Accountancy, like many other industries, depends on technology to be competitive. Digital advancements, including specialized software, have increased the accuracy and speed of bookkeeping and related tasks, freeing accountants to focus on strategy and innovation that add value for their companies or clients.
As experts look at what’s ahead for 2019 and beyond, many see cloud computing, automation and blockchain as the vehicles driving the future of accounting.
Adapting to these and other tech trends offers measurable benefits, according to “Why automation is a positive turning point for accountants” on AccountingToday.com.
“Some firms seem determined to carry on working as they always have,” the article notes. “But those who are prepared to embrace new working practices have discovered an increase in efficiency and profitability.”
Master’s in accountancy online programs, such as the M.Acc. degree at the University of North Dakota, can help professionals engaged in an accountancy career stay on the cutting edge of the latest developments and trends. And because UND’s program is online and flexible, students can pursue their degree while still taking care of work and personal responsibilities.
What’s Ahead in Accounting Technology
When experts compiled their latest lists of trends to watch, three things stood out: the cloud, automation and blockchain technology.
- The Power of the Cloud:
Cloud-based accounting software works much like cloud-based storage – rather than residing on a hard drive, files are stored on a server connected to the internet. Files are accessible at any time to multiple members of a firm or to accountants and their clients. They can also be accessed from multiple platforms, devices and web browsers through cloud software or SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications such as Google apps, Dropbox or Salesforce.
Cloud accounting solutions are becoming increasingly common for accounting firms, especially smaller ones, according to the Squires Group, a Maryland accounting firm.
In its article, “Important Accounting Trends for 2019,” the firm notes, “Many of today’s leading cloud solutions offer enhanced security, quality control and data recovery options that may otherwise be inaccessible. Additionally, the cost savings is often notable, especially when compared to adding, managing or maintaining internal servers with the same level of accessibility.”
In looking at many day-to-day accounting tasks, the Quickbooks website FirmOfTheFuture.com sees a number of advantages, including:
- Receipt management, which lets clients send virtual receipts to their accountants.
- Document management, which can reduce on-site storage of physical documents.
- Staff and time management, which uses cloud-based tracking apps rather than punch-clocks or written logs to monitor work hours of both in-house and remote workers.
- Billing, which simplifies the invoice process and can lead to accounting firms being paid faster.
- The Speed of Automation:
Automation of routine accounting processes has become the norm, but experts see the process intensifying.
“By 2020, labor-intensive tasks like tax preparation, payroll, audits and banking will be fully automated – a trend that’s considered the greatest transformation since the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping 500 years ago,” Nick Chandi, CEO of the blockchain accounting platform PayPie predicts in Forbes.
Algorithms are becoming more powerful and efficient at compiling data, Chandi continues, but computers and artificial intelligence “can’t replace the interpretive capacity of the human mind. … Accountants are the ones who’ll have to apply this information to the real world to provide crucial business insights and intelligence.”
- The Blockchain Revolution:
Blockchain represents what the Journal of Accountancy calls a transformation in the world of accounting.
“In a world where disruption is a buzzword, it’s still rare for a technology to radically alter the face of an industry,” the Journal’s article, “Blockchain, machine learning, and a future accounting” points out. “For accountants and auditors, however, blockchain has the potential [to] do just that, especially when combined with other innovations such as machine learning.”
What makes blockchain, which was created to facilitate the cryptocurrency bitcoin, a game changer is that it is a decentralized system with a transparent structure that, the article continues, “is said to make it nearly impossible for records to be falsified or corrupted.”
As blockchain becomes more widely accepted, accountants can expect to focus more on analysis, insights, soft skills and advisory roles – if they are willing to learn.
“Accountants and firms that develop these skills now will be able to differentiate themselves as the technology becomes widespread,” the article notes, adding that “taking the time to retool now and work on your advisory skills is an investment in the future of our work.”
The Human Factor
Advances in technology empower both accountants and businesses. In looking at accounting employment trends for the coming year, the AICPA analyzed data from the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance and found that:
- New compliance standards can mean career opportunities.
Companies need experienced accountants who can help them comply with and transition to the latest revenue and lease accounting updates from the Financial Accounting Standards Board.
- Increasing automation stimulates a demand for expertise.
As machines take over more tasks, companies need additional accountants, particularly those with more specialized expertise.
- Firms need project professionals.
Mergers and acquisitions, large-scale reconciliations, and other major events don’t happen often, but when they do, they are labor intensive and often require interim staff with specialized expertise.
Millennials and the Future
One non-tech trend that accountants should be prepared to capitalize on is millennials. In “Millennials are the Future of Accounting Firms,” AccountingWeb notes that this generation’s financial goals and outlook differ from those of their elders. Millennials are more likely to aspire to business ownership, enjoy higher rates of self-employment and have different needs for retirement planning.
“Accountants who start gaining a millennial client base now can look forward to handsome future rewards,” the article advises.
University of North Dakota’s Master’s in Accountancy Online Program
A successful accountancy career can depend on staying in step with the latest advancements in the field. The University of North Dakota’s master’s in accountancy online program (M.Acc.) immerses students in such concepts as advanced accounting systems, contracts, ethics, business law and risk assessment and helps them develop the skills to navigate the future of accounting.
For more information, contact UND today.
“Why automation is a positive turning point for accountants”: AccountingToday.com
Important Accounting Trends for 2019: Squires Group
How Cloud Accounting is Taking Firms Global: FirmOfTheFuture.com
Accounting Trends of Tomorrow: Forbes
Blockchain: Journal of Accountancy
Millennials are the Future of Accounting: AccountingWeb
Employment trends: AICPA