Sage vice president Jennifer Warawa sets the scene for a new kind of accountancy that’s better suited to the always-on information age.
According to the World Economic Forum, we are now experiencing the fourth industrial revolution. The digital age has simplified and improved our ability to respond when critical business decisions are needed, building on unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and unlimited access to information.
Harnessing this has allowed us to make significant breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things. The common thread running through all of these innovations is their reliance on real-time data. Without the ability to analyse vast amounts of information in an instant, the visionary technologies that are likely to shape our future would remain ideas on a page.
Real-time data for real-world issues
As new ways of distributing analytics are used, immediate insights and recommendations are being extended to many more areas of business and finance, accountancy being one.
In this new world, changes in conditions happen too quickly for businesses to rely on out of date information. Key decisions have to be made based on real-time data, both to build strategy and manage day-to-day operations.
As businesses are transitioning to cloud-based real-time accounting, accountants have to be able to make the journey with them. They need to provide the infrastructure that helps their clients to stay competitive and improve market standing.
Businesses aren’t going to look to their accountants to collate and analyse information any longer - technology can already tick that box. Businesses are going to want advice on what to do next and will seek out accountants who can offer proactive services that add value to their business.
Historically, accountancy has been a batch-oriented process in which the figures are collated at the end of each period, before being verified and collated into summary reports. But now, with so much data being generated and gathered, it’s important accountants can make sense of it quickly.
One way is by using data dashboards, a key component of modern accountancy software designed to cut through the informational fog, providing instant snapshots of what’s happening. The more advanced solutions on the market can break this down by department or even role within the business, to provide real-time actionable insight that builds understanding of what’s happening, and allows you to take action to affect the outcome.
The always-on accountant
The real-time revolution will also change where and when clients expect their accountant to be available. Accountants will need to be even more flexible and able to work from anywhere at a moment’s notice, just like the businesses they serve. With access to real-time data, accountants will need to be on hand to provide ‘on-the-spot’ real-time advice and insights.
Gone are the days of juggling multiple spreadsheets. Simply put, real-time data is making business more efficient and more collaborative, while reducing the risk of errors and allowing decisions to be made much more accurately.
This will transform the role of the accountant. In the next five years, the majority of what accountants do today will be automated. Things like data-entry, auditing payroll, management reporting, and annual tax return submissions. Accountants will need to fight the fight in real-time, providing valuable insight that helps to drive their clients businesses forward.