Digitization is not just an umbrella term for entertaining smartphone games and new social media applications. It changes our everyday life and our lives in an unprecedented way – and our work is no exception.
Especially in the areas of accounting and controlling, a lot is happening in the context of the digital transformation. From the profound innovations in the roles and their responsibilities to the extensive use of completely new software.
What the area looked like in the past
If one can believe a study by the IMA, about one third of all employees in the Accounting and Accounting Department spend much of their time repetitive tasks of low business value. To be precise, 50- 75% of working time is spent on this.
In addition, 55% of respondents also said that they believe that comprehensive automation is urgently needed in order to be able to keep pace with the increasing workload in the long term. These figures illustrate very clearly that there is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of performance and productivity in the controlling departments of the world.
With the comprehensive introduction of technology and software solutions specifically tailored to the subject area, the range of tasks of employees is currently changing from the ground up: while only a few years ago, for example, comprehensive Excel knowledge was absolutely essential, today employees are in demand who quickly get involved in new programs, display key figures in dashboards and can communicate them without any problems.
The processing and processing of the enormous amounts of data available today thanks to advancing digitalization is an increasingly technical field. The idea that a company’s books could be manually reviewed and organized seems increasingly absurd – automation and digitization are the key to keeping up with current developments.
How the roles in accounting change
These new requirements profiles are, unsurprisingly, a major change in the labour market. The demand for corresponding talents already significantly exceeds the supply and also makes salaries increase noticeably: up to 25% more are predicted for experts who shift their focus to the technical aspects of accounting. Since automation ultimately achieves the same work more efficiently and at a lower cost, this is not surprising.
However, those who “come up with these innovations” may soon face major problems and find that the skills that are now in demand cannot be learned overnight. An active approach and evaluation of one’s own skills and personality can help to find a place in this new reality.
Now, if we look at the individual roles of the accounting sector, we discover very different changes in orientation and importance. The only thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that the digitisation of all positions and tasks concerns.
The CFO is transforming itself from a former pure “financial guru” to a real change manager. He is the biggest supporter and supporter of automation efforts and leads by example in his own field.
Accountants have always known that data-driven decision-making leads to better results. Belly decisions have never really had a place in controlling. With the incredible productivity gains that have taken hold through digitalization and their focus on collecting and using data, this approach can be easily justified against the biggest doubters.
The new CFO can therefore, thanks to technology, take on more and more strategic tasks within the company, instead of just worrying about accounting. As a sponsor of automation and analytics, he becomes an indispensable part of the company’s strategy.
The controller develops into an architect of automation processes. It goes without saying that the recurring processes should not be re-handled each time – but they have not always been feasible in the past.
With the rapidly increasing possibilities of corresponding software, process automation has long since become a daily occurrence. However, these operations must be created, customized, expanded, and reviewed initially. And this is increasingly the task of modern controlling.
As a cross-functional expert for business rules and automation, he is the first to realize a manual, time-consuming process as a lean and powerful software solution. With the use of real-time controlling and the associated faster, more comprehensive and ultimately easier to understand reports, it is an indispensable part of the modern financial world.
This reporting remains an art in itself, but is now being designed differently. Lightning-fast database queries allow you to display them in dashboards, whose values can be stored and calculated in real time. Creating these reports requires a greater technical understanding of the databases behind them, as well as basic programming skills. All this is needed today in addition to the basic knowledge of business administration.
The accountant’s work is also increasingly determined by automation. However, the focus here is increasingly on the improved recording of company values. Thanks to the digital transformation, previously unfathomable areas become suddenly quantifiable – increased data collection and networking make it possible.
Instead of repetitive deals and dry data entry, the possibility of applying comprehensive knowledge that has accumulated in daily work with the company’s most important figures is now emerging.
As a “we are” becoming more and more a contact person and strategic advisor in the field of finance and accounting. Simplifying accounting processes based on the possibilities of the business environment (i.e. depending on the company structure, the TechStack, etc.) is also one of the future tasks. This new role is already making the everyday life of many accountants more varied and interesting.
The implementation of the CFO’s vision falls to executives and managers. Although this position may look very different depending on the company, it combines the practical implementation of the digital strategy. Or, in the absence of one (as is unfortunately still the case with many companies), in the best possible use of the new possibilities with which digitalization is literally flooding the area.
In their managerial position, they are predestined to optimize the software used, drive automation and initiate major changes if necessary. As an interface between strategic vision and everyday requirements, they are intermediaries and solve problems – whenever possible – through digital technologies.
Changes in technology and software
Digitization as a generic term contains numerous new approaches, trends and best practices. One technology that is mentioned time and again in this process – and for good reason – is the use of cloudcomputing. Moving parts of accounting to the cloud seems counterintuitive at first, but it actually offers significant benefits.
The differences from the previous “on-site” accounting are quickly enumerated: Instead of individual computers within the company, you can access the data from any device, anywhere in the world – provided you have appropriate authorization. For example, because all the information can be found on an appropriate server, access can be made from the home office if it is necessary for pandemics.
As a single-point-of-truth, the cloud consolidates all incoming data in real time, enabling much faster and more productive work. Reporting also benefits enormously from these possibilities: Interactive dashboards can now be used to provide the recipient with deeper insights. For example, if the reader changes the viewing period, the report adjusts immediately and reflects the changed parameters. This provides much deeper insights and understanding than simple, static reports.
Security concerns are often raised when discussing the use of cloud computing in accounting. In fact, these solutions often provide more security than previous methods—especially when the data is stored on laptops or reports are distributed to different recipients. A terminal can quickly be lost on a business trip, and documents containing sensitive numbers can be read by anyone. An incorrect recipient on an e-mail distributor is sufficient.
Cloud systems are decentralized and therefore cannot be stolen. Access is possible from anywhere, but the corresponding access data is required. This also applies to the reporting: While the PDF with the monthly figures can be forwarded at will and thus possibly fall into the wrong hands, the monthly dashboard can only be reached with username and password. Because access times and locations are usually also included, data security is significantly improved.
The use of artificial intelligence also promises significant benefits. AI is particularly suitable when there are extensive learning data sets. And where can you find better structured and documented data than in accounting?
With the help of this information, for example, neural networks can be used to detect discrepancies and inconsistencies and to submit them to a human clerk for examination. This advisory function not only brings direct benefits by pointing out inconsistencies; it also offers the opportunity to further develop, improve and prepare an intelligent system for future tasks.
Artificial Intelligence can quickly take on standard tasks and support more complex applications. In the area of reporting, it is no longer necessary to manually insert all figures and parameters into a report. AI-supported software offers different templates that search for the respective key figures from the relevant databases. These templates often require minimal customization and make the work of accountants and controllers much easier.
In the future, financial departments around the world will benefit from blockchain technology, which allows for the falsifying-proof, encrypted storage of financial data. General availability and lightning-fast accessibility as well as the verification of data correctness by hash code allow completely new levels of control. The audit visit is thus reduced to a few mouse clicks.
Digitisation has a major impact on accounting and accounting. This is due, among other things, to the rather conservative structure and the often slow, security-minded pace of development of discipline: with the comprehensive and self-accelerating digital transformation, a formal wave of innovations is breaking through the field, the first signs of which have often been ignored.
Both the individual roles and the technology used will change or expand drastically. The good news, however, is that it is generally an added value for the participants: New, strategic tasks and challenges make everyday life in the finance departments more exciting and varied, while automation and process optimization minimize unloved activities.
The demands on employees often increase considerably. In particular, the fast and unbiased initiating in new software becomes a new core competence. Knowledge of the company, its technology and processes forms the basis for mastering these new tasks with further training and an open, curious attitude.