An Open Letter to Accountants, From Technology
It’s me, technology. It seems that there’s been some misunderstanding.
I did some research and accountants are among some of the top professions that regard me as hugely valuable, and full of potential. And yet, a third of you feel threatened by me.
I think that’s a shame. I’m here to elevate your skills and training, not displace them.
Allow me to explain.
I’ve been there with you since the beginning, I just look a little different
Technology and accounting have gone hand-in-hand since the Mesopotamian abacus, around 2700-2300BC - perhaps even earlier.
We’ve both come a long way.
Machines emerged for accounting in the 1880s. These counting contraptions made arithmetic quicker and more efficient, allowing accountants to expand their skills.
In 1955, a company purchased a computer purely for accounting for the first time. General Electric bought UNIVAC to run its factory payroll, which took about 40 hours each time.
Fast forward to today - past the invention of spreadsheets, accounting software, advanced data capture, optical character recognition, and intelligent data capture technology, and now AI, we’re stronger than ever.
Neither of us needs to go anywhere.
“Having machines to do all these tedious and repetitive tasks could sound scary for many accountants because they are also very time-consuming and thus very lucrative… [but] if the AI system is well-configured, it can eliminate accounting errors that are generally hard to find and thereby reduce our liability and allows us to move to a more advisory role.”
- Stephanie Weil, CEO of Accounteam, a Silicon Valley-based accounting firm.
The human elements of experience, expertise, empathy, logic, and strategic thinking are far from redundant in accounting.
Quite the opposite.
Today, they’re more important and more achievable than ever before.
I can work at high volumes so you can deliver more in the same timeframe
I don’t need to tell you that your workload is increasing.
With higher volumes of data, greater expectations and demands from clients, but the same due dates, you need support.
I offer scalable solutions that don’t need to eat, sleep, take breaks, or vacation days. I don’t get sick, and I don’t make mistakes.
I often don’t take much management from you, either. A2X, for example, is a set and forget app. Once it’s running, it’s very low maintenance.
I can handle the repetitive tasks, so you can get back to doing the things that matter most
Accounting has been as much about maintenance as growth for many years. But this is changing.
By shifting the repetitive tasks to me, you can work on expanding your skill set, your service offering, and your value to clients.
Partnering with smart technology allows you to better leverage your working capital, and get the most out of the same resources.
“Clearly the development of accounting software, through automation and cloud-based tech, has had a major impact on the day-to-day tasks an accountant is required to undertake, but this is very much a benefit to the industry. Accountants, therefore, have more focus on the business growth and strategy for their clients or businesses.”
- Andrew Hilliard, Director of accountancy recruitment firm AJ Chambers.
I can collect, connect, and process your data, so you have the tools you need to apply your expertise
API technology allows you to custom-design your own solutions, and ensure they all sync and work together seamlessly.
Use me to connect and integrate your tools so that when you need information, it’s easy to find and share.
Not only can I calculate, record, and retrieve data, but generating reports takes seconds rather than precious hours in your day.
As does diagnosing issues and fixing problems.
All of these things allow you to use the data I organize in new, exciting, and strategic ways.
“It’s important that accountants and students coming into the profession are comfortable with data and how they can analyze it…
It’s about being able to talk to the clients about what insights you’re getting from the data… you need to be able to say ‘the data is saying you’re inefficient or you’re doing things wrong - and actually if you look at improving this area, then you’ll improve profitability’, and that’s quite a difficult thing to do as an accountant.”
- Richard Anning, Head of Tech Faculty at ICAEW.
A new way of working together
The world is moving faster every day, and the only way to keep up with the changing times is to embrace technology.
“Automation and artificial intelligence are poised to reshape the finance function. Knowing what to automate and managing the disruption can lead to a new era of productivity and performance.”
With every door that automation may close, it opens many windows of opportunity for accountants. While I relish in the repetitive and mundane tasks, I’m not here to do the high level work that you’re good at:
Source: McKinsey & Company.
So, accountants, I ask you to think of me like this:
I am that second pair of hands, those extra hours in the day, that clone of yourself that you wish was there to keep the show running in the background. Boots and all.
Use me to push your skills and talent to new heights, and to exceed the wildest dreams of your clients for their businesses.
Together, we can do so much more.
So let’s get to it.