This could be an almost endless topic. So, let’s focus on the ways in which technology has permeated the accounting profession and specifically examine how it helps accountants manage and analyze their data, improve their internal workflows, and create data-driven reports for their clients.
Managing and analyzing data
Accounting starts with data. It’s the foundation to accounting success. The ability to access up-to-date client data from multiple sources in a single location is intrinsic in offering value to clients. Without this process automation then trend analysis and finding insights is impossible.
Ensuring data is at the accountants’ fingertips is easy to say but hard to do. With multiple bookkeeping and financial systems available to clients. Accountants are finding themselves having to work with an overwhelming number of different technologies and data sources.
This invariably means hours spent manually downloading data into spreadsheets made up of complex formulas and macros, switching between files and tabs, and checking calculations and data integrity. Only to find the data has changed and the process begins again.
This is just the start of the problem, since critical financial data doesn’t only reside in bookkeeping systems.
According to research from McAfee, companies with fewer than 1,000 employees run an average of 22 custom applications. Customer or supplier information, business or financial data are spread across these separate apps or cloud services, making it seemingly impossible to get all the data in one place. That’s not to mention dealing with those legacy paper-based data sources which are still rife across many firms.
What’s needed is a structured data hub, with data standardized into a universal chart of accounts. One that has the connectivity, tools, and functionality to retrieve, store, and manage multiple data sources in real-time and for the whole firm. One source of truth for all client bookkeeping data, irrespective of its source which updates automatically when the source data changes, so you know it’s always accurate. and standardized into a common chart of accounts everywhere.
Once all of an accountant’s data, both current and historical, is centralized, standardized and always available – they can start to think about automation. Great processes make great practices—and standardization is a key part of this. Having standardized ways of working helps ensure that every one of the firm’s accountants is operating to the highest possible level. This means that all clients will receive the best possible service—no matter how many of them there are. It also means you can do more, faster and to a consistent standard. Be better if you like.
Therefore, it’s crucial that firms create processes that will deliver the maximum impact—and require minimal time, effort, or stress.
Without standardized workflows across the firm, teams can often find themselves bogged down by spreadsheets—and they end up spending too long on manually intensive reporting processes. This leaves little time for valuable activities, such as forecasting, analytics, or providing genuine business advice. It also creates an unwanted margin for human error, which is a huge risk if the result is misreporting crucial figures.
So, what’s the solution?
To better use the technology at their disposal. By possessing the right technological skills, accountants can customize software to produce standardized workflows that everybody in the organization can follow. They can fine-tune their off-the-shelf software and make it specific to their business. They aren’t programming—they aren’t changing the core functionality of the program—but they are changing the way in which it operates throughout their organization. In turn, this increases the value that it will have.
This process requires having a development mindset. It’s not enough for accountants to simply bend their processes and ways of working around the software they implement. To become as efficient as possible, they need to recognize where the technology is not performing up to their way of working. They must then identify ways to remedy this themselves, or by working with the software provider’s team. The right platform gives accountants an accessible way to build their own processes.
In other words, they need to become developer accountants.
Interested in learning more? Download your complete copy of The Developer Accountant.