How automation is transforming the accounting profession

By Wayne Schmidt

I recently had the pleasure of attending QuickBooks Connect (QBC) in San Jose, California. The trip provided me with the opportunity to network with accountants and bookkeepers around the world, as well as the opportunity to gain foresight into the upcoming trends of accounting in 2018. 

One of the presentations that I found most useful was Joe Woodard’s session on creating extreme profitability for the accounting profession. Joe is a leading business transformer, educating, supporting and connecting accounting professionals around the world. As such, it was a great pleasure to hear Joe’s take on the industry.

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In turn, I’m very pleased to be able to share these key insights from Joe’s presentation on using technology to automate and standardise business practices to maximise profitability.

Data automation

The automation of data entry, processing and analysis has the whole industry excited about the future and how to integrate these technologies to our advantage. We’ve already adopted source document fetching, optical document recognition (OCR) and data parsing and general ledger integration, among others.

Data automation is coming and will change the accounting industry deeply. This is not a bad thing: it’s about how we prepare for and embrace these technologies to our benefit.

Automation in the accounting industry

In the accounting industry, new automation capabilities are becoming apparent and they are changing our role as accountants for the better (as long as we respond and adjust):

  • Mobile apps and imaging devices (such as phone capture and scraped mail)
  • Integrated operational systems (warehouses, field services and point of sale)
  • Outsourced and integrated processes (vendor bills, customer invoices and payroll)
  • Financial institutions (bank feeds and credit cards to general ledger)
     

Three steps to greater efficiency

Joe also gave an indication of what he sees as the greatest steps to increasing efficiency and tackling the future head-on:

  1. Leverage new technologies to greater effectiveness and efficiency
  2. Stay ahead of the machines (interpretative, socialised and specialised services)
  3. Adapt in ways no one can predict
     

Standardisation is the key factor in leveraging new technologies. It enables efficiency, consistency of client experience, scalability, capitalisation of firm knowledge, and transition of roles and responsibilities. To enable standardisation, a number of things are required: determining your specialisation; mapping processes; automating processes; documenting processes; developing a team; training and over-manage adoption of new processes; and improving and modifying documentation.

Staying ahead of machines begins with an understanding if you are a knowledge or service worker. However, a hybrid classification is emerging due to the development of technology in the accounting space. As we are a combination of both a knowledge and service worker, accountants can now be referred to as ‘relationship workers’. We measure, interpret, analyse, coach clients and solve problems to transform small businesses.

To embrace and maximise the change that our industry is facing in the future due to data automation, we must embrace and maximise technologies, and we must move beyond our data-driven roles to a role in which we are client coaches and advisors.

By Wayne Schmidt – Practice Advisor, Karbon

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