Finance functions are under significant pressure across all industries to reduce costs and support decreasing margins, improve the volumes and quality of information provided, and arguably most importantly, to focus on delivery of value adding insights to the business. So it is somewhat unsurprising, in light of mounting pressures, that many accountants are coming to realise the benefits of embracing automation and adopting AI programmes.
In fact in a recent report produced by global enterprise software company Sage, a staggering 96% of accountants indicated they feel positively about the role that automation will play in their day-to-day process. In its ‘The Practice of Now’ report, for which it surveyed 700 accountants, Sage revealed that systems automation is welcomed and considered a strategic asset to their business.
However, with 68% of accountants indicating that they see their role changing in some form through automation and 35% revealing administrative tasks are the most enjoyable part of their role it is reasonable that some professionals are concerned about the long term impact that automation will have on their careers. Indeed, according to Sage, 38% of accountants see emerging technology as the biggest threat to the accountancy profession. With the press keen to focus on the negative impacts of automation, these fears are understandable. Most accountants will likely have seen the widely reported story which suggests that 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of ‘computerisation’ over the following 20 years, however in an ever shifting business environment accountants have far more to offer than just the traditional administrative aspects of their role. Accountants in practice are now seen as a business partner, while their industry counterparts are largely viewed as strategic advisors. In both professional settings accountancy professionals can provide insightful advice and support across the business based on a sound understanding of the company.
There is little doubt that in the future automation will play a significant role in shaping the responsibilities of accounting professionals. However by relying on their outstanding commercial awareness, strong communication and demonstrating their ability to make well informed financial decisions, accountants can continue to prove their strategic value. Organisations will increasingly look for professionals with expertise in reporting, forecasting and a high degree of competency in risk management, in potential employees. Accountants who embrace automation, and make use of the opportunities it provides to develop interpersonal and leadership skills will no doubt see their careers thrive, and organisations which incorporate AI programmes into their working practices will ultimately see costs diminish and their finance function able to focus on providing more valuable strategic insight.
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