Technology Has Changed the Accounting Industry, and We Need to Change with ItAugust 23, 2018
Joseph A. Kask, CPA
Chief Executive Officer
Rapidly moving technology, and the way we use it, has dramatically changed the world of accounting, so much so that the model we once knew is all but gone. And like so many other 21st century industries, adapting to these advancements is not a choice, but a necessity.
To begin with, let’s turn the clock back a generation and return to the late 1980s, a time when the economy was still booming and the number of newly minted accountants joining the workforce continued to rise. In those days accountants drove a desk, with the goal of producing as many hours as possible. That was the game. Manual preparation and countless hours of familiarization with codes and standards dictated success, because the world to us was so much smaller then.
That all changed with the technology revolution that began in the 1990s. As the economy declined starting in 2008—technology soared, and the shrinking population of potential clients created a buyer’s market in the accounting world, with people looking to hire those who could do the job fastest, cheapest and most efficiently.
In short, there is no widening of the marketplace in the region for accounting services, so reliance on new technology and all of its advantages—the access to big data and
implementation of data analytics—is proving to be the difference maker when it comes to who succeeds. With the advent of this huge computing capability, the application of this technology in the accounting practice has reduced the need for human interaction—a portion of this work, once done by the accountants themselves, can now be done with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human-machine interaction.
What this does is place a premium on new skill sets such as an understanding of big data, a knowledge of data analytics and razor sharp communication skills (both written and verbal), which are essential in the modern accountant’s toolkit. This is where schools that are now preparing the next generation of accounting professionals need to be focusing with their students, to ensure that they enter the workforce with capabilities that match modern technological needs.
In the past, accountants never had the ability to effectively look at an entire population of transactions to determine trends and make recommendations based on them; it simply took too long in the pre-technology era, and they instead had to rely on samples of data. But now, with the availability of data analytics and AI whole populations of data can be reviewed allowing them to complete their analysis and offer solutions in a fraction of the time.
On the business side, this new paradigm for accounting services opens the door to relationships based on the rapid sharing of information; this means a real-time window into client data and the development of innovative solutions to business challenges.
As for the consumer, the technological revolution means the most important thing of all—affordability. The application of newer and better technologies will drive down the cost of services, thanks to greater computing power and the ultra-quick ability to analyze large amounts of data and apply the results in real time.
Bill Gates once said, “The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don't really even notice it, so it's part of everyday life.” This is what is happening to the world of accounting today. These changes are coming at lightning speed, and the ones who adapt to them the most seamlessly are the ones poised for success. The embrace and adaptation of technology is not meant to complement an accounting firm’s culture, it has to become the firm’s culture.
If this hasn’t yet happened, it needs to start right now. Does a firm have a Chief Innovation Officer managing a hub where the technology can best be applied? Has the firm embraced big data as the game-changer it clearly is? Is the workforce one that can analyze and apply this technology as efficiently and effectively for the benefit of the client? The answer to these questions needs to be yes; if it is, accounting firms are ready not only for this generation of technological advancement, but for the next one as well.
Joseph A. Kask, CPA, is the CEO of BlumShapiro, the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The firm, with a team of over 500, offers a diversity of services which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. Blum serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies. To learn more visit us at blumshapiro.com.