It might sound like something from Black Mirror, but for accountants in today’s market, ‘software that feels their pain’ is exactly what they need.
As technology has leapt forward during the last decade, accountants have had to evolve at speed, perhaps more than any other business function – and they’re feeling the pinch.
What was once primarily a tactical job has now become a strategic role that drives business success. That means accountants are under unprecedented pressure to deliver not only a quick, accurate month-end close, but to deliver actionable insights into the health and prospects of the business.
Most accounting teams have risen to this challenge, rightly seeing an opportunity to help their organisations navigate what has been a season of increased risk and uncertainty. Where they used to be seen as ‘mere’ number-crunchers and spreadsheet wranglers (an underappreciated science if ever there was one), now the CEO and COO expect them to be operational leaders, driving performance and explaining the business.
This change is positive – but it also comes with fresh challenges, not least the fact that a greater need for actionable insights means a higher standard for success. Accounting teams now need to deliver tighter month-ends, faster audits, and introduce greater workforce productivity. They’re given less time for grunt work, which means they must ensure there’s less grunt work to do.
Rather than being picked up in the audit or during the close, inaccuracies must simply not happen in the first place – or at least happen a lot less frequently. In short, accounting operational excellence is the new mandate for accountants, enabling them to provide faster answers with greater confidence.
All of that adds up to a pressure-cooker situation. Because despite these lofty goals, 70% of accountants report feeling bogged down in non-strategic tasks, not helped by the fact that two-thirds feel that compliance requirements are becoming more complex.
A staggering nine in 10 report that their job is becoming increasingly stressful as time goes on – that they are caught in a balancing act between accuracy and speed, control and flexibility, visibility in front of the C-suite, and actual productive work.
To keep a balance between the tactical accountancy function and providing strategic business insights, accountants need the right tools. The improvement in tech and machine learning is something that is helping accountants rise to this very challenge. But to be truly effective it should have accountancy DNA. It should be designed to meet the actual challenges accountants face day-to-day, based upon a real understanding of the role.
Here are a few things accounting teams should look out for when considering whether their current or prospective tech has accountancy DNA.
Does it provide transparency?
It’s essential that teams can monitor progress right through the close process, spotting bottlenecks before they become a problem and quickly validating completed tasks.
The better your visibility, the more likely you are to be able to answer ‘when’ and ‘why’ questions, and to know when you’re exposed.
Does it help you accelerate your processes?
Your software should run each month-end close in a continuous cycle, using automation to eliminate lag time and giving you a more predictable throughput.
In other words, it should enable you to quickly and efficiently execute on the nuts and bolts of your job without having to be told twice.
Does it make your documentation clearer and more reliable?
Ideally, accounting teams should be able to centralise all their evidentiary documents in one place, getting rid of fragmented, confusing data silos and thereby reducing overall audit risk.
A high-quality documentation store effectively gives you an automatic record of the story behind the numbers, making it much easier to answer tricky questions from the top.
Does it help you work better as a team?
Put simply, your software should make you happier! If it gives you the ability to streamline your to-do lists in a visible way, eliminate mind-numbing status meetings, and keep everyone on the same page, wherever they are – you’re going to get less burnt out and a more productive team.
Plus, your post-work socials will probably involve more laughing and less crying.
Does it let you automate the mundane?
Automation is here – you might as well use it! A good solution should let you automatically integrate data from Excel, your ERP, your cloud storage – reducing the manual labour required to get a clear picture.
And for those jobs that make the screensaver come on behind your eyes – let the software do it for you. Otherwise, all you’re doing is adding jobs to your list.
These are the signs of a truly accountant-first solution – not just a white elephant created by people who know code, but don’t know the close.
If accountants make the most of everything that cutting-edge solutions have to offer, they truly can make a difference to their organisations – enabling more intelligent decision-making, reducing risk, and helping frontline teams drive success.