There’s a lot of fear and anger around automated accounting right now. But are reports of “the death of the accountant” greatly exaggerated? Before we predict a mass extinction, it’s worth remembering that the dinosaurs are still with us; they just became birds.
Modern software gives accountants and finance teams the opportunity to evolve too. Instead of having to lumber through endless dull tasks, you can swiftly get a bird’s-eye view of the latest, most accurate data, freeing you up to focus on higher-level tasks and be the impactful, trusted business partner your firm needs.
Read on to discover eight reasons accounting automation could be a great thing for accountants.
What is automated accounting?
Automated (sometimes called computerised) accounting software does the manual work of accounting for you, often instantly. It crunches numbers, tracks transactions, and completely removes the need for complex ledger files and endless data entry. With key formulae built in, it only takes a few clicks to create a report.
The idea is to simplify complex processes and make accounting more efficient, leaving accountants with more time for human interaction, analysis and strategy. While it’s also unlikely to make Excel extinct, accounting automation can do the donkey work of data entry, copying data across sheets, and spotting discrepancies and gaps in data.
What’s good about it?
- It saves time
Automation doesn’t just save time on everyday accounting work. Its greatest time-saver is that if you’ve been using it correctly, there should be nothing to reconcile during financial closing! It’ll already have checked and copied most of the data across systems for you.
For example, if you’re managing costs and expenses using a spend management platform, a team member can simply log into the system, enter an expense claim with all the necessary info, attach receipts or any other documents needed, and the entry is complete – no work from you required.
You can then export all the expense claims to your accounting/reporting tools in literally one click – cutting days or weeks of work down to minutes.
- It boosts productivity
Obviously, saving time means you get more done faster. This might raise fears of having fewer billable hours, or for staff accountants, losing your job because you’re left twiddling your thumbs.
However, there’s a simple answer: you don’t have less work, you have less grunt work. That means more time for the work that really matters: partnering with clients and guiding them towards financial health.
- It eliminates human error
To err is human. Accounting software doesn’t have that problem. It can create thousands of perfectly accurate ledger entries in a few seconds. Of course, you’ll still want a human accountant to check it over and manipulate the data – more on that shortly.
- It makes data retrieval fast
You may remember having to trek down to the basement (or even to another building) to search for hard-copy documents in a musty storage room with the ghosts of old accountants breathing down your neck.
With accounting software, you can find almost any file in seconds. Even Excel can make it impossible to find critical details quickly, but the new automated tools provide one central location for all your sales, expense, customer and vendor information, with everything categorised, so everything is easy to find.
- It keeps your files safe
As governments finally ease up on the requirement to store paper records for years and start allowing digital copies instead, software can take any document you receive, enter the data in your ledger instantly, and file it in the appropriate folder. No more struggles with overstuffed suspension files for you.
- It gives you access to the cloud
Quick, where’s your USB stick? With cloud access, there’s no need to worry about that. Every important accounting file, process, and software application is accessible from anywhere. Need to check a document or process a payment? Forget having to go to the right desk or find the right paper file; just get online and you’re there.
- It integrates other software in real time
The more accounting processes you digitise, the more benefits you’ll see. Your accounting platform, your payroll tool, and your spend management software can all integrate with each other and transfer information from one platform to another in real time – saving you the work of copying data.
- It boosts your professional development
Any career with a lot of repetitive manual work, no matter how much intelligence it takes, can be automated. If computers can play chess and perform surgery, they can certainly handle accounts.
However, they can’t handle everything on their own; the software still needs accountants to drive it and make sure it’s working perfectly. And there’s one aspect of you a computer can’t replace, the most valuable skill of an accountant: your judgment. So this is not an extinction threat but a growth opportunity.
Less number-crunching means more time for the good bits of the job, the tasks that call for judgment: management accounting, good communication, and strategising. That means more opportunities to enrich your employment experience and boost your perceived value at work.
To sum up, far from driving you to extinction, accounting software could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you as an accountant.