5 tactics for accountants to anticipate digital change

By Robert Half on 17 October 2019

Nobody knows exactly what the future of accounting will hold, but one thing is certain for Chinese businesses — technology will be a determining factor.

This era of innovation, often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, means improved efficiencies, potential cost savings and new opportunities for companies and employees alike.

By eliminating task-based work, technology such as AI and the Internet of Things will give your team of accounting professionals the chance to take on fresh responsibilities, advancing even further their increasingly valued roles as advisers and analysts.

Success for accounting functions in China during this transformation requires proactive leadership. Here are five ways to prepare your team for the future of accounting, where failing is not an option.

1. Transition to the cloud

Cloud technology — a broad term that describes a range of online-based software and services, eliminating the need for in-house servers and locally installed systems — provides finance and accounting professionals with several benefits. One is easier sharing of information, allowing critical files and data to be passed between colleagues in different locations, if necessary.

They enhance collaboration through a continuous, mobile-ready connection that automatically syncs data whenever there’s an internet connection. In addition, cloud financial solutions can provide more security benefits than traditional in-house systems.

Companies can use the cloud for needs such as file sharing, data storage and invoice processing. A key side benefit is that it frees up your staff for more critical tasks.

2. Consider various types of technology

Explore opportunities to use machine learning and automation, which can take over repetitive functions, like data entry. Another innovation to consider is blockchain, which is essentially a shared and fixed digital ledger.

Originally created for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain technology has evolved significantly and will increase the need for specialised accounting in the years ahead, and also push financial professionals to expand their skill sets.

3. Diversify for the future of accounting

Finance jobs today encapsulate everything from expense control and reporting to cyber-security risk management. That means the accounting team of the future will require individuals with a diverse set of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds.

Finance professionals will not only need a digital mindset to be able to use emerging technologies but should also be critical thinkers and problem solvers if they are to meet changing demands and client needs.

They’ll also need interpersonal skills, like empathy and customer relations, which are human traits that can’t be automated. The best hires will be able to help improve the grasp of technologies of others on your team.

4. Encourage professional development

Help your teams develop their skills and become data- and tech-savvy business advisors.

Start by providing on-the-job time and assistance in learning unfamiliar systems and applications. Give them access to professional development opportunities, such as seminars, workshops and mentoring. You might also bring in financial consultants who specialise in accounting technology training.

5. Listen to your clients

Data is a priority today as businesses employ systems that are leveraging more and more out of it.

Use data-driven insights and analysis to gauge your clients’ changing needs and expectations, and make sure your staff is ready and able to accommodate them.

Clients are coming to expect more complex types of financial support, so by anticipating and planning for their needs, you’ll be able to give them services they’ll appreciate.

The future of accountancy

While roles and responsibilities may be shifting in the accounting field, it remains imperative for hiring managers to ensure they are preparing their current talent pipeline for a digital future, whilst also planning future hiring needs around digital change in the workplace.

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