5 tech trends to reinvent your role as an accountant


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The traditional finance-oriented role of accountants has expanded to include a wide range of non-financial aspects too.

Technological advancements mean that everyone entering the profession today must at least have a basic understanding of the digital landscape and importantly how to leverage data analytics tools to provide greater business insights.

Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice President, Africa & Middle East, Sage in this interview,  has itemised five tech trends that will re-invent accounting roles going forward.

 

Bensch  shares his experience from interacting with  accountant, who mostly wish they had more time to spend building relationships with their  clients and giving them business advice.

 

“In my discussions with practicing accountants, I often hear them say that they wish they could spend fewer hours balancing books, preparing reports and recording transactions, and more on adding strategic value to their clients’ businesses,” he added.

 

The good news, he said,  is that a new wave of technologies is automating many of the mundane processes that once took up so much of their time. “Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data are reinventing accounting in sub-Saharan Africa, from South Africa to Nigeria, and beyond.”

 

According to Bensch, Here are some of the game-changing trends that will empower you to take a new role in your clients’ businesses:

 

1.     Head for the clouds

Today, businesses can instantly and cost-effectively access world-class accounting solutions that let them manage their finances from anywhere, on any device.

 

Tip: Upgrade your accounting practice to cloud-based solutions. You’ll always have access to the most up-to-date, compliant version and you’ll be rewarded with more time, fewer errors and happier clients. You can collaborate with your clients on the same software, in real-time, without needing to be in the same place.

 

2.     Automation

Manual data entry is becoming a thing of the past. Businesses can instantly capture and categorise receipts, expenses and invoices, giving them a real-time overview of their cash flow and improving compliance.

 

Tip: Automate as much of your client processes as you can so that you can add value in other areas, like advising on regulations and identifying areas for growth.

 

3.     Artificial Intelligence

AI is not only increasing the pace of automation, it’s also helping businesses find patterns in complex data, enabling faster information discovery and empowering accountants to generate smart forecasts. In our survey, 66% of respondents said they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

 

Chatbots, like Sage’s Pegg, are becoming popular in accounting as consumers get more comfortable asking computers questions. By simply asking Pegg who still owes them money, for example, businesses can get an instant overview about where they stand with debtors.

 

Tip: AI technologies are redefining the role of accountants. Don’t be afraid of them. Learn how to use the tools and data to help your clients meet their financial goals. As cool as chatbots are, many people still want to engage with a human.

 

4.     Big data and IoT (The Internet of Things)

Big data and data analytics have allowed us to interact with data in new ways, while the IoT allows us to instantly and automatically capture information, like business kilometres and expense receipts. This information can be presented visually, to provide new insights into the business and to help you make better decisions.

 

Tip: Help your clients understand their data. Combine their data with financial trends and industry information to produce insightful forecasts that will help them run smarter businesses.

 

5.     Security

Accountants must protect their clients’ personal data to comply with local and international laws and regulations, such as South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information act. This will become an even bigger priority for accountants who also deal with clients in Europe because they will also need to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

 

Tip: With more personal information moving online, cybercriminals are coming up with new methods to access that data every day. Don’t be a victim.

 

Closing words

Speaking to 3000 accountants globally for the annual Practice of Now research, Sage found that 42% of clients expected their accountant to provide business advice.

 

“ Accountants that embrace this new role will be in high demand. It starts with understanding opportunities presented by these trends and upskilling yourself to add value to your clients.” Bensch added.

 

Technological advancements are facilitating innovation across all aspects of the profession.  Dealing with the pace of change, with disruption, technological advancements will be a vital tool for every accountant in Nigeria and beyond.

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