Accounting has always been a sort of silent helper to many businesses of all kinds. But as time has advanced, so too has technology, and accounting has begun to change with it. In an increasingly digital world, so too is accounting today. To better understand how technology has changed and improved the field of accounting, let's look at eight recent changes.
1. With Tech comes Better Organization
Before technology became as complex as it is today, accountants needed to have immense ledgers, write on papers, and then keep track of them all because each one could prove essential to their work. They needed abacuses, and, later, it was calculators and sharpened pencils. Not to mention requiring plenty of space to store all these things in their offices.
Nowadays, there is one "must" for accountants. That is having access to a computer.
Dozens of excellent companies and websites offer electronic spreadsheets (both free and paid) for accountants to write and organize their calculations.
Speaking of which, the computer has also made it easier, both mentally and timewise, for an accountant to crunch a lot of numbers. It's fast, efficient, and more reliable than manually doing equations.
The opportunity for human error is significantly less than it once was. And the figures are all conveniently in one place within a spreadsheet (or two or three, depending on the task). Having everything well-organized makes for a more efficient workday, which means the accountant can complete more projects, earn more income, and grow their own business if they want to do so.
2. Technology Also Requires More Knowledge
All great things come with a cost, of course. As technology has advanced and become more and more necessary to the job, accountants are now required to prove better, more diverse computing and IT skills.
So, whereas before, an accounting job required a deep understanding of mathematics, it now also involves a working knowledge of computers, as well as sophisticated software and programs. Balancing those technical skills with excellent communication and general business knowledge is key to advancing in the industry today and in the future.
To ensure that you have both the skillset necessary to advance in this rewarding career, consider enrolling in the online Suffolk University accounting program. Based in Boston, a leading financial center, the master's degree in accounting program features the latest technologies and addresses the principles, government regulations, and financial challenges that accountants face to provide a framework for students who want to excel as accountants.
3. Tech (Specifically AI) enables Delegation of Tasks
Every accountant knows that the job, beloved though it may be, has its fair share of tedious and repetitive tasks. A few that come to mind are data entry and matching invoices to the related purchase orders. But technology is helping make these tasks much easier to bear.
Today, thanks to the enormous advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, an accountant has the option to delegate at least some activities to the computer and focus on the more important ones. This serves to save a great deal of time, for although these tasks didn't require much effort, they can still eat up a fair chunk of an accountant's day.
Opening more time in the day also allows the professional to step into a role more heavily focused on critical thinking. It provides them with the ability to focus on problem-solving and makes the job more intriguing than ever.
4. A Boom in Tax Software
Just like the process of ordering a hamburger at McDonald's has gone digital, so too have professional tax practices. From sole proprietors to big firms, they rely on tools to make tax preparation a smoother process.
There are several issues to consider when choosing tax software and selecting one with a free trial will help an accountant to find the right one. Ideally, it is easy to use and quick to start using it. Check if it includes training too.
While some accountants continue to provide paper returns, others focus on cutting-edge mobile tax return delivery. There is also software that moves between accounting and tax workflow to make tax prep faster than ever so that firms can handle more returns in less time. The use of specialized software also reduces the risks of human mistakes and miscalculations.
5. Getting Out of the Office
Another way that technology is shifting the accounting career is by taking professionals out of their offices. That is good news for someone who loathes being behind a desk or simply wants to have the option to work elsewhere.
Being able to switch up work environments can help to keep the job feeling fresh as it provides variety in the workweek. Research also shows the benefit of getting outdoors on the mind, so be sure to get some fresh air during breaks if working primarily at the office.
It is primarily the portability of technology that enables the accountant to be able to work in other places than the traditional office. Like in many other industries, the job can now be done on the go, from home, a coffee shop, a park, and any other location.
Of course, accountants must make sure that they have a secure Internet connection to safeguard their clients' financials and other personal details. Thus, working from a public Internet connection is not advisable.
With laptops becoming lighter and faster than ever, accountants can work from their living rooms rather than an office without a window. They can check emails on their smartphone while out and about, replying to client requests and taking on new projects. Staying connected is easier than ever and helps the accountant stay on top of their workload, as well as build their own practice.
As for the office itself, if the accountant mainly works there, it has fewer "things" than before as the computer is a significant focus of the position. Technology removes the need for the many ledgers, papers, books, and calculators that were used back in the day.
6. Working from the Cloud
Furthermore, cloud computing enables accountants to access data without having to be on a desktop computer or a specific device. Storage in the "cloud" means that data and programs are stored using the Internet.
A cloud-based solution provides accountants and clients with communication anytime, making remote services easier. Plus, the information can update in real-time for the most efficient services possible.
Being able to work with clients on the other side of the globe is easier than it ever has been before. That opens vast opportunities for those who seek accounting contracts.
Cloud computing can provide more flexibility as they can work when and where they want (provided the connection is secure). Furthermore, cloud accounting technology can centralize documents for easier access.
7. Technology Provides a Safety Net
Obviously, accountants deal with very valuable information, which also means they need to take great care of it. Imagine how much work an accountant loses if a physical ledge is misplaced, and that is what they have solely worked from for the whole project.
Thankfully, that is the way it used to be, rather than how it is nowadays. Cloud storage and portable hard drives are common tools for accountants today, and they can (and should) have multiple backups for their work. That way, it is virtually impossible to lose it, even if their laptop or phone gets stolen, misplaced, or damaged.
8. Forging a Better Relationship between Accountant and Client
While accountants often are those with an affinity for numbers, others find themselves avoiding calculations, staying on top of tax regulations, and more. While this knowledge gap used to make it difficult for an accountant to explain certain aspects of their work to clients, to meet the project goals and describe the results, technology has made these conversations easier for both parties.
Through the cloud computing mentioned earlier, the accountant can provide the client with access to their "books" via permission-based sharing. The client is also sure to appreciate that they can see their data whenever they want, which is convenient and speeds up the communication process too.
Furthermore, accounting firms can expand their storage space in the cloud affordably. They no longer need to invest in costly equipment or hire an IT team to maintain it. Being able to pass on these savings to clients will go far in building a positive relationship.
Concluding Thoughts on Tech in Accounting
As the above examples show, technology is changing the face of accounting, from the daily activities to the long-term goals. There is no doubt continue that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
While some people lament such digital changes, the insights above show that tech is helping improve the field of accounting for all involved. This optimistic view makes the years to come exciting ones for those who are entering the accounting industry, as well as those already in the industry who are looking for a change.