This article originally appeared in FEI Canada. It’s a 7-minute read.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many finance and accounting organizations were still getting used to change as the new normal. Suddenly, uncertainty became a common sentiment for companies around the world.
With very little time to prepare, F&A teams had to figure out how to work from home and close virtually with a distributed workforce. Audit teams had to start performing their procedures remotely, and the roadblocks created by manual close processes and undocumented institutional knowledge became greater than ever before.
But we live in a digital age, and while the transition to a virtual professional world isn’t easy, it is possible to leverage what may seem like chaos into strategic advantage. And doing this successfully all comes down to using the right technology.
Elevating Accounting with Automation
Traditional manual accounting processes are not sustainable—and as many F&A teams began working remotely at the start of the pandemic, this became even clearer. To thrive in the midst of heightened uncertainty, risk, and accelerating change, organizations must move to modern accounting—which begins with adapting to changing circumstances through collaboration, visibility, and control.
For decades, accountants have been tackling the month-end close with manual processes tracked with checklists. Until recently, repetitive, brute-force effort was the only option.
But now, innovative technology is automating those repetitive tasks and workflows with rules-based logic, and the sophistication of these solutions is growing with robotics, machine learning, and AI.
According to Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise survey, 74% of adopters agree that AI will be integrated into all enterprise applications within three years. Additionally, 67% of all respondents are already using machine learning, and 97% are either using or planning to use it within the next year.
Here are three ways technology is equipping F&A teams to move to modern accounting and thrive in this virtual world.
Accounting Is Shifting to Analytics
Accountants tend to be underappreciated by the business. But when the most tedious, time-consuming processes are automated, they finally have the opportunity to showcase their value. As they begin driving business outcomes instead of reporting on what happened four weeks ago, they’re more likely to garner recognition.
We live in the age of analytics, and the demand for finance professionals who can interpret data will continue to increase. McKinsey predicts that 2 to 4 million jobs created over the next decade will involve interpreting machine insights—and the demand is set to far exceed the number of qualified professionals.
Additionally, as accounting professionals provide deeper business insights, they can become more proactive, and manage risk better by identifying it in the early stages. This leads to a career shift that many accountants strive for: becoming a strategic partner to the business on every level.
Putting It Into Action
Start with a top-level measure of success, such as time to close. Functional drivers provide the next level of drill-down—so link them back to your overarching metrics. Operational drivers provide the deepest level of process insight and are the jumping point to take action.
Rolling forecasts and continuous planning projects driven by FP&A require a steady stream of financials. Accounting initiatives like cutting days to close with techniques like Continuous Accounting, or even moving to a virtual close with modern accounting technology, can provide FP&A with earlier or real-time access to financial results.
Read this guide to analytics for Accounting to learn more.
Technology Enables Efficient Remote Audits
Audits can be a painful ordeal and a recurring burden for accounting teams under normal circumstances. With most companies operating with a remote, distributed workforce, it’s inevitable that conducting audits this way will follow suit.
The challenges facing auditors will only increase now that they’re done virtually—from being able to access basic information and supporting documentation to conduct your audit or quarterly review all the way to being able to attest to or assess the accuracy of the financials, which is an entirely different ballgame.
But stress and anxiety don’t need to be a part of the audit process, and an efficient remote audit is possible. Companies that utilize financial close technology move through audits faster and with better results, and they have stronger, more transparent financial management throughout the year.
Putting It Into Action
It’s critical for F&A teams to have the right technology in place. Use this question as a starting point: do you and your auditors have an integrated PBC list where both parties can access items, directly link supporting documentation, and review real-time status without having to set up meetings to discuss?
If not, it’s time to begin exploring the technology that can get you there.
Technology creates transparency, and transparency builds trust—which extends across all levels of both accounting and audit teams, from staff to senior executives. It’s a win-win relationship that pays dividends well beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Read this white paper to discover more about how to transform your audit with technology.
Top Talent Is the Future of Finance
Thriving during and beyond this crisis hinges on retaining and attracting top talent.
Accenture says that “together with analytical skills, the Finance workforce of the future needs an appetite for risk, a stomach for ambiguity, and the guts of a savvy business advisor. Attracting, retaining, and building these skills means profound changes to finance talent strategy—because the work of Finance, who does it and how will never be the same.”
Successfully embracing change and navigating uncertainty begins with developing a culture that attracts top talent and enables your people to compete on a whole new level. This looks like automating rote processes and moving to a modern accounting approach, so your highly skilled accountants have the time they need to partner with the business.
We’re at an inflection point for change that will elevate the accounting and finance organizations that embrace and effectively prepare for it. And in turn, those who successfully build their skill set for the rising tide of intelligence will be rewarded.
Putting It Into Action
Morale has always been a key to retaining and attracting top talent, and right now, it’s essential to take care of your people, appreciate them, and understand their circumstances.
- Are my employees feeling concerned about their jobs, or challenged by working from home while managing personal and family commitments?
- Are my employees engaged in and motivated by the work I’m asking them to do?
- Can I retain them with the current processes?
- In a few years, will I be able to successfully attract and recruit digital natives to a world full of spreadsheets, manual processes, and inefficient practices?
Purpose-built technology is key to shaping the way you work now and into the future, ensuring that you’ll attract and retain your top talent.
Read this playbook to learn more about how to solve the F&A talent dilemma.
Thriving in This Virtual World
These are unprecedented times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Accounting and Finance in ways we never thought possible. No one can predict how long this will be our new normal, but one thing is certain: we all have a choice in how we respond to this crisis.
We can focus on the roadblocks—and there are many—or we can choose to adapt and find the opportunities, and these are abundant, too. Organizations that become more strategic and adaptable by making the move to modern accounting and implementing the right technology will thrive in this virtual world.
As a starting point, focus on these two areas:
- What can I do to help my organization embrace and accept new technology?
- What can I do to position myself right?
Building your skillset to help you capitalize on the disruption that will inevitably continue is how you can truly thrive during and well beyond this season of so much change and uncertainty.
Read this ebook to discover two more ways technology can equip your F&A teams to move to modern accounting and thrive in this virtual world.