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Is Software Replacing Accountants?

With business software solutions becoming more readily available for smaller businesses and Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming a reality, the world of accountancy is really changing. We talked to our inhouse expert, Martin Coates, about how accountants can stay relevant and provide value to their customers.

The Interview

What does the accountancy landscape look like in 2018?

Fairly turbulent. There’s a lot happening on the geo-political level (Brexit for instance) but there’s also developments in the US, particularly the radical tax code changes they have introduced. On a smaller scale, the pace of technological change is as fast as ever with changing work patterns, the gig economy and so on is providing a lot for accountants to think about.

How does software complement the role of accountancy in business?

In three basic ways I think. First, it makes (or should make) the mechanical aspects of accounting much easier, leaving accountants with more time for the value-added tasks they should be doing. Second, it makes it possible to produce more insightful information about an organisation’s financial state. Third, it can help you present information to end users in a way that’s easier for them to understand.

Is the use of technological support in accountancy set to increase in 2018 and beyond? How?

It’s bound to. Packages that can process basic accounting data are ten a penny nowadays but the really sophisticated packages with lots of add-ons have been beyond the reach of many SMEs. Not anymore. The ease of use and sophistication of low-end packages is increasing, while at worst, their cost is staying the same or even falling.
Many industry insiders are concerned that technological advancements may replace the need of accountants and their role, is this a concern?
As discussed in our Spring Newsletter, if your idea of an accountant’s role is the traditional “bean counting” or even the role of analysing and interpreting the financial data, then accountants will soon become an endangered species. Luckily, accountants should do a lot more than that. Their main role should be to try the keep the organisation on an even keel financially, offer financial advice and warnings (if needed) and help to make sure that the organisation is able to achieve what it wants to achieve. Technology can’t do all that yet!

What are the biggest challenges within the accountancy industry in 2018?

In simple words, uncertainty and Artificial Intelligence. AI particularly could be a big challenge to the development of the profession in the future.

How have these changed in recent years?

They haven’t changed per se and the pace of change hasn’t particularly sped up or slowed down. It’s just that a number of parallel strands have come together at the same time.

Does the approach adopted by SMEs and multinationals differ when it comes to handling their accounts? What are the similarities?

The similarities are that accounting is accounting so a lot of the processes are the same whoever you are, as are many of the regulatory requirements. The difference is how you do your processing. The larger companies still tend to use larger database systems though these are starting to move to the cloud rather than being run in-house. They may well have a need for distributed processing and access that SMEs may not. SMEs have gone straight from manual records with an accountant to pull them together to cloud-based apps bypassing everything in between.

How useful is Accountex as a platform and for understanding the needs of today’s companies?

With modern technologies already here, or on the way, it is important to stay on top of what the market has to offer, and that is what Accountex is all about. This is more than just a catalogue of products, but a platform to discuss trends and to build up partnerships in the industry. Accountants can not only learn a lot, but also build up the list of “value add” offerings that they can provide.

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Jesse Lawrence

Jesse is our marketing manager, keeping an eye on the latest news in the market as well as having worked on the GDPR legislation. 

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