Accounting technology is constantly evolving. Entrepreneurs, innovators, and developers are working steadily to improve the accounting industry in one way or another, whether it’s in terms of greater security, streamlined workflow, or higher efficiency through automation.
If you’re going to be successful in accounting, you have to familiarize yourself with not just the technology currently in use at your firm, but the up-and-coming trends in accounting tech. So what’s on the horizon in accounting technology, and how might you prepare to embrace it?
Today the most crucial accounting technology trends consist of the following:
One of the biggest breakthroughs in accounting tech has been the emergence of cloud computing, and with it, better programs that accountants may use to do their work. Every year, new technologies emerge to make your job easier, and existing platforms receive updates and overhauls that ensure they will continue to compete. Today’s platforms are ridiculously intuitive and capable of streamlining the accounting process even for the least experienced professional. They’re also based in the cloud, which makes them more secure as well as accessible from any internet-connected device. Beyond that, the new programs tend to be packed with extra features, such as the ability to integrate directly with other data-related platforms, which should make your job even easier.
The Internet of things (IoT) refers to the multitude of interconnected devices being used within a given network or system. In a business environment, that usually means reliance on a variety of mobile devices but also automated scanners, RFID chips, and other internet-connected sensors and devices that bring their technology infrastructure to life. For accountants, this often means getting access to real-time data, and allowing the data to be collected automatically, without the need for ongoing human intervention.
Data has become so important to modern business that it almost functions as a currency. Companies everywhere are attempting to integrate more big-data technology to gather data, analyze the data, and make better strategic decisions. In the accounting world, data can be used for a variety of purposes, such as analyzing transactions, detecting unusual events, and enabling better understanding of customers, employees, and vendors. Accountants have long been familiar with data analysis in the form of reviewing numbers in spreadsheets, but now they’re being expected to utilize big-data tech tools to analyze much vaster quantities of unstructured information.
In today’s business environment, it’s no longer enough to perform a retrospective analysis on the data you’ve gathered in the past. If you want to stay competitive and achieve peak productivity, you need to look at the content you’re gathering at the current moment—and make decisions based on up-to-the-minute information. That’s where real-time analytics comes into play. With the right tech tools and dashboards, accountants can look at how a company’s numbers change in real time and make informed decisions based on variations in ongoing trends.
We’re also seeing the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) as a useful engine for improving the accounting industry. AI relies on machine learning and advanced algorithms to carry out sophisticated tasks—including some that were once thought only a human being could perform. Armed with advanced AI, accounting departments can analyze data in greater detail—and do it faster. You may even find AI in the form of personal digital assistants, which attempt to make accountants more productive by guiding them, providing insights, and handling some tasks independently.
AI is sometimes used for automation, but automation technology can be categorized separately. Automation is all about taking tasks that humans used to handle manually and enabling a machine or algorithm to complete them instead. This has a number of advantages; most notably, it frees up time, so human beings aren’t bogged down with repetitive manual tasks and may focus on more important matters. However, it also increases reliability; it’s much less likely for an algorithm to make a mistake than it is for a human being. In case you’re worried about automation replacing accountants altogether, that’s not a viable concern. Automation isn’t being used as a replacement in the accounting field, it’s an enhancement tool. In other words, automation is designed to help you do your job better, rather than take it over entirely.
One of the hottest technologies to gain popularity in the past decade has been the blockchain. You may have heard of it in connection with Bitcoin and other digital currencies. So-called cryptocurrencies rely on the blockchain as their backbone—the system that makes authorized transactions possible. Essentially, the blockchain relies on a ledger that’s distributed across many nodes in a broader network; whenever a transaction is attempted, all the nodes in the blockchain work together to verify the transaction. In the realm of digital currency, this allows for highly secure and anonymous transaction processing. In the arena of accounting, the technology is being explored for its ability to increase security, improve transaction speed, and lower costs all around.
In each of these areas, there is a nearly constant flow of new developments, new platforms, and new approaches.
Technology changes are hard to predict—except for the fact that technology is always changing. Accordingly, one of the best skills you can develop for yourself is adaptability. No matter what new technologies emerge or which trends prevail in the accounting field, your adaptability can empower you to incorporate them.
That means learning about new technologies as they become available, rolling with the punches as your firm absorbs upgrades, and looking for new ways that tech can help you do your job more efficiently.
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