The potential of professional

Ian McAlister: Software and technology solutions replace admin with professional freedom.

The world is driven by digital. Organisations are bombarded with the terminology of technology – digital transformation, disruption, AI and automation. For many, these solutions provide a quick and simple route to cost-saving, efficiency and productivity; for others, they are a concern. Will the technology that takes over the admin, the drudgery and the mundane tasks that they once did replace them? Are their skills no longer needed? In the accounting profession these questions have fundamentally changed how professionals approach their roles and the future. Software and technology solutions are increasingly taking on the data capture, analysis and number crunching roles, but this doesn’t herald the end of an era, it is the beginning…
 
The more that technology evolves within the financial arena, the more it provides professionals with the freedom they need to leverage their expertise and provide the business with far richer support and insights. In the midst of the furore that surrounds automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, lies one truth – the human component is critical. It is professional accountants who can understand and interpret the information provided by software and who can use the data to shift the organisation’s dialogue. An apt description, considering how Investopedia describes the accountant as someone who can speak the ‘language of the business and all things financial’.
 
From payroll to the CFO, there’s always been the impression that the number crunchers are just that – bean counters with their value measured in returns and cost efficiencies. Today, CFOs and accountants have become critical to the sustainable success of the organisation. Now that the software has taken on the drudgery, they’re expected to manage finances across far more frontiers than ever before.
 
The Practice of Now report, an analysis of insights from more than 3,000 global accountants, reveals that 90 percent of accountants agree that the job has undergone a cultural shift driven by client, marketplace and technology. Now, the accountant has to manage regulatory controls, compliance requirements, and be technically savvy. For it is they who will take the data generated by the systems and business intelligence and ensure that it’s interpreted and used in ways that deliver value. It is the accountant who will ensure that the organisation is capable of using technology to take advantage of the information economy.
 
While this does place the profession in new and relatively uncharted territory, it also provides opportunity. Business owners want financial advisors who can give them directions through murky economic and political climates and who can help them make sound decisions for the future. They want people – professionals and experts – not just data and software.
 
Technology gives accountants who are paying attention to the scope to expand their skills and embed their value in the organisation because it’s their human insights that make the most difference.
 
The future is not one where accountants are replaced by software. It’s a future where accountants leverage their intellect and experience to get the most from the software. This is the real future, where technology gives accountants much-needed freedom to stretch their financial wings and reshape their value to the organisation.