In a technology-driven world, the old image of an accountant as an introverted number-cruncher is fading fast. Software and apps now perform many of the tasks formerly done by accountants, making it necessary for those in the profession to update their skills. Future accountants will need to be multidisciplinary experts, capable of high-level analysis as opposed to rote calculations. Anyone considering accounting as a career going forward needs to develop the following non-traditional skill sets.
In years past, clients charged accountants with analyzing, organizing, and reporting historical data, ensuring that the client’s books accurately reflected its financial picture and that they could withstand an audit by the CRA. But integrated software is now capable of updating and organizing financial records each time a new transaction is posted, removing much of the accountant’s previous responsibility.
Rather than taking historical data and sorting it into neat rows and columns, future accountants must be able to take a set of data and use it to make projections for the future. In a way, accountants will serve more of an advisory role than a bookkeeping role, helping clients forecast and make projections, enabling them to make future business decisions with greater confidence.
Strategic Business Planning
The successful accountant of the future will no longer be the person whom a client calls at tax time to make sure their books are straight. Once again, software and apps are quickly assuming that role, and for a much lower price than what companies used to pay accounting firms. In the future, sustaining a successful accounting business will require taking on more of an advisory role, one that involves helping business leaders plan for the future. The ideal future accountant is someone their clients never fail to call for advice before making a big business decision, regardless if that decision involves tax or bookkeeping issues.
Rather than focusing solely on clients’ books, future accountants should take the time to understand their entire business, from the big picture down to the inter-workings of each department. By demonstrating a high-level appreciation for clients’ businesses and how they run, future accountants can make themselves a valuable piece of their clients’ business planning.
Digital Technology and Data Analytics
The explosion of Big Data has given companies access to information like never before, from economic trends to customers’ buying habits. While technology can supply the data, businesses need people who can analyze it at a high level — a role perfectly suited to the accountant of the future. Accountants with a firm grasp on digital technology, data analytics, and how to use Big Data to guide important business decisions should find their skills in high demand for decades to come.
Technology is rapidly reshaping the business landscape, and perhaps no field is feeling its effects more than accounting. Complacency is the enemy of the future accountant, and focusing on the skills demanded by the profession 10 or 20 years ago is the fastest way to find oneself irrelevant and unemployable. By identifying and learning the non-traditional skills of the future, accountants can set themselves up for future success.