The rate of technological innovation continues to accelerate across all industries, and while accounting has often been seen as overly cautious and somewhat slow in technology adoption, the reality is that we are also being drawn into the relentless waves of technological change.
While my primary role is advising companies to implement and benefit from innovative, proven, and currently available technologies, I spend a lot of time searching other industries for evolutionary technologies that can break through to the accounting profession and strengthen our company’s production processes. . In that vein, I’m highlighting a few technologies to evaluate in the next year, as well as a number to keep in mind that could significantly change our world in the next decade.
Workflow to ERP: Without a doubt, workflow tools that have integrated engagement tracking have been one of the most significant innovations to improve accounting firm productivity in the last decade. While these applications were initially targeted at tax production, we have seen them evolve and be used for administrative and assurance optimization. Unfortunately, recent pushes toward adoption of advisory services highlighted weaknesses in these existing systems, which are not evolving fast enough to incorporate advisory projects, leading forward-thinking companies to look elsewhere. Expect to see cloud-based solutions with strong enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities flow into our profession if current accounting workflow vendors don’t step up development of their own tools to address accounting and consulting output. clients (CAAS).
Security of technology: The sophistication and capabilities of hacking groups are accelerating beyond the defense capabilities of most accounting firm IT teams, making it critical that companies make security solutions a priority. by outsourcing to managed security vendors with enterprise-class capabilities. While most businesses already use two-factor authentication applications, we anticipate that an additional layer of security such as physical or biometric (iris/fingerprint scanning or facial recognition) key fobs will eventually be required. Microsoft, Google, Apple, and even MFA provider Okta are promoting these workarounds that could replace your current login passwords by removing them altogether.
Microsoft innovation: Businesses have long relied on Microsoft Office tools to improve productivity, and the accounting profession has embraced the Office suite to integrate with and support accounting applications. Throughout COVID, Microsoft has been seen to enhance its Teams platform making it integral to collaboration both within companies and with customers. Look out for an expansion of collaboration features this year, including Bookings (scheduling), Excel Live (live collaboration in Teams), Lens (PDF scanner), Viva (employee experience), and Clipchamp (creating learning videos ) that enhance individual collaboration.
Artificial intelligence: Most accountants are aware of the benefits of linking applications with APIs (Application Program Interfaces) to automatically transfer accounts payable, payroll, expense, etc. data. directly into the accounting program as part of their “Tech Stack” consulting company. Many of these tools claim to use artificial intelligence to automatically analyze, precode, and automate memory transactions. With counter management, the application programming can “learn” to handle specific scenarios when those scenarios reoccur. We refer to this type of machine learning as increased intelligence, as counter skills are needed to code the scenario, as evidenced by tools like Vic.ai, Dext, Divvy, Tipalti, etc. Keep an eye out for enhanced “AI” features being added to tools that integrate with your business applications, and plan to spend significant time in the coming year learning how to use and implement them for customers.
Dashboards/Scorecards: Accountants are experts at understanding financial reporting, and many have uncanny skills at analyzing client operating reports. One of the crux of developing advisory services is to help clients better understand their businesses and identify opportunities to improve them, which can be achieved by simplifying the flow and timeliness of business information. Financial reporting tools like Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and Domo enable accountants to capture critical business information in near real-time to help clients make better decisions on an ongoing basis rather than waiting for reports after reports. End of the month. When integrated with the APIs and data transfer tools mentioned above, accountants will be able to create business dashboards and dashboards to provide up-to-date business results.
Blockchain/Decentralized Finance: Most accountants are familiar with the Blockchain concept from their (or their clients’) forays into cryptocurrencies. While cryptocurrency gets all the attention (both for better and for worse), the underlying blockchain technology is being applied to perform specific business transactions more efficiently and we expect smart contracts and decentralized finance to become the practical implementation of blockchain in the coming years. Smart contracts are agreements written in code on the blockchain that are “self-executing” when terms are met between the contracted parties and could, for example, facilitate payments for services or transfer property titles. The concept of decentralized finance (DeFi) allows for peer-to-peer transactions or exchanges (removing financial institutions) that are recorded on the blockchain so that they are traceable and irrefutable.
Augmented reality: If you’ve ever used a smartphone app to look at the stars and see the outlines and names of the constellations on the screen or used a head-up display in your car that shows your current speed (and the speed limit), you’ve experienced augmented reality. Imagine talking to a customer and having current tax information projected onto the inside of your glasses by invoking commands similar to “Alexa” or “OK-Google,” which are capabilities built into the next generation of smart glasses like those from Lenovo, Vuzix, Bosch, and HoloLens 2 from Microsoft.
Virtual reality: Today’s video games immerse players in virtual worlds that allow them to freely explore and interact with others virtually on a computer screen or completely immerse themselves with video headsets like the Oculus Quest that display a 360-degree view of a virtual world. . These virtual worlds, often referred to as the Metaverse, are seeing investment from real companies (Walmart, Nike, Coca Cola, etc.) paying real dollars to acquire virtual real estate at places like Decentraland and Sandbox. In these worlds, virtual avatars controlled by real people can explore and interact with these businesses, which are actually potential customers who can prefer to interact in this way. The accounting profession is already making inroads into the metaverse with accounting provider Wolters Kluwer and CPA firms like PwC and Prager Metis buying virtual real estate to attract and engage with clients.
With such significant change becoming the norm, it is important that companies not only identify technology opportunities, but adapt their culture to successfully implement and institutionalize these technologies (including quickly unlearning the old ways). Today’s environment requires compressed learning cycles, so we expect companies to proactively adopt learning culture tools, including dedicated learning management systems and organization tools through Teams/Yammer. While all of these innovations may not impact businesses in exactly the ways described above, it is important to understand that they will all come and be part of the future of our business and our customers.
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA is director of enterprise technology strategy for Right Networks, partnering exclusively with accounting firms on production automation, application optimization, and practice transformation. He has been consistently listed as one of INSIDE Public Accounting’s Most Recommended Consultants, Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People, and CPA Practice Advisor’s Top Thought Leaders.