New technologies are increasingly being used today to perform repetitive tasks faster and more accurately than humans ever can. If you’re an accountant who once performed these tasks, the implications are profound. Cloud computing, data analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive learning (CL) are disrupting your profession and transforming your role from back office accountant to strategic adviser.
Fast-forward to 2020. Nearly half of transactional finance and accounting functions are now performed by robots, according to CFO magazine. Does this mean digital-age accountants will find themselves out of work (potentially) or working alongside their organization’s top-level strategists (more likely)?
The convergence of digital technologies, particularly the introduction of RPA and CL, has created a dramatic shift in corporate finance and accounting. Machines are unquestionably faster and more accurate, efficient and cost-effective than humans. It’s time to start thinking of a bot as your next new hire, a master of all that is rules-based, repeatable and repetitive. Robots will perform the tasks that increase your productivity, reduce your costs, and streamline your workflow. To remain competitive in the new world of work, you absolutely must digitize both your workforce and work processes. This is no secret, and it’s happening now.
What is surprising, and entirely refreshing, is that the role of the accountant is not disappearing but is instead evolving to a higher, more sophisticated and analytic one. With fewer routine, repetitive and repeatable tasks to perform, accountants have more time to analyze data and collaborate with other business units, allowing their true value as decision makers to emerge.
The New Accounting Skills
Corporate finance teams are moving from point-of-value exercises to implementing new digital strategies. The use of the data analysis and innovative learning capabilities of cognitive technology is changing the way an organization deploys its talent, time, capital and other resources. Accounting and finance professionals today must possess strong data analysis skills, as well as the foresight to make sound business decisions and the leadership qualities to see them carried out.
With 40 percent of transactional tasks automated by the year 2020, finance professionals can expect to spend more than 75 percent of their time on decision support, predictive analysis and performance management, according to CFO.com. This is up from the current 25 percent.
Corporate finance executives recognize that implementing RPA and CL is one of their highest priorities and most strategic investments—one they must continue to evaluate to remain competitive. Yet many are not sure where to focus their attention and resources, or how to motivate and educate their teams to embrace digital change. As organizational change consultants, we help organizations identify the corporate finance and accounting areas where they should be implementing these new technologies. These areas include:
- Transaction Recording and Processing
- Month-End Close and Account Reconciliation
- Report Preparation & Compilation
- Account & Trend Analysis
- Compliance Reporting
- Tax Reporting
- Cash Management
- Expense Audit
- Planning, Budgeting, Forecasting
- Regulatory Support
It’s not enough to implement new systems and strategies. Without company-wide support, transparency, education and, above all else, a clear, shared vision, finance and accounting professionals are still likely to feel uneasy and uncertain about their roles, and to resist the change around them.
This is why it is so important for business leaders to effectively communicate the value and impact of digital change to their staffs. Digital transformation is not something that accountants need to “survive,” but rather something to embrace so that they may “thrive.” How do you get that message across in an authentic way? With your actions as much as your words. Show your staff that you are taking positive, critical and empowering steps to bring your organization to its most productive level of operation.
Adaptation engages and guides finance and accounting professionals, one step at a time, through these digital transformation milestones by partnering with them to:
- Create the vision for a new Finance/Accounting operating model
- Evaluate the state of the existing Shared Services and/or Centers of Excellence entities
- Disaggregate work to identify areas ripe for new types of automation
- Determine the impacts of automation on the organization
- Rethink the business processes with new automation options
- Update skill requirements
- Create a digital organizational change plan
Time to Move from the Backroom to the Boardroom
It’s time for corporate finance and accounting to have the strategic insights to support the types of decisions that are made by the organization’s strategic leaders. It’s time to adopt the new 3Rs: ReBrand, ReDiscover, ReBoot.
ReBrand Finance and Accounting
Digital change is happening so quickly. Now’s the time to embrace the changes that will have the largest impact on the financial health of your organization. Take a look around your organization and identify and urge your best candidates for organizational change.
ReDiscover the Role of Finance and Accounting
The new role of finance and accounting places emphasis on predictive, analytic, performance management and decision-making skills. The way you engage your current team as well as recruit new talent should focus on these more strategic functions.
Get Ready to ReBoot Your Organization
It’s imperative that you have sponsorship for and the support of your team as you reboot and implement all of the new changes that automation will bring.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation, contact Allyson Gilbert.