerging technologies but should also be critical thinkers and problem solvers if they are to meet changing demands and client needs. They’ll also need interpersonal skills, like empathy and customer relations, which are human traits that can’t be automated. The best hires will be able to help improve the grasp of technologies of others on your team.
4. Encourage professional development
Forty-five percent of U.S. managers polled for Robert Half’s new report, Jobs and AI Anxiety, said they believe their employees are very eager to learn about new technologies. Take advantage of this willingness by helping your team develop their skills and become data- and tech-savvy business advisors.
Start by providing on-the-job time and assistance in learning unfamiliar systems and applications. Give them access to professional development opportunities, such as seminars, workshops and job shadowing. You might also bringing in financial consultants who specialize in accounting technology training.
5. Listen to your clients
Data is king today as businesses employ systems that are squeezing more and more out of it. Use data-driven insights and analysis to gauge your clients’ changing needs and expectations, and make sure your staff is ready and able to accommodate them. Clients are coming to expect more complex types of financial support, so by anticipating and planning for their needs, you’ll be able to give them services they’ll appreciate.