It is often said that accounting is the ‘language of business’, and like any language it evolves over time. The role of the accountant has gone from physically counting coins as they were paid and put into the bank to a much more theoretical and abstract role. However, all through the centuries, the work of the accountant has been backed up by technology. From the abacus to the calculator, then the computer and now the huge selection of accounting software, technology has always been there to assist accountants.
However, the technological evolution of the last few decades has given accountants access to a much greater degree of statistical analysis and values. It has enabled accountants to interpret data in a clearer and more efficient way.
However, this has not been without its issues and major questions. One of which is how best to train the next generation of accountants. It’s safe to say that an accountancy training course in 2018 is very different from one developed in 1958, and even more removed from one in 1898. Although the basic principles of money and finance remain the same, new recruits to the profession also need a firm grounding in the technology that has and is revolutionising the industry.
One of the key ways that accounting has changed is that many of the entry level jobs that once formed the basis of an accountancy apprenticeship are now carried out automatically. Tallying accounts ledgers and books can now be carried out in real time by a range of complex software. The role of the accountant now lies more in being able to interpret this data and make value judgements based upon it. But without the training and experience gathered from carrying out this entry level positions, how can we be sure that new accountants have the skills to be able to take on the more judgement-based roles?
As such, training has become more focused on learning through experience. Accountants now need to develop a deep understanding of how the system works. It is not enough to just trust the automated accounting programmes many businesses use, as accountants need to be able to spot when something is not right. This means they will need deeper technical skills than ever before, and earlier in their career. These skills won’t always be taught in the workplace as before, so students will need to be taught them in a training environment. As a result, accountancy qualifications are being directly affected by the developments in technology.
It’s also true that by having the menial tasks of accounting taken up by technology, it leaves modern accountants free to play more strategic roles. The fact that more accountants are required to carry out high value roles at a superior level is good for the business. Accountants are increasingly becoming strategic business advisors rather than just number crunchers. More and more large firms have been taking on new recruits who possess a broader range of skills.
With specialised accounting software, technology has dramatically improved accuracy and reduced the margin of error. Most businesses use special software that provides simplified data entry and accurate financial. This reduces errors that lead to tax penalties and results in more financially stability.
With the introduction of special software, the need for basic accounting training has evolved. Accountants with access to the right systems can perform tax services, analysis and forecast modelling, even without years of core training. However, they need IT skills in order to be able to function at this level.
Professional accountants need to be knowledgeable in accounting practices and skilled communicators. They also need be able to integrate these skills with IT programmes.
Technology always advances and prospective accountants need to keep up with this.
Adapt or face obsolescence
The Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, ACCA, is one of the leading global bodies in the accounting industry. They have more than 200,000 members worldwide as well as half a million students currently working to build the accountancy profession. Their members are among the most qualified in the industry and work in every sector you could imagine.
In May 2018, ACCA published an article on their site titled ‘Adapt to new technology or face obsolescence’. In it they detailed how accountants and other finance professionals needed to adapt to new technologies or run the risk of becoming obsolete. They talked about how the industry had changed from using 10-key calculators with 200-foot long adding machine tape to what it resembles today. They described how today the spreadsheet is being replaced by automated processes, AI and software.
In addition, they discussed the emergence of Blockchain technology and how distributed ledgers may be a big part of the financial industry in the future. Asking questions about where the accounting profession is heading is essential to understanding what students and trainees need to learn and informs the governing body about what kinds of qualifications students will need in the future to succeed in the industry.
In conclusion, the article’s author, Cesar Bacani, editor of CFO Innovation, wrote: ‘Some versions of these questions were probably asked when spreadsheets and computers took over from the adding machines and handwritten ledgers. But just as finance professionals moved on then, so should they evolve as well today. The alternative is to become irrelevant and obsolete.’
Here at Together Accounting, all our employees are not only fully trained accountants but have the skills and knowledge in all associated areas that modern accountants require. That’s how we’re able to deliver a superior-quality service to all our clients. Using all the latest technology, we can offer professional accounting services with up-to-the-minute reporting, accuracy and data analysis. And we’re always striving to meet the needs of the future of the profession and keep our finger on the pulse to ensure we’re at the forefront of what we do. That’s how we speak the ‘language of business’.