BlackLine Blog

October 08, 2020

How Digital Transformation Enables Modern Accounting

Modern Accounting
3 Minute Read

Thyra Williams

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Part 4 of our Spreadsheets series. View the full series here.

The year 2020 has been talked about for decades, with predictions of how far technology would have progressed by the time the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.

While not every prediction held true, there’s no denying that the future is here. Let’s take a look at what this means for Accounting and Finance, and the skillset that’s now required to thrive in this new and ever-changing landscape.

How Far Have We Really Come?

According to a study by the IMA, one-third of accounting teams are spending anywhere from 51% to 75% of their time on repetitive, low-value tasks. Additionally, 56% of the surveyed accountants said they need automation just to keep up with their increasing workloads.

This means that although technology has advanced tremendously, accountants are still typically slow to change. We’re still working at an inefficient pace, especially when it comes to managing our financial close processes.

But with the introduction of purpose-built technology for Accounting and Finance, organizations are now looking for a completely different skillset.

As an accountant, I still love Excel and spreadsheets. But Accounting Today reports that CFOs no longer list Excel as a vital skill for new hires. Instead, they’re looking for candidates who are adaptable to new technologies, competent in KPIs and modeling, and have strong collaboration and communication skills.

Businesses are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A different mindset and approach are required to tackle all the data that’s constantly coming in and present it in a meaningful way.

The Payoff

As a result, efficiency has become an even greater need, and according to McKinsey, demand for this new skill set will likely outweigh the number of equipped individuals. But this is great news for those of us who are dedicated to and intentional about changing our mindsets and building the right skillsets.

The Hackett Group reports that pay will be approximately 24% higher for accounting talent that shifts their skills to align with demand. This is higher pay for doing the same work—but doing it differently.

How Technology Will Change Your Role

Whether or not technology will change your role is no longer in question. It’s a fact. And you don’t have to wait and see how it will change. Being proactive about honing your skillset and mindset can equip you to create your new role based on your strengths as an accountant and the tasks that energize you.

We so often view change as something that happens to us, pulling us out of our comfort zones and stripping away all familiarity. But viewing change as something that is happening for us gives us an entirely new perspective and keeps us open to all the opportunities that are in store.

Let’s take a look at how technology is drastically shifting the roles of the CFO, Controller, Accounting Manager, and Staff Accountant.

The New CFO: Change Agent

CFOs were once focused solely on the company’s finances. Today, technology is enabling CFOs to become greater strategic partners to the entire business, with growing ownership for all levels of risk management.

Future-focused CFOs can now become change agents, leading with automation and analytics, and being a data-driven “sponsor” for strategic decisions.

The New Controller: Architect & Interpreter

For Controllers, there’s an increasing emphasis on real-time, preventive controls and driving a balanced workload using continuous processes. Controllers are now expected to have a greater understanding of the technology on the market that can help the company become far more efficient in their close processes.

Their role will continually become cross-functional, involving better reporting and data-driven decisions, and applying rules-based automation to the most time-consuming, manual processes.

The New Accounting Manager: Optimizer

There’s a growing need for Accounting Managers to be able to take large sets of data, synthesize that information, and deliver results in a meaningful way that informs business decisions. They will be the ones to implement the CFO’s vision, and optimize the technology put in place by the Controller to ensure the intended results are achieved.

The best Accounting Managers will be focused on identifying opportunities to improve consistency and automation, improving visibility to required adjustments and trends, and using reporting and analytics to identify variances and exceptions.

The New Staff Accountant: Automation Wizard

To stand out, Staff Accountants will need to understand the new technology being implemented within their organization at an intimate level. They will do the work of streamlining processes for preparing reconciliations and using auto-certification to reduce volume.

Top talent will be able to see beyond the way things have always been done and make recommendations to improve the current processes that can work within the organization’s tech stack.

This can lead to a far more rewarding role for Staff Accountants. Instead of spending their days on repetitive data entry and manual month-end processes, they can apply their business acumen to become a strategic business partner who really understands the meaning behind the numbers they’re constantly working with.

Digital Transformation Shifts Your Focus

Digital transformation will shift the focus of the accounting and finance organization at every level. There will be a greater emphasis on process optimization and handling exceptions because the data coming in will be synthesized through automation.

Less time will be spent on building reports so the results can be analyzed more thoroughly, and F&A professionals will be able to focus on advising the business

The bottom line is that our focus will be creating value, which will make each one of us feel more valuable, engaged, and fulfilled.

Read this ebook to discover the eight change personas found within every accounting and finance organization, and how each one can help you navigate change and thrive in this era of disruption.

About the Author


Thyra Williams