Today’s accountants are incredibly nervous, and often for good reasons; modern fears centered around rapidly developing technologies like big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and other automating technologies are well-founded, given that accountants in particular stand to be replaced by machines in forthcoming years, and many firms are beginning to ask themselves what they can to do better prepare for the future.
Despite all the hubbub surrounding today’s most disruptive technologies, however, accountants still have a bright future ahead of them where they can make good livings for themselves; they only need to know how to prepare themselves for the rapid transformation that’s likely to define the near-future of the industry. Here’s what savvy accountants and the shrewd men and women leading their firms can do to brace themselves for sudden change in the future, and what you’ll need to know to remain viable in a marketplace that’s increasingly becoming defined by the machines, not the people, within it.
Learn to embrace change, rather than fear it
You don’t have to travel far today to find an accountant who’s worried about being replaced by a complex algorithm in the near-future; after all, accountants are regularly listed at the top of the leaderboards when it comes to which professions are likely to be automated within the next few decades. Despite the ongoing fear-fueled frenzy that’s seen many accountants tear their hair out over concerns they’ll lose their jobs, however, there are many reasons to believe that the future of the accounting industry will be healthy and defined more by its human capital than its up and coming machines.
For instance, tomorrow’s accountants will be creative powerhouses compared to CPAs today, largely thanks to how freed up they’ll be from mundane task like number crunching, which will soon be done entirely by algorithms capable of outperforming humans when it comes to mathematics. By eliminating the repetitive task that still plague the workers in your firm today early on, you’ll be better preparing your human capital for a creativity-driven future wherein an accountant’s worth is judged by his or her ability to come up with innovative new ways to analyze data, rather than their ability to crunch complex spreadsheets and numbers.
To avoid being one of those poor saps whose job is taken over by a piece of software, accountants need to start investing in their social skills and creative thinking, which will prove much more valuable to them in the long run than the ability to deal with sizable figures or confusing economic data. Leaders of accounting firms in particular have a huge responsibility to their employees when it comes to preparing them for the future; after all, if you think you can do away with your lower level employees by replacing them with cost-saving algorithms, you may want to think again.
For instance, it’s long been established that human beings and machines alike work best when they’re working together; thus, accounting firm execs who think they can merely automate away their problems need to reexamine their approach to the future, and consider how they can best fit emerging technologies into their existing, human-centric operations. A failure to do so could lead you down a path that renders you unattractive to clients of the future, who are searching for the best of both worlds when it comes to human accountants and machine learning algorithms.
Don’t be afraid to think big
Despite the fact that your fears concerning emerging technologies that are disrupting the accounting industry are probably overblown, there are still good reasons to be cautious about the future, and accountants and those leading their firms will need to think big if they intend to remain relevant in a rapidly changing economy. Much of the future revenue your firm will be reaping in will derive from services that you don’t even provide today, for instance, meaning you need to keep an open mind when it comes to ensuring your business is flexible enough to survive today’s disruption.
In the spirit of thinking big, then, leaders of today’s accounting firms should consider looking beyond accountants when it comes to recruiting the best talent for their organizations; after all, if you don’t have a savvy IT team, competent HR staffers, and innovative executives with their eyes on the future, your firm won’t succeed despite how successful its accountants are. Accomplished executives and business owners understand that a business’ operational success is derived from the sum of its individual parts, and that letting your non-CPA team members off the hook when it comes to preparing for the future is a surefire way to brew economic trouble for your firm down the line.
If you haven’t already retrofitted your IT team, you need to get started buffing it up as soon as possible. After all, we’ve just covered how seriously tech will impact the accounting industry in the next few years alone, and if your tech-gurus aren’t up to snuff when the going gets tough, your firm could be one of the first to fall to the rising horde of job-seeking robots. Similarly, you should begin reexamining the organizational principles of your firm to see if they allow room for greater cooperation with third parties in the future, as tomorrow’s economy will be defined by businesses that share data and work together to find joint success in the market.
Above all else, today’s accounting leaders need to be breeding a diverse, welcoming culture of innovation within their workspaces. Tomorrow’s market is virtually defined by the uncertainty that’s currently shrouding it, meaning your firm will have to remain flexible in who it hires and how it innovates if it’s to remain successful in the future. Many of the automating technologies we fear the most today could be replaced themselves by new innovations in the future, after all, and your firm can never be truly secure from disruption unless it’s ready to constantly change. As you head into the future, understand that your success will largely be defined by how you meet the challenges posed by emerging technologies, and that you’ll need a flexible, diverse team to tackle those challenges.
Cost accountant with major focus in SAP/General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). Also, main functional inspector for accounting/finance audits for internal reviews as well as the Statement of Budgetary Resources audit initiative.