The prominent digital culture magazine Wired published a story about the accounting sector recently. You don’t even need to read the full article to get the gist - the headline says it all: “Robots Will Soon Do Your Taxes. Bye-Bye, Accounting Jobs”
And they’re right. If in 2018, your practice’s bread and butter bottom line is still dominated by routine, repetitive compliance work: you are in trouble.
Mostly because the fees will dry up. As the Australian accounting futurist Rob Nixon predicts, compliance prices will most likely plummet by 50% or more. The fact is robots are better at robotic, repetitive work than humans and apart from eliminating human error, they can also do it faster and cheaper.
The sweeping advance of technology will not make any allowances for anyone or any profession.
But wait! There’s good news
Technology is disrupting and replacing the old accounting industry. But the good news is that the accounting profession isn’t being eradicated, it’s just being reinvented. This reinvigorated profession will be staffed by connected accountants who:
Become their clients’ business partner
- Leverage the power of technology (as opposed to fighting it)
- Leave repetitive, easily automated tasks to machines
- Focus on roles that no AI can emulate
That last bullet point is crucial: the eagle eyes, professional judgement and steady counsel of the accountant is as valuable as ever. Automation can’t replace this.
Instead, tech will help accountants move away from the routine of data collection to making better strategic decisions based on that data analysis.
Technology will liberate you to do work that really matters to your clients.
What will connected accounting look like?
Paul Bulpitt, the founder of the accounting firm WOW Company raised an excellent point just last year: “My personal bet is that businesses’ relationship with their accountant will change from big annual engagement to smaller chunks throughout the year.”
Further to that, he noted that old school accounting is:
- Process driven
- Driven by impersonal, numeric inputs
Consider that list and ask yourself: which of those can’t a computer do? The answer is obvious.
But also ask yourself, besides the cost savings, what has driven businesses toward trends like cloud accounting? Clients want:
- A real time picture of their financial affairs
- Access to their data
- Analysis of their data and advice
Herein lies the magic of connected accounting:
Clients will still need someone to manage all these integrated accounting systems and interpret the data.
That someone could be you if you plug into the streams of data created by digital accounting platforms. But it can’t be a half-hearted and you can’t do it alone.
By leveraging connected accounting platforms, connected accountants tame the reams of data created by modern software and automate aspects of time consuming tasks like data capture.
These connected accounting platforms:
- Give you unprecedented insights into your client’s affairs in real time
- Allow you to spot patterns and trends
- Give them better advice and recommendations
- Make empirically backed forecasts on financial performance
The certainty of uncertainty
The American statistician and author Nate Silver put it best:
“We must become more comfortable with probability and uncertainty.”
Accountants will need to let go of the robust certainties of a tax return and embrace a far bolder future.
In this new era of digital, connected accounting, it’s vital that accountants learn how to work alongside software tools and intelligent algorithms rather than compete against them.