International Accounting Day: Enhance Your Career with Finance Automation
Over the last decade, the accounting industry has completely transformed.
With International Accounting Day coming up on November 10, now is the perfect opportunity to take stock of these once-in-a-generation changes and assess how to make the most of them to help elevate your finance function and future-proof your accounting career.
Advances in technology, along with the mass adoption of AI and cloud-based tools, have resulted in unparalleled opportunities for accountants to automate and streamline everyday finance workflows.
This shift towards automation provides accurate and close to real-time data, allowing finance leaders and accountants to look forward instead of looking back at historical financial data and inputting it into the company’s overall strategy.
This is becoming even more vital in today’s post-growth at all-costs era, with individuals needing to make agile decisions to manage risks and take advantage of emerging opportunities. Finance teams must now demonstrate technological proficiency and analyze data while having first-rate communication skills.
These relatively new developments mean that many need to develop these new skills during their careers rather than during their qualification.
What Accounting Looks Like Today
The introduction of technology to finance workflows has transformed accounting from a job filled with menial and repetitive tasks into an exciting and fast-paced work environment. This helps position the finance function at the center of the business rather than being siloed from other departments.
Fast and Hygienic Data
Accountants need to leverage and master technology tools to generate an accurate and close to real-time data trail.
The days of delivering management accounts several weeks after month-end are numbered due to this not allowing for timely decision-making to safeguard and improve the prospects of businesses.
Powered by Automation
Accounting records are now commonly maintained on cloud ERP tools that automate everyday workflows, including bookkeeping, repeating journals, fixed asset movements, and inventory maintenance.
Processes can be streamlined further by integrating third-party add-ons across categories, including accounts payable, CRM, and payroll. While ERP vendors cover some functionalities of these activities, they can be sub-optimal solutions for scaling companies due to growing transaction volumes, group structures, and cross-border complexities.
Workflows are likely to be optimized even further due to the emergence of generative AI.
Skills Gap is the Biggest Pain Point
The skills gap is the most significant pain point for accountants seeking to adapt to this new way of working.
Whereas previously, practitioners could succeed by replicating manual processes accurately, accountants are now required to demonstrate proficiency in several new areas.
Accountants must be proficient in utilizing and implementing technology to improve financial processes.
As many software vendors can be implemented via a plug-and-play approach with APIs and app integrations, this doesn’t require accountants to be able to write code. Still, they need to appreciate what is and is not possible by tinkering with technology.
Clean real-time data enables accountants to focus on analysis in order to identify trends and measure KPIs to improve business performance. Commonly associated activities will likely include data cleansing, budgeting and forecasting, ratio analysis, and data visualization.
While this is a higher-value skillset, many experienced accountants are unlikely to have the complete skillset needed to perform these activities competently.
Having strong communication skills in finance and accounting is now a necessity as opposed to a nice to have.
Presenting to stakeholders, including the C suite, is a crucial competency to demonstrate and will elevate accountants into business partners, providing their input into the company’s strategy. Many finance leaders are often relegated to back-office operations and might be a little standoffish, so they are unlikely to be naturally good communicators.
How Accountants Can Succeed in the Future
Apply a Continuous Learning Mindset
Education shouldn’t begin and end with obtaining your professional qualifications.
Practitioners should be motivated to expand their knowledge and acquire new skills to identify process improvements, find more effective ways of working, and unearth ways to support their employers’ strategy, whether related to cost savings, new products, or the ROI of marketing campaigns.
New knowledge can be sought in various ways, including attending industry events, consuming educational material from software vendors, and listening to podcasts.
A mastermind group is a self-organized group of peers who provide advice and support to one another, help with problem-solving, and develop each other’s skills.
Mastermind groups are rarely advertised or promoted, so accountants should speak to like-minded peers about joining one or possibly creating one themselves. Communication in mastermind groups can take place in person or virtually through the likes of WhatsApp and Slack.
Seek Opportunities to Present
Presenting isn’t a skill you can learn but requires real-world practice and experience to master. Therefore, aspiring finance leaders should seek opportunities to present to their peers and business leaders to help build their confidence and gain experience.
The likes of annual budgets and quarterly results will likely need to be presented to the finance function and the broader company, so these are two great places to start.
A Brighter Tomorrow
While these changes can seem daunting, don’t panic. There’s never been a better time to enter or work in accounting and forge out your career path.