How to Thrive As An Exceptional Accountant in 2018


2017 was an unsettling year that seemed to threaten the very survival of the accounting profession. With continual change and yet another wave of new and highly complicated technology, it’s become harder than ever to keep up and stay relevant.

So, how will you thrive in 2018?

The new year will require accounting and finance professionals to hone new skills, understand disruptive technology like AI and blockchain, and most importantly, develop a growth mindset to navigate this challenging landscape.

Here’s how to move from just surviving to thriving in 2018.

Implement the Right Technology

A recent survey of accounting professionals sponsored by BlackLine revealed that automation is playing a more prevalent role in Accounting and Finance. Nearly half (46%) of the 300 U.S. accountants, finance directors, and CFOs who participated in the survey said that artificial intelligence (AI) plays a role in their organization today, and 30% currently are investigating its use.

In the upcoming year, the companies that implement the right innovative technology will experience the greatest levels of transformation. As tedious tasks are automated, opportunities will open up for accountants to evolve with the technology and add an even higher level of value.

It’s important to focus on these future-building benefits because it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the associated costs of this kind of implementation. Keep in mind that staying stagnant is far more risky then implementing new technology to improve old processes.

Understand AI & Blockchain

Just as you began to get a handle on robotic process automation, along came AI―with blockchain technology hot on its heels. And while it’s tempting to ignore both and hope they go away, they’re not going to, and could impact you far sooner than you may think.

In an Accounting Today article, Gary Bolinger, president and CEO of the Indiana CPA Society, predicts that tech will outpace our growth expectations in 2018. He says that this includes AI and blockchain, which will “be a major factor for firms and companies of all sizes much sooner than most professionals expect.”

CEO of Boomer Consulting Jim Boomer agrees, saying that “the biggest surprise for many firms will be how quickly the emerging trends and technology they’ve been hearing about in the last year or two will come to fruition. The pace of change is becoming exponential.”

The amount of available information on both AI and blockchain can seem overwhelming, and you do not have to become and expert overnight. Begin by developing a foundational understanding within the context of how they will affect your organization and your role.

This blog post is a great place to start to learn about blockchain. This blog unpacks the impact of AI on Accounting and Finance.

The next step is to begin brainstorming about possible use cases with your team, so you can develop an action plan for how your firm will survive, short-term and long-term.

Develop Analytical, Business & Communication Skills

The rising tide of automation and artificial intelligence may seem unsettling, but it is paving the way for accounting and finance professionals to fully utilize their skillsets in elevated roles. This is exciting news for overworked accounting and finance professionals who are tired of manually matching transactions and wrangling thousands of spreadsheets.

But there is a catch. The skills you’re using today aren’t the only ones you need to become an exceptional accountant in this constantly changing business environment.

To be successful, and in fact, to become indispensable, you need to develop the ability to deliver predictive insights to leadership, drive data-based decisions, and provide expert counsel.

Here are the six skills that the exceptional accountant of tomorrow needs to begin cultivating today:

  1. Data analysis

  2. Effective communication

  3. Relationship building

  4. Creativity

  5. Business acumen

  6. Tech savvy

Become Skilled to Distill the Data

The role of finance has shifted away from traditional financial management and toward the real-time data required for strategic analysis and effective decision-making.

We’ve entered into the age of analytics, and competitive advantage relies on real-time actuals to fuel algorithms and models. According to Forrester, organizations that get it right will win, stealing approximately $1.2 trillion per year from less insight-driven peers by 2020.

This also carves out a high demand for finance professionals who have the ability to distill the data. McKinsey predicts that two to four million jobs will be created over the next decade around interpreting machine insights.

If this kind of role aligns with your strengths, begin developing the data analysis skill we discussed now, so you’re equipped to make the transition.

Build Your Blueprint for Continuous Accounting

All of this reinforces the vitality of Continuous Accounting in 2018. This modern approach lays a foundation for real-time data to fuel analytics, and gives CFOs a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the business.

Continuous Accounting embeds automation, control and period-end tasks within daily activities to align the accounting schedule with the rest of business. This allows accountants to process data and transactions as they come in, significantly shortening the financial close and producing real-time reporting, analysis, and awareness.

The benefits of Continuous Accounting are too significant to ignore. With more than 2,000 companies globally having already embraced the approach, it’s quickly moving from a trend to an accepted best business practice.

Download this ebook to begin building the Continuous Accounting blueprint for your organization.

It’s All About Perspective

2018 will inevitably see more innovation and technological advancement, as firms transform at an accelerated rate. It’s our perspective and forward-thinking that can make all the difference as we continue to advance into uncertain, unknown territory.

Cultivate the skills you’ll need to succeed, personalize your career path, and stay engaged. Understand the latest industry trends and new technology, and begin to shift to a Continuous Accounting approach. Above all, develop a growth mindset so you will be ready to adapt to whatever the new year has in store.

Perspective is everything in this landscape of constant change. Accounting and finance teams who understand that every challenge is an opportunity will not just survive in 2018. They’ll thrive.