The future of accounting: from understanding numbers to technology

KI, RPA, NLP or ML – these abbreviations have appeared for some time in connection with the digitization of accounting. But not all companies are there yet. Some companies have just discovered that paper invoices and receipts were no longer up to date. But what’s next now? Are accountants still needed when everything is automated?

Switching from paper to e-mail does not yet make a digital change

Even if customers and colleagues now submit bills and receipts digitally as e-mail attachments and work cloud-based instead of local servers, this is by no means a sign of digital change. After all, it can be a first approach to the subject.

After all, digitization is about more than just transferring analogue into a corresponding digital form. In accounting, digitization means above all automation. For this, accounting, with its strong mathematical focus and numerous standardized processes, is perfect.

Shared Service Center instead of accounts payable and accounts receivable?

Such automation processes already took place in accounting before digitization became a big topic. And they make the work of specialists much easier: Complicated and time-consuming calculations are now carried out by software that also keeps an eye on deadlines and appointments or brings together, analyzes and centrally saves information. Often a click of the mouse is enough.

But what’s next? Why are specialists still needed when shared services can automatically take over the entire accounting and even controlling tasks? One thing is clear: Sooner or later, entire work processes will be automated. However, this does not mean that accountants are a job without a future. Even if it is one of the professions that have been predicted to die out soon since the beginning of the digital transformation.

Artificial intelligence & Co .: Accountants should get used to these technologies

However, the job description will change significantly. The typical accountant role of today, the classic number juggler, will no longer exist in the future. The position will become more IT-heavy. Accountants become the interface between technology and numbers. Don’t worry – finance professionals won’t have to become programmers right away. But they need to understand the technologies they are working with. This is the only way they can translate their technical requirements into IT language and ensure that programmers build precisely the tools they need for their work.

The following technologies in particular are relevant for the largely or completely independent work of programs:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is already taking on many recurring routine processes. Because the software behind it is becoming more and more powerful, RPA has increasingly complex processes under control, in which human employees currently invest a lot of time. This includes the calculation of depreciation .
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) enables linguistic communication between humans and machines. The technology converts documents and speech into structured data. The goal: computers learn to express themselves in a human way, both written and spoken. This already works with chatbots in customer interaction and in contract and document preparation .
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) evaluates risks for insurance companies, for example, or checks whether fraud is involved when claims are reported. In the future, AI could be used more intensively for strategy development in the interplay of its analytical abilities with human creativity (symbiotic computing).
  • Machine learning (ML) enables software to improve itself. To do this, it processes large amounts of data, searches for patterns in them and derives a learning process from them – without any human intervention. The built-in ML algorithms gain “experience” and make appropriately equipped programs very adaptable. It makes sense to use them in compliance monitoring , among other things. Here you can improve the effectiveness of automated key controls and prevent costly violations.

Accounting Transactions - Overview, Types, Double-Entry Recording

These are the skills that count for finance professionals in a digitized world of work

The trends outlined show: Accounting is being changed significantly by digitization. Step by step. Specialists in this area are therefore required. It is true that their jobs are not taken over overnight by software and automated systems. But they have to get used to digital colleagues and solutions in many areas. After all, they have positive effects: They relieve employees of monotonous and annoying tasks and give us more time for creative ones or communicative tasks that require human skills.

This has concrete effects on the qualifications that will be important in accounting in the future. In order to continue to be successful in their profession, finance professionals need skills in the following areas:

  • Data analysis: Digital information is essential for accounting and its automation. Employees have to understand them and deal with them confidently. This requires knowledge of common reporting tools and experience with cloud-based ERPs.
  • Creativity and strategic thinking: Software is always looking for patterns that it analyzes with its algorithms. If events or customer requests do not fit into a corresponding grid, programs (still) reach their limits. Experienced finance professionals are much more flexible here. You recognize individual opportunities and risks at an early stage and can develop suitable solutions or identify trends.
  • Emotional intelligence: Good accountants deal with their customers on a familiar and trusting basis. Thanks to empathy, they recognize the sensitivities and needs of their business partners and respond to them. At least today, AI hasn’t got that far.
  • Communication: Experienced finance professionals always find the right words. With their precise and at the same time understandable language, they improve customer service and facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, for example in ongoing digital transformation projects.

Finance professionals should always work on these (and other) soft skills. Then digitization in accounting will not be a nightmare for you for the foreseeable future, but an opportunity to steer your career in an exciting new direction.

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