Diminished Demand for Number Crunching, Increased Need for Human Expertise
Innovations in technology are causing substantial changes in business practices at an exponential rate, and the impacts these changes have are mirrored in the accounting profession which services the businesses. Accounting Today summarized the results of a survey of top accountants and auditors, stating, “There was little question among accounting’s leaders that advancements in technology were setting the pace, and that the profession needed to do its best to keep up.”
Head In the Clouds: Combining Technology-Based Services With Experience-Based Consulting
Many traditional accounting activities can now be done via artificial intelligence (“AI”), cloud computing, blockchain and cognitive computing, so accounting professionals must learn to harness the abilities of this ever-changing technology, while providing the consulting and other services that computers cannot.
Good With the Bad: Weighing the Pros & Cons of These New Technologies
Leaders in accounting emphasized the need to understand both the potential benefits and the increased risks, especially IT risks, associated with increased use of technology. Many CPA firms see technology as a means of cutting costs and saving time, but Rick Telberg, CEO of CPA Trendlines, cautions that “technology cannot replace the judgment and wisdom that clients really want from their accountants.”
Machine Learning May Cause An Experience Gap in the Accounting Field
The positive aspect of these changes is that CPAs can couple the wealth of information provided by AI and big data with their knowledge and experience to provide more meaningful answers to clients using analyses, consultations and advice. The downside of these changes is that many accounting, auditing and tax services that have traditionally been done by entry-level accountants will become automated.
Samantha Mansfield, director of professional development and community at CPA.com, commented, “With automation minimizing many entry-level roles, the profession needs to identify how young professionals gain experience and knowledge, so they can become valuable advisors.”
Leverage Expert Consulting & Advisory Services While Computers Takes Over Compliance
Roger Harris, president and COO of Padgett Business Services states, “We must move our companies to advisory and planning services and away from compliance work.” Many CPAs, however, do not have the training in technology needed to make these transitions in a timely manner. The ever-increasing role of computers in accounting and its related fields may push some practices into obsolescence, while simultaneously increasing the value of the human side of accounting, such as insight, integrity, judgement and skepticism. Those professionals who embrace the usefulness of technology while committing to “upskill themselves” will remain competitive and can become mentors for CPA candidates.
The CPA Journal discusses the need for changes in education that can more adequately prepare students for the changed job expectations due to increasing automation of “repetitive and mundane tasks.”
The article quoted the McKinsey Global Institute, stating, “It has been estimated that at least 50% of the work that accountants and other professionals are paid for is automatable through currently available technologies, with an additional 15% automatable through forthcoming technologies.”
A New Need for Adaptable Accounting Courses
College accounting classes are often based upon the content needed to pass the CPA exam, and, although the exam has changed to incorporate some updates in technology and analytics, advancements in the accounting and auditing practices are outpacing the exam updates. Although these changes in accounting practices have not yet been implemented on a large scale, businesses, CPAs and students should prepare for what some are calling the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Accounting Jobs Are Increasing – But They’re Also Becoming More Specialized
Accounting Web offers some words of encouragement and direction regarding the role of technology in accounting. The overall number of accounting jobs has increased rather than diminished, but the focus is shifting from number crunching to analysis, forensic accounting and consulting. While more companies desire CPAs to have a master’s degree, IT certification or other specialized credentials, many companies offer to cover all or part of the costs for this training. Attending seminars, using online courses and connecting with a mentor can also “offer constant invaluable learning and networking opportunities for the longevity of your career.”
Study the Technology & Stand Out In The Crowd
Taking steps to include technology in your accounting and auditing studies not only prepares you for a successful career but also allows you to qualify yourself for more advanced, higher-paying positions.