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Man vs. Machine: Automation can help accountants thrive

Posted 5 years ago in Advisors by Gary Turner
Posted by Gary Turner

In the State of Accounts report released today, we revealed that 83% of accountants believe understanding technology is just as important to their job as understanding accountancy.

This finding marks a big shift in the way accountants have worked over the past 50 years. Since the earliest accounting technologies, that were first adopted for simple tasks, to today’s sophisticated cloud based technologies that are able to provide an increasingly vital  management canvass for every business.This has freed up valuable time for accountants, who are starting to diversify their service offering and adapt to the changing face of the industry.

We know it’s happening, but just how quickly are accountants adapting to their new roles? Well, according to our research, 71% consider that within 5 years knowledge of automation in the financial sector will be crucial to their success. This suggests that by 2020, automation will be commonplace in accounting, and a significant number of finance professionals will be using the next level of analytical tools to help them add value to business models across the globe.

Given the speed of this change, it’s crucial accountants (and to some extent small business owners) undertake worthwhile training now to help them get ahead. Our research suggests that under half (48%) of accounting professionals are taking internal courses, and just a quarter (26%) external courses, to ensure they are proficient with new tech including business intelligence (BI) tools.

The idea of using complex BI tools can be daunting, but having an idea of how to harness data – especially in a financial context – can revolutionise how a business operates. In fact, a large proportion of UK accountants believe skills risk analysis (43%) and management consultancy (27%) will be required to thrive in the industry beyond 2025 as tech forces change.

Over the next decade, smart accountants looking to expand their service offerings will do well to pay attention to business analytics companies that are growing their data warehousing capabilities. Businesses dealing with large amounts of data will keep investing in BI suites to support their needs, making this an area of technical consultancy that accountants with the right skills can capitalise on. Extracting data to establish KPIs and analyse business streams is a competitive, but ultimately very lucrative market, one that every accountant with time on their hands would benefit from monitoring.

Learn what UK accountants and small business owners think of recent technological changes and the future of accounting in our State of Accounts report.


Jordan Zoot
November 12, 2016 at 3.05 pm

After thirty five years as a professional accountant [CPA in the United States] which is the same as ACA, FCA or CTA in the Commonwealth Countries with highly advanced credentials in technology -AICPA – CITP and ISACA CGEIT and CISM – I call “BULLSHIT” on this article. The profession of accountancy which in the United States requires a 150 hours of university level education [Master’s Degree] and a four part rigorous examination requires specific skills in accountancy, taxation and auditing. The technology skills are a requisite to entry to the profession. A spurious claim about the importance of technology is akin to suggesting that having the ability to read and write, or perform basic arithmetic is as critical to being a “professional accountant” as accounting skills.

The requisite skills with technology are part of the foundation that an individual is EXPECTED to have before they enter the profession like reading, writing and arithmetic. If you don’t have those you don’ succeed in the profession. Let’s not glorify something that is a requisite….if a person lack any of the above they don’t succeed. PLEASE DON’T DUMB DOWN PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANCY MERELY TO BE INCLUSIVE OF BOOKKEEPERS AND GENERIC NON-CERTIFIED ACCOUNTANTS.

Gary Turner in reply to Jordan Zoot
November 12, 2016 at 9.35 pm

Hey, love the passion but please don’t shoot the messenger. We surveyed 1,000 accountants and 1,000 small businesses and we’re simply reporting the findings.

We love accountants.

Bob Harper
November 14, 2016 at 7.50 am

Jordon – have you done much research about Artificial Intelligence? Have you read The Future of the Professions?

Nick Longden
November 16, 2016 at 10.17 pm

A very insightful report and article Gary – thanks for sharing.

I really don’t believe the accountancy profession should be scared by what the future holds as its a massive opportunity for everyone, its about adapting your skills and your relationship with your clients. Surely there is more satisfaction to be gained knowing that you have given your client great advice that has enabled them to grow their business rather than spending valuable time crunching the numbers and producing a P&L.

Accessing data, interpreting it and telling a valuable story back to your clients to help them improve their business performance is not only rewarding but also hugely powerful – and most clients will be happy to pay for it!

Jaine Wills
November 29, 2016 at 2.38 am

Hi Nick
Can I use your last sentence in a newsletter to our staff re cloud accounting, please?
Thanks 🙂

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