The Digital Revolution in Accountancy: Fact or Fiction?

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How will artificial intelligence and digitalisation change accountancy practice?

Star Trek, Terminator and The Matrix have for decades foretold of a future where man and machine could accomplish rapid changes, for better or for worse, to the ways in which we live and work.  With the dawn of bots and algorithms used to shop at home with Alexa or for accountants to transact company audits, are we light years away from the worlds we used to only imagine?

There is a distinct recurring theme in science fiction; the impact of digital technology and artificial intelligence on our future and how it is used as a means of rebelling against the status quo.

Given the increasing pace of progress with digital technology, you could be forgiven for thinking that we are now living in science fact. Whilst we are unlikely to be the victims of Skynet anytime soon, the impact on our daily lives and the accountancy profession in particular is and will continue to be startling.   

Business owners are increasingly accessing information through smartphones using cloud technology, meanwhile capital is being moved globally using cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Bots and algorithms are being used by accountancy firms and departments, especially in audit, to assess large volumes of data, discover anomalies and potentially reduce risk.

Administration is becoming increasingly automated and in tandem, the threat of cybercrime has created a flourishing cyber security industry. From a regulatory standpoint, HMRC initiatives such as Making Tax Digital are heralding in changes to how accounts are filed and tax returns lodged.

How are accountancy practices going to continue to keep pace with the challenges presented by this digital revolution?

Education and Awareness

Workshops, conferences and lectures hosted by organisations such as ICAS, ACCA and CIMA inform and raise the questions which need to be asked to anticipate the technological challenges and opportunities.

Service Evolution

It is worth considering developing advisory style functions from existing compliance departments. A senior manager within a large business services department recently told me that she thought compliance, to a large degree, will eventually become so automated that today’s client will be self-sufficient in this area. Consequently, her role will increasingly involve interpreting financial data, providing real-time information, identifying trends and providing advice.

There will also be opportunities for accountancy firms and professionals to create additional specialisms in order to provide a broader range of services and create alternative revenue streams. As accountancy recruiters, we are already seeing a surge in demand from accountancy practices for cyber security experts; with most large accountancy firms in Scotland looking to recruit and strengthen in this area.

Consolidating for Strength

A solid infrastructure and access to capital for investing in technology is likely to become important in the struggle to negotiate tempestuous digital waters.

Digital technology is definitely going to be the cause of many challenges and will continue to be the source of profound changes for the accountancy profession, of that there is no doubt. However, it will also continue to be the source of many opportunities; it will be interesting to see which accountancy practices become leaders in the digital revolution. 

To discuss resourcing your team to keep pace with digital accounting changes, please contact Alex Allen, iMultiply Senior Consultant at alexallen@imultiplyresourcing.com; 0141 648 9150.