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Obsolescence in Opportunity – How Accountants Can Make Transformative Organizational Impacts

The world’s business environments are constantly changing, and technology gives today’s accountants a chance to break free from the confines of their traditional roles. Tomorrow’s accountants could be beacons for transformative change, resulting in positive impact for their organization and clients.

Obsolescence in Opportunity – How Accountants Can Make Transformative Organizational Impacts

By Joseph Artabane and Anthony Varrone

How do we continuously assess changes in our environment?

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, many commercial organizations and Federal, state, and local Government entities are facing challenges in adopting and keeping pace with new technologies. Technical advancements drive new market trends and have paved the way for new solutions to meet customer demands. Accountants are faced with a unique challenge of balancing traditional and foundational methods, coupled with integrating enhanced methodologies to meet updates to guidance, best practices, and approaches based on technology alone, all to maintain viability in an evolving landscape. So, how can an accountant stay relevant? Definitionally in the past, accountants were confined to tasks such as financial reporting, compliance, and auditing, but today, they are embracing rapid technological changes through training and experimentation and drive transformation and technology adoption within their organizations.

The digital age has brought forth a wave of automation, new applications, software, and approaches that can be used as instruments to help enhance the offering in the accounting profession. Accountants proactively engage with and embrace advanced technology to gain a pivotal advantage over others in the industry and best prepare for future work. Technology is sometimes seen as a time-saving “shortcut;” however, various practitioners’ ability to implement a well-formed solution is, in some cases, ineffective. While requiring supreme diligence and review, technologies can be utilized to cut down the time to complete tasks materially. Before these types of technologies, what could take a business day to prepare can be trimmed down to a task that takes minutes to complete by robotics, cloud-based natural language processing (NLP), software, or artificial intelligence (AI) .(1) This time in the workday that was previously occupied by manually crunching data can now be used to perform further analysis to help guide strategic initiatives and help clients or executives with decision-making. Tools, such as Power Business Intelligence (BI), Tableau, and QLIK, have also revolutionized the accountant’s ability to not only perform data preparation data analytics but take the next step and better visualize data sets. These various visualization tools within the marketplace allow for complex financial problems to be simplified into simple and sometimes living visualizations, which allow accountants to provide additional value to their stakeholders.

How do we adapt and make change happen?

AI and new software technologies are revolutionizing the accounting profession. Expanding offerings to customers through AI and data analytics allows for the modern-day accountant to be equipped with the tools to be able to streamline processes and analyze large financial data sources. AI algorithms can quickly analyze complex financial transactions, identify patterns, and detect anomalies, thereby streamlining auditing processes and enhancing the overall accuracy and reliability of financial reporting. Additionally, technology-driven solutions enable real-time monitoring of financial operations, ensuring transparency and compliance with regulatory requirements. These advancements empower accounting firms in the private or public sector to deliver more comprehensive and insightful financial analysis, forecasting, and risk assessment.(2)

Accountants can champion change by promoting a culture of innovation and transformation within their organizations. Stating the benefits of adaptation, as well as the opportunities that will be presented for long-term success will be pivotal to create buy in within an accounting firm. Lessons learned, success stories, training sessions, and working groups are all tools that can be established to create a successful integration of new technologies for one’s organization or client. Part of adopting new technology is experimenting with what is available on the open market. Accountants can help bring pertinent and relevant innovations to the table by encouraging experimentation, learning from failures while embracing solutions that have been tested. Organizational change can seem abstract at first, but with time, it should be linked to metrics and forecasted projections of success. Forecasting is part of an accountant’s role as a financial manager, and this can be enhanced by technology to establish change in the profession.

Implementing technology alone cannot solve every problem we may face on any given business day. In fact, it is not necessarily wise to come up with a solution before each nuance is identified for the problem being addressed. Accounting practitioners are trained to assess the scope, environment, current guidance, and organizational/operational structure before beginning accessing a potential solution. This inherent trait gives them an advantage that most without similar training or knowledge would begin at the finish line, instead of beginning at the starting line.

How do accountants strike while the irons are hot?

Companies have been shaping their organizations to have a more data-driven culture; this should be considered a necessity in today’s competitive market environment. Informed decision-making driven by a data culture is the core to success and can only be implemented correctly with leadership buy in and investment in a company’s workforce. This empowers individuals to better interpret and utilize data effectively in their respective roles, further growing their own skillsets and bolstering better product outcomes. The accountant serves as the rook on the chess board, tactful in their movements and able to move in a direction to support and aid ancillary pieces. Likewise, an accountant can support leadership and their colleagues by having strong abilities and skillsets that can be useful to support their teams, regardless of rank or role.

Now is the time to break free from traditional norms and embrace a bold, technologically savvy mindset. Accountants have the opportunity and the stage to unleash their creativity by automating and streamlining time-consuming, mundane tasks and now use that time to create more bold, strategic decision-making. Accountants can implement and embrace cloud-based solutions to collaborate seamlessly across teams and enhance data security for their firms and clients. Now, accountants can have more insight and drive effective proactive financial decision-making through data analytics and data visualizations.

Organizational or transformative change does not take place overnight; it requires a clear vision of the desired additional to and organizations offerings. Introducing new technologies requires buy in from top talent and customers alike. To accomplish this feat, leadership must highlight the benefits and opportunities that new technologies bring to the accounting profession, such as improved efficiency, enhanced data analysis capabilities, and streamlined processes. Collaboration for implementation is also pivotal to the success of introducing additional technologies to the marketplace. Cross-functional teams need to come together to ensure any new process or technologies create cohesive improvements to current and existing accounting processes. Decisions made with the new tools offered in the space need to be backed by data and research, as well as polished to fit the needs of the customer. By fostering a supportive environment, accounting firms can effectively implement transformative change and harness the full potential of new technologies to drive success and stay ahead of a constantly evolving industry.(3)

How does leadership leverage top accounting talent?

Leadership can leverage top accounting talent by recognizing the value that a skilled accountant brings to an organization. Presently, technology brings executive leadership an additional opportunity to enhance and utilize the abilities of these talented individuals. By allowing accountants to be the page masters of industry, they can assist leadership with strategic decision-making and financial expertise, now backed by technologically advanced, data-driven information. Technology now adds another topic that is imperative for organizations to invest in training the accountant.(4) Organizations should be forward-thinking and take the opportunity to foster a culture that encourages continuous learning. This can be done in the accounting space by opening doors to relevant classes offered and supporting fiscal barriers to entry to incorporate technology, whether that be course materials for certifications or download fees for app licenses. Additionally, it can be extremely effective for leadership to ensure that communication and feedback channels are established for new accountants within their organization.

A concrete process is required to be able to effectively implement adoption of technology in an organization or office. With any good model, there are instances where certain steps may be skipped or revisited to expedite skills development as some accountants come to the table with varying skill levels, which could aid in curbing the learning curve. Within the Circular Accounting Upskill model, shown below, the following steps can be seen to train accounting employees to harness new technology and bolster their offering in a competitive marketplace.(5)

How new accounting talent can create immediate organizational impacts

Today’s college graduates have been introduced to technology within their field of study from the onset of their college careers. Cultivating their current base knowledge by investing and creating opportunities will allow leadership to have a leg up against competition. Not only will there be a more satisfied workforce, but these individuals will also have the data-driven knowledge to demonstrate a foundation of trust to their current and prospective client base. The current curriculum gives today’s college graduates a wealth of expertise with a robust foundation based in not only learning financial, managerial, and cost accounting, but also in applying today’s technologies to executing an accountant’s duties. This educational process allows them to overcome the experience gap they may lack and have an immediate impact on the project or team they are placed on. Not only will they have an impact, but they will be able to further assist seasoned personnel in their own continuous education in a dynamic and ever-changing environment.

Change creates positive outcomes for organizations

The world’s business environments are constantly changing, and technology gives today’s accountants a chance to break free from the confines of their traditional roles. Tomorrow’s accountants could be beacons for transformative change, resulting in positive impact for their organization and clients. Technology will enhance the profession of accountants, not replace it.(6) These new skill sets, if learned and implemented as a culture, will help maintain the legitimacy of the modern-day accountant’s role as an indispensable strategic asset for the foreseeable future. Coupled with technology, the standard accountant becomes more than someone who simply reviews general ledger lines and grows into a key player within an organization to further propel the company or organization forward and serve as an advisor over complex organizational initiatives. The world opens doors for accountants who allow change and technological advancement to shape their future endeavors and not stagnate their ability to expand their horizons just based on doing what was done in the past and feels most familiar.
The Very Real Impact of AI on the Future of Accounting.
The Benefits of Mindfulness in Leading Transformational Change
A Practical Roadmap for Introducing Agility to Certified Public Accounting Firms – The CPA Journal
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The Future Of Accounting: How Will Digital Transformation Impact Accountants? (