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Automation and the future of accounting
IT MANAGEMENT

Automation and the future of accounting 

In a poll of 700 accountants occupying entry-level to C-suite positions in seven markets, including Canada, the United States, Australia, France, Spain, and Ireland, cloud accounting software company Sage, found that the majority (86 per cent) of accountants are generally happy for technology that makes the “admin level of their jobs invisible.” To access the full report, click here.

In Canada, 82 per cent of accountants view automating data entry and reporting as a way to create more value-add services for clients.

Here’s a stereotype-busting surprise. The survey also found that globally, for a sizeable number (36 per cent) of accountants their “biggest frustration is time spent number-crunching.”

If they can only get their hands on tools (automation) that would help them quickly get the menial tasks off their desk and focus on their clients and building their practices, nearly a quarter of accountants, like the rest of us -would gladly take some time off.

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“This research shows the majority of accountants see the empowering opportunity that automation can bring, freeing them up to focus on their practice and their clients,” said Jennifer Warawa, executive vice-president of product marketing at Sage.

Sage’s survey also found that cloud adoption is seen by most firms as a game changer and that cloud-based solutions are popular with accountants:

  • 57 per cent of respondents said their firm invests in the best technology available, including cloud technology, to help offer the best services to their clients
  • 67 per cent of users have adopted a cloud-based practice management solution
  • Security is seen as the biggest barrier to adopting cloud technology (37 per cent), while 14 per cent  cited client concerns

There are some tech laggards. As many as 32 per cent of those surveyed said they still use manual methods as part of their record keeping for clients: Twenty-five per cent use Excel and seven per cent use handwritten notes.

Canadian data

The report also showed that 82 per cent of Canadian accountants view automating data entry and reporting as a way to create more value-add services for clients.

Currently, 55 per cent use a cloud-based practice management solution to help serve their clients, while the majority stated the most important service that accounting software provides is access to real-time data, allowing them to give clients timely advice and insights.

The future of accounting

The majority of Canadian accountants believe automation will make their work lives easier, not take away their jobs.

  • 97 per cent per cent of Canadian accountants surveyed voiced confidence about the future of accounting and their role in it.
  • 60 per cent see their role becoming more strategic, allowing them to provide more financial advice to their customers, according to Sage.
  • Globally, 86 per cent of respondents said automating data entry and reporting would free them up to create value-added services for clients.
  • 96 per cent of those surveyed are confident about the future of accounting and their role in it with
  • 47 per cent are very confident and 49 per cent  moderately confident
  • 68 per cent see their role changing through automation in the future
  • 43 per cent believe it will change through automated admin
  • 2 per cent see some of their work becoming automated but still applying that information under their control
  • 53 per cent see their roles becoming more strategic and being able to provide more financial and business advice to their customers

Job stability

Still, some worries linger.

When asked what the biggest threats to the accounting profession were, respondents said:

  • The biggest threat to the accounting profession is new emerging technology that can do some of the jobs we currently do (38 per cent)
  • Self-service accounting solutions (36 per cent)
  • Customers that don’t understand the full benefit of working with an accountant (25 per cent)

However, Warawa remains optimistic.

“As artificial intelligence and bots become progressively more intuitive, the door opens further towards the future of invisible admin and gives accountants the space to spend their time on more valuable services for their clients,” she said.

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