By Christiaan Brink, Product Executive, Caseware Africa.
Technologies such as automation, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud are changing accounting practice business models and advancing the entire sector value chain.
The enabling of new business models for accounting practices is a key change being brought about by new technologies. Instead of allocating up to 50% of the working day to repetitive tasks, those accounting professionals successfully harnessing automation are able to dedicate more time to offer additional services, such as consulting and support in strategic financial planning.
The widespread adoption of cloud-based solutions is enabling more flexibility and mobility for accounting practitioners, and intelligent software is enabling seamless integration between various systems and financial packages, which eliminates the need to manually export and collate inputs for reporting purposes, for example.
These advances support the changing business model the market is increasingly demanding – whereby clients want predictable and managed cash flows, so they want to pay for an outcome, not a billable hour. By introducing greater efficiencies, reducing resources needed, and speeding up the time taken to deliver an outcome, accounting practitioners are able to meet this growing demand and simultaneously scale up the practice.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Accountability
AI is being deployed to support process automation in the accounting sector, and we can expect to see it being harnessed more in years to come. However, it should be noted that accounting is a highly regulated sector, and therefore the fundamental issue when introducing AI into this environment is accountability. The legal responsibility still rests with the individual or the function, and while AI can certainly support accounting, it cannot take over the function.
Automation and advanced new software solutions are widely in use to support the accounting function today, helping to reduce resources allocated to repetitive processes, streamline operational functions and enhance communications with clients, says Brink.
Accounting practices are employing systems to automate and enhance invoicing, payment and reconciliation; to integrate disparate systems quickly and easily; to support batch functions; and to support compliance, for example. They may also opt to harness instant messaging to send clients reminders or update them on progress, and social media for marketing and information.
Is Automation set to Replace the accountant?
Hardly, but automation will change the practitioner’s role to a more consultative and strategic one – which is a positive move. Beyond the accounting practice, automation supports efficiencies for the entire value chain – from the regulator or other authority, through to the accounting practice’s end client, all of whom benefit from faster, simpler, more efficient accounting processes.
Over time we can expect to transform from desktop-based work to a completely cloud-based environment, with automation helping practitioners to produce outcomes more efficiently. As market leaders in financial reporting and auditing software, Caseware Africa is constantly embedding more automation and more advanced features into our solutions to address both high-level functions and real-world challenges. Our current focus areas include more efficient integration between systems, intelligent solutions to underpin compliance, and products to ensure quality results, increased effectiveness, and improved profitability for audit, tax and secretarial operations.
Christiaan holds a degree in Computer Engineering and has extensive product development experience and a passion for technology. He has spent the last 12 years based in the UK creating software solutions for the investment data industry across EMEA. Christiaan recently joined the Adapt IT group where he currently leads the product group for the Caseware Africa division.