Digital expertise has never been in more demand than it is now. The rise and subsequent revolution in technology has changed the way accountancy firms acquire clients, store data and carry out project work.
Many of us don't appreciate the sheer scale of change we've experienced over the last twenty years. In terms of day to day operations, nothing is the same. An accountancy graduate walking into an office in the year 2000 would be gobsmacked at the difference in the way daily tasks were tracked, handled and completed.
This isn't a bad thing. Technology gives us the ability to acquire clients all over the world. We can serve clients in different countries, draft contracts that produce passive income and create a truly global business like many of the large accounting firms have accomplished.
A successful accountant requires a robust skill-set. From sharp commercial acumen to collaboration and a well-rounded expertise in technology. Regardless of your specific position, your digital expertise form the foundation of your ability to excel in your work.
Why productivity comes first
Productivity is hyper-important in today's world. Especially considering how distracted our society is in this day and age. Our attention spans have never suffered as much as they have in the 21st century. This means the ability to focus and stay productive for a long period of time is extremely valuable.
Digital skills are at the centre of productivity for your work. For example, the difference between an expert on Excel and someone who just knows the basics is astounding. The Excel expert can get take on more work and complete tasks in less time. Having expertise in the software you use on a daily basis will help you excel in your work and stand out from the rest, putting you in prime position for promotions when they do come up.
Digital skills are in huge demand in this day and age. And there isn't enough supply to meet that demand at the moment. By positioning yourself as an accountant proficient in finance software and management tools, you can ask for more money for the same roles. Why? Because you'll get more work done compared to your colleagues.
Investing in yourself has a higher ROI than anything else.
Digital skills that boost career prospects
When it comes to digital skills in the accountancy world, bespoke software is very popular. This can make it quite difficult to specialise in specific things because different companies have their own software that they use. But what you can do is master the fundamentals. The tools that you use on a daily basis that aren't specific to the company you work for. And there's no harm in becoming a specialist with the bespoke applications your firm uses because this will position you as a valuable asset to your department and company.
Most of us have one or two pieces of software that we use more than anything. It could be Sage, Salesforce or something as simple as Microsoft Excel. By making the effort to master these fundamental tools, we can get more done in less time, impress our managers and boost our career prospects.
Taking a look at the market
If you're in the market for a new role, taking a look at the most in-demand skills is the best place to start. The ability to reverse-engineer is a beautiful thing. And the very nature of the internet means we have access to a truly incredible amount of information. This means we can find out exactly what skills companies are looking for and dedicate some time to mastering those skills ourselves. A lot of this can be done just by researching and watching videos on Youtube.
Now, this can't be done for all skills. For example, you can't qualify as a chartered accountant or get your degree in a few weeks. But you can give yourself an edge over the competition by working on skills that most other people neglect. And these do tend to be the digital skills.
A Robert Half study found that 41% of CFO's in the US cite "keeping pace with changing technology" as one of their most pressing issues they face.
Some digital skills in high demand are:
Advanced Excel - Power users of Microsoft Excel can solve highly complex problems, analyse costs and convey information to stakeholders. They can also complete more of the basic tasks in a highly efficient manner.
Business intelligence software - Knowledge of software such as Cagnos and Birst can increase transparency and help with cost-cutting measures in your firm.
Data analytics - The ability to analyse data effectively is a skill in huge demand. A data analytics expert can help with advanced modelling techniques that add value by harnessing big data for competitive insight.
Rounding things off
Having a successful career in accounting certainly isn't rocket science. Anyone with the right attitude can observe the market and reverse-engineer the things that are in high demand. Personality traits such as being a self-starter, showing initiative and going the extra mile make all the difference when it comes to landing roles with a lot of competition. Empowering yourself with the latest digital skills will put you ahead of the rest and help you stand out in the best way. Many of these skills don't take long to master and can quite easily be learnt in your spare time.
Ahmad Ben is the co-founder of Bengu. A small business that provides education and training for people looking to launch their first venture. We love nothing more than empowering people with skills and experience that enable them to start profitable businesses and excel in their careers.