The pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate across all industries, and while accounting is often seen as overly cautious and a somewhat slow adopter of technology, the reality is that we are also being sucked into the relentless waves of technological change.
While my main role is to advise companies on how to implement and use innovative, proven and currently available technologies, I spend a lot of time looking in other industries for evolutionary technologies that will find their way into the auditors and strengthen our company’s production processes could . In this regard, I would like to highlight a few technologies that should be evaluated in the coming year, as well as a number of technologies that we should be aware of and that could significantly change our world in the coming decade.
Workflow to ERP: Without a doubt, workflow tools with built-in engagement tracking have been one of the most significant innovations that have improved the productivity of accounting firms over the past decade. While these applications were initially geared towards tax preparation, we have seen them evolve and be used for security and administrative optimization. Unfortunately, recent pushes to introduce consulting services have revealed weaknesses in these existing systems, which are not evolving fast enough to accommodate consulting projects, and are urging forward-thinking companies to look elsewhere. Expect cloud-based solutions with robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities to flow into our profession if current accounting workflow vendors don’t push the development of their own customer accounting and advisory (CAAS) production tools.
Safety technology: The sophistication and skill of hacking groups goes beyond the defensive capabilities of the IT teams at most accounting firms. Therefore, it is important for organizations to prioritize security solutions by outsourcing to managed security providers with enterprise-class capabilities. While most organizations are already using two-factor authentication applications, we anticipate that at some point an additional layer of security will be required, such as B. physical key fobs or biometric data (iris/fingerprint scan or face recognition). Microsoft, Google, Apple, and even MFA provider Okta are promoting these alternative solutions that could replace current login passwords by eliminating them entirely.
Microsoft innovation: Businesses have long relied on the Microsoft Office tools to increase productivity and the accounting industry has embraced the Office suite to integrate and support them with accounting applications. Throughout the COVID period, Microsoft has been enhancing its Teams platform, making it an integral part of collaboration both within organizations and with customers. This year, look out for an expansion of collaboration features like Bookings (scheduling), Excel Live (live team collaboration), Lens (PDF scanner), Viva (employee experience), and Clipchamp (creation of learning videos) that improve one-on-one collaboration .
Artificial intelligence: Most accountants know the benefits of connecting applications using APIs (Application Program Interfaces) to automatically push data for payables, payroll, expenses, etc. directly into the accounting program as part of their consulting firm “Tech Stack”. Many of these tools claim to use artificial intelligence to automatically analyze, precode, and automate routine transactions. With guidance from accountants, the application’s programming can “learn” to deal with certain scenarios if those scenarios recur. We refer to this type of machine learning as expanded Intelligence, as accountant skills are required to codify the scenario, evidenced by tools such as Vic.ai, Dext, Divvy, Tipalti, etc. Watch for such advanced “AI” capabilities to be added to tools that integrate with your business applications, and plan to spend significant time learning how to use them and rolling them out to customers over the next year.
Dashboards/Scorecards: Accountants are adept at understanding financial reporting and many have amazing skills at analyzing operational reporting for clients. One of the core tenets of developing consulting services is helping clients better understand their business and identify opportunities for improvement, which can be accomplished by streamlining the flow and timeliness of business information. Financial reporting tools like Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and Domo enable accountants to capture key business information in near real-time to help clients make better decisions on the fly, rather than waiting for month-end reporting. When integrated with the above APIs and data transfer tools, accountants can create dashboards and business scorecards to provide up-to-date business results.
Blockchain/Decentralized Finance: Most accountants are familiar with the blockchain concept because of their (or their clients’) forays into cryptocurrency. While cryptocurrencies are getting all the attention (both good and bad), the underlying blockchain technology is being used to make certain business transactions more efficient, and we expect smart contracts and decentralized finance to become the practical implementation of blockchain in the years to come will. Smart contracts are agreements written in code on the blockchain that are “self-executing” when conditions are met between the contracting parties, and could, for example, facilitate payments for services or transfer ownership. The concept of decentralized finance (DeFi) enables peer-to-peer transactions or exchanges (thereby eliminating financial institutions) that are recorded on the blockchain so that they are traceable and irrefutable.
Expanded reality: If you’ve ever used a smartphone app to look at the stars and see constellation outlines and names on the screen, or used a heads-up display in your car that shows your current speed (and speed limit). , you have experienced augmented reality . Imagine talking to a customer and having up-to-date tax information projected onto the inside of your glasses by invoking “Alexa” or “OK-Google”-like commands, which are features coming into the next generation of smart glasses like those of Lenovo, Vuzix, Bosch, and Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.
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 fully immersive with video headsets like the Oculus Quest that show a 360-degree view of a virtual world . Often referred to as the Metaverse, these virtual worlds see investments from real companies (Walmart, Nike, Coca Cola, etc.) paying real dollars to acquire virtual properties in places like Decentraland and Sandbox. In these worlds, virtual avatars controlled by real people can explore and interact with these companies, who are in fact potential customers prefer to interact in this way. The accounting profession is already making inroads into the metaverse, with accounting provider Wolters Kluwer and CPA firms such as PwC and Prager Metis buying virtual properties to attract and engage with clients.
As such significant changes become the norm, it is important that organizations not only recognize technological opportunities, but also adapt their culture to successfully implement and institutionalize these technologies (including quickly weaning old ways). Today’s environment requires compressed learning cycles, so we expect organizations to proactively adopt learning culture tools, including dedicated learning management systems and organizational tools via Teams/Yammer. While all of these innovations may not impact businesses in exactly the ways described above, it is important to understand that they are all coming and will be part of the future of our business and our customers.
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA is Director of Firm Technology Strategy at Right Networks and works exclusively with accounting firms in the areas of production automation, application optimization and practice transformation. He has been consistently listed as one of INSIDE Public Accounting’s Most Recommended Consultants, one of Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People, and one of CPA Practice Advisor’s Top Thought Leaders.