Accounting’s future is bright, with a projected 10% increase in accountant and auditor employment between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not only does the future of the accounting profession look promising, but the industry is also rapidly evolving with the rise of technology. For example, “automation, minibots, machine learning, and adaptive intelligence are becoming part of the finance team at lightning speed” at consulting firm Accenture, as noted in Forbes.
Intelligent technology may seem new, but many companies are already using basic automated accounting processes. Here are just a few of the accounting tasks and processes that machines can do or streamline, according to Forbes: supplier onboarding, accounts payable, audits, procurement, purchasing, expense management, close processing, and customer queries. Intelligent technology is shaping the future of accounting by impacting the types of jobs that will become available. As advanced systems handle much of the repetitive work, humans will deal with more of the analysis, becoming the crucial link between data and clients.
To gain a more complete understanding of the new integrated accounting technology and learn advanced analysis techniques in preparation for client recommendations, additional education may be critical. For example, earning an online master’s in accounting can give you opportunities to learn many of the skills necessary for success, such as managerial accounting, data analytics, and advanced financial reporting. Advanced coursework in the online master’s in accounting program covers cloud-based work, automation, and blockchain. These trends are important to study, as they are changing the technological landscape and will likely have long-lasting impacts on the accounting industry.
Advances in technology are taking accounting to new levels. Whether you are a seasoned accounting professional looking to stay on the cutting edge of the industry or an aspiring newcomer, you’ll want to get to know the following major technology trends.
A significant technology trend is working in the cloud. The cloud allows instant access to resources, such as data and computing capabilities. An important advantage of a cloud-based system is the continual updating of information, which allows accountants and clients to analyze data and make decisions based on cutting-edge information. Additionally, according to the Journal of Accountancy, cloud-based technology can also ensure “constant monitoring, rather than intermittent analysis,” whenever information on the system is updated.
Cloud computing is experiencing rapid growth as new intelligent technologies — such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning — are integrated into the cloud, according to Forbes. As intelligent technologies progress and more companies move their information to cloud-based systems, accountants need to become proficient in leveraging the cloud to offer clients up-to-date financial analysis and to stay competitive. The future of the accounting profession is looking decidedly cloud-based, as noted in an article by Complete Controller.
Labor and time-intensive facets of accounting — such as audits, tax preparation, banking, and payroll — are predicted to be fully automated by 2020, according to Forbes. As the application of AI to create self-learning systems — continues to be integrated into accounting tasks, technological systems will take on the repetitive and time-consuming jobs, leaving the analytical and managerial tasks to humans. For example, major software vendors, such as Intuit, Sage, OneUp, and Xero, offer automated data entry and reconciliation options using AI and machine learning technologies in company bookkeeping, according to Forbes.
Another example is the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to minimize processing times for audits and contracts down to weeks instead of months, according to the CPA Journal. As Forbes explains, larger firms using RPA AI integration have “increased efficiency and higher-level services,” compared with smaller, non-AI competitors. With automation due to become a major aspect of accountancy, it is crucial that you prepare for the future of accounting by gaining the necessary skills to perform the administrative, managerial, and analytical tasks that technology can’t complete.
Another trend impacting the future of accounting jobs is blockchain technology, a computer-based recording system that uses cryptocurrency within a user-to-user network. While blockchain may have gained popularity due to bitcoin — a digital currency in which a record of transactions is maintained and new units of currency are generated independent of a bank — the technology has progressed substantially. The attractiveness of blockchain for accounting lies in “the possibility of a new type of accounting ledger — one that can be continuously updated and verified without the threat of being altered or corrupted,” Accounting Today explains.
Because blockchain enables users to access ledgers in real time, as well as create smart contracts and record transactions, it’s no surprise the system is catching the notice of accountants. In fact, many accounting firms already implement blockchain, including the Big Four — Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, and KPMG — according to Accounting Today. Accounting professionals who wish to use blockchain will need to be familiar with relevant software programs, as well as how to set up information transfer for ledgers, contracts, and records.
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