Intelligent technology like automation may seem like a relatively new concept, but in actual fact, many small & medium businesses are already adopting basic automated accounting processes. A few of the accounting tasks and processes that technology can do or streamline, according to Forbes include supplier onboarding, accounts payable, audits, procurement, purchasing, expense management, and customer queries. As these systems handle the majority of the menial and repetitive work, humans have the increased capacity to focus more on the analytical side, becoming the critical link between data and clients.
Automation in the Accounting Industry
In a study done on 751 financial professionals on process automation in accounting and finance by IMA and BlackLine, the key findings are as such:
Two-thirds of the respondents said they rely heavily on spreadsheets, increasing both time spent on financial statements as well as the risk of inaccurate results.
On average it takes about seven days to complete the closing process.
Only 20% of those surveyed were very satisfied with their current closing process, and only 28% completely trust the accuracy of their financial reporting data.
Before the adoption of automation, many tasks that accountants did were based on manual data entry into multiple systems that didn’t integrate with each other. Can you imagine a full day of work dedicated to hours of data entry, auditing multiple spreadsheets for errors, and re-entering the same numbers into several systems every month? Accounting careers have been built on finding numbers, entering them in a certain field, and performing routine calculations. Today, accounting teams are asked to process increasing amounts of data and do more with the information they have. For those that are still using manual processes to do this work, the burden is tremendous.
The true value of finance and accounting teams has never been their ability to do data extraction and crunch numbers. Rather, it is the power and foresight of these humans to analyze the financial and operational results of the business and turn those insights into better strategic decisions.
Automation in the accounting and finance departments can help businesses improve the quality of their governance, reduce risk, deliver more insight, better manage working capital, and improve financial reporting by performing repetitive processes within the software.
Automation will not replace humans
According to a survey done by Thomson Reuters, wherever possible, tasks that can be automated will become the norm over the next decade, as accountants foresee bookkeeping (78%) and data collection (74%) as the tasks are most likely to be taken care of by technology in 10 years’ time.
In the same survey, digital/cloud technology (89%) was cited as the most critical area of understanding for accountants in the future, followed by advisory services (82%).
With the implementation of automation in the business processes, workers who spend their days on manual, repetitive processes like data entry and routine reconciliations will need to upskill and take on more strategic roles in the company to remain relevant.
For example, invoice processing automation and cost tracking solutions like FoodRazor provide the ability to handle the daily humdrum of data-entry with greater accuracy and efficiency. Taking these uninteresting raw data and turning them into reports, dashboards and insights, creates the visibility for accountants and finance teams to then be able to focus more on strategy and desired outcomes than on repetitive tasks. Thereby giving accountants the space to grow and evolve to provide additional value to their customers.
For most, technology won’t replace the roles of accountants. Instead, accountants will have to expand their knowledge as technology takes over these mundane tasks. With machines taking over tedious value-based errands, accountants are ultimately freed to apply their knowledge to other business needs across the venture. They can and should offer a myriad of value-adding services such as risk analysis, forecasting, and other strategic pieces of advice.