Bloomberg Tax
Nov. 16, 2020, 9:01 AM

Why the Tech Revolution in Accounting Is Only Just Starting

Catherine Dahl
Catherine Dahl

While the initial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic may have subsided, the digital revolution in many industries is continuing on its inevitable course. Accounting is one of them.

Given its reliance on legacy practices, accounting was never likely to be the first to embrace tech. But with a new business backdrop brought on by the pandemic, the ship has been decisively turned, and the future direction can no longer be doubted.

In a previous article, I discussed how adopting cloud technology was essential for accountants to work effectively in the Covid-19 era. Cloud software in the accounting sector is now slated for large scale growth, at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5 % during the forecast period 2019 – 2025.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The business world has moved into a new era, and accountants now need to restring their bows and add the most effective technologies to their arsenal to adapt and keep pace with these changes.

Let’s explore why cloud computing is still vital for accounting teams, the new tech adoptions that many are looking towards, and why cybersecurity and skills training must support these changes.

Why cloud adoption is still crucial

In a rapid alteration, work from home became the norm across the world earlier this year. Many industries have navigated that testing period with more success than even they would have predicted. That said, the benefits of social interaction and physical office contact remain.

Work from home is not the be-all holistic solution that can replace office life. Rather, a negotiated solution is taking shape, with many companies adopting a hybrid return to work policy—a split between traditional office work and work from home.

A Colliers International survey found 53% of companies will have employees in the office 1-2 days a week, and 33% will look to bring workers to their headquarters 3-4 days a week. With employees starting to work between two or more locations, seamless document storage, and file access from anywhere is essential to maintain smooth workflow collaboration across distributed (what?) with the hybrid approach, meaning adopting the cloud is still a number one priority for accountants.

Tech adoption is set to continue

While the initial shift to the cloud may have been driven by external forces, many accounting teams have seen how the adoption of tech-driven solutions can reap further benefits. First among them is the time saved by veering away from manual methods and utilizing automation technology.

Many manual accounts payable tasks are ripe for automation, such as invoice processing, supplier inquiries, supplier payments execution, purchase order matching, new supplier registration, and payment reconciliation. The companies who embrace automated solutions are sure to gain a competitive edge.

The potential here is illustrated by the rapid growth of solutions providers in the sector. Ireland-based FinTrU created 200 new jobs since Covid-19 changed the business landscape. Considering the stark economic shock many sectors are facing, this is an impressive example of the potential tech-driven solutions have with applications in the accounting sector.

Beyond automated accounts payable solutions, digital payments is the next area set to boom, as finance teams strive to get bills paid from accounts that still relied on outdated physical payments like checks. The big players like Visa and Mastercard have already strategically placed themselves at the front of the queue.

The Importance of Cyber Barricades

The tech transformation in accounting is fully in motion, and can no longer be regarded as a matter of choice. However, with the FBI reporting a staggering 300% jump in cyberattacks since the beginning of the pandemic, cybersecurity must be a part of tech adoption strategies for accountants.

There are several indispensable steps that must be taken to form a concrete defense. Implementing two-factor authentication and mandatory VPN policies for employees are the basic steps that finance teams can take to protect data. However, the surge in cybercrime highlights the importance of a more comprehensive protection strategy.

It is vital that finance teams work with IT leads to develop a company-wide cybersecurity strategy with real-time vulnerability management. They should action cybersecurity awareness training for staff, perform an information security gap analysis, and conduct penetration testing to ensure defenses are robust and that sensitive data is properly protected.

If the data companies are working with is particularly sensitive or high risk, conducting the security audit with a dedicated cybersecurity firm can also be explored to ensure that new hybrid office solutions can function securely.

Accountant 1.0

As tech adoption in accounting continues to pick up pace, the rising stars of the future will need to be highly versed in how these new technologies function. According to those within the industry, the old ways are being overtaken with tech skills soon to be one of the most important competencies for new hires.

The modern accountant needs to have a firm grip on the implementation of tech stacks and cloud technologies and leaders need to ensure new and existing accountants in their teams are well equipped to handle the transition ahead. Skills training on software and cybersecurity practices should form part of digital transformation strategies to ensure the best chance of success.

Leading the Pack

Agility must be the watchword for the modern breed of accountant—new technologies are constantly being produced, which could give accounting companies a competitive edge. Standing at the forefront as a winning, tech-first accounting service will take your company into 2021 and beyond. Covid-19 was a hurdle thrown in the path of many industries without warning. New similar hurdles will arrive, but will your company be equipped to transcend them?

The sector has had to adapt to the cloud and new ways of working quickly. You should keep a close eye on new technologies to integrate into working processes, and more efficient, agile ways of working to keep ahead of the curve. Cybersecurity considerations must be balanced at every stage.

The world of accounting is in a moment of evolution. Companies must adapt to survive in a new business landscape. The industry has been newly fortified, with companies that manage the transformation set to emerge fitter and stronger than ever.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Catherine Dahl, CEO of Beanworks, an accounts payable automation software.

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