The accounting profession is facing significant shifts in the next three decades, which are impacting professional organizations and their members, and educational institutions alike.
One major shift is the evolving digital technology. Accountants will increasingly use advanced and sophisticated technologies to enhance their traditional approaches in working, and these technologies can potentially even replace the traditional ways. Artificial intelligence, exemplified by popularity of ChatGPT, and cloud computing will support the trend toward outsourcing services, both local and overseas outsourcing.
The growth in virtual assistants enabled by digital technologies, are outsourced by firms and professionals from abroad, which is now encroaching into the accounting services, apart from the usual secretarial services. The demand for virtual bookkeeping assistants are on the rise, as these professional independent contractors can remotely manage the day-to-day finances of a firm, such as preparing balance sheets. creating general ledgers, organizing financial statements, and handling pricing and invoicing.
The widespread use of social media in the country is enabling accountants and finance professionals to market their services to a wider market base. Individual professional accountants and smaller firms are now able to promote their services to all geographies and acquire customers from all over.
Social media is likewise improving collaboration, disclosure, and engagement with stakeholders and broader communities. The use of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and even Tik Tok, will reveal more data than any corporate assurance report. Big data and analytics are also disrupting the accounting profession. Predictive and prescriptive analytics tools are helping accountants derive more insights from huge amounts of data at a faster rate. Stakeholders are likewise using data analytics tools to interpret corporate reports.
Another shift is the continued globalization, which is creating more opportunities as well as challenges for members of the accounting profession. While globalization enables the free flow of money from one capital market to another as well as the fast exchange of data across the globe, the continued growth in overseas outsourcing activities with its attendant transfer of technical and professional skills is posing challenges in resolving local problems related to differences in cultural, financial, and tax systems. Corporations and accounting firms in the U.S. and European Union are continually outsourcing accounting services to India, China, and other countries including the Philippines, in order to reduce cost, which is creating a shift in employment within the accounting industry in the Western countries. The Philippines is obviously one of the beneficiaries of this shift but the rise in virtual assistant bookkeepers are creating a shortage in accounting professions among medium and large firms.
This brings us to another shift – the preference of professionals towards work-from-home arrangements. Not limited to the accounting profession, the younger generation of employees are now favoring the new remote working arrangements, as experienced by all during the height of the pandemic. Companies that are not practicing work-from-home or hybrid work are experiencing difficulties in hiring professionals. This poses challenges to employers and managers who need to adopt new work policies and management styles.
The last shift is the increasing public pressures and stakeholder expectations on social and environmental considerations which are getting importance alongside economic concerns. Shareholders, workers, governments or regulators, non-governmental organizations, and the community have a growing interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. Organizations now need to develop environmental goals, necessitating companies to focus on the accounting and reporting considerations related to both the goals themselves and any transactions that will be pursued to achieve these goals. Therefore, ESG accounting and reporting practices are coming under the microscope.
Organizations are facing issues in finding sustainable solutions to deal with the complexity of integrating ESG performance. Accounting firms providing services to global companies and exporters need to comply to new forms of regulations related to ESG, such as supply chain transparency and employment practices disclosures.
With all these shifts, accounting professionals need to adapt by acquiring the necessary skills to thrive and succeed in the post-pandemic world.
One apparent skill is the use of digital technologies. A good grasp of technology will allow accounting professionals to better adapt to their new roles that require greater efficiency, reduced human error, and overall increase of a firm’s productivity. Accountants can achieve these by focusing on value creation activities through the integration of processes with cloud-based systems and the use of automation tools to replace manual repetitive work. Accountants can focus on performing advisory work, take on more strategic roles, and concentrate on tasks which increase a firm’s productivity and business growth.
The shift from manual repetitive work due to automation entails acquiring and/or developing other skills, such as data analytics and the use of artificial intelligence. ChatGPT promises to aid accountants in data gathering and initial analysis, but a human accountant needs to incorporate his or her analysis and insights.
Accountants also need to be proficient in technology and digital skills and knowledge, such as the use of collaboration tools or understanding of how cloud computing works. Increasingly, accountants are becoming more involved in the implementation of technologies such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and budgeting tools.
Advisory and strategic roles also require an accountant to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and negotiation skills. These skills are also the basic ones needed to enable the accountant to learn and use digital and technology solutions more effectively.
Lastly, accountants in management roles need to learn new management models that will equip him or her to acquire, develop, and manage talents in this new world of remote work.
Indeed, the accounting profession is facing tremendous shifts in the coming years. Accountants just need to adapt in order to thrive and succeed in ht post-pandemic era of business.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the chairman of the IT Governance Committee of the Finex Academy. He is fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.