Date posted: 08/11/2022

How accountants can create future-ready organisations

Learn how accounting technologies can help create future-ready, transformative organisations.

Finance and accounting professionals are living through a period of extraordinary transformation, with big data, artificial intelligence and automation technologies changing the way we work. 

Although the pace of change can be disruptive, digital transformation has unlocked new opportunities and possibilities for many businesses. 

A 2021 report titled Transformational Journeys: Finance and the Agile Organisation, jointly produced by Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)  and Generation CFO, found Chartered Accountants can play an important role in driving digital transformation within organisations and throughout the broader finance industry.

It’s a mandate Heather Smith FCCA, FCA has embraced whole-heartedly throughout her career. The author and founder of ANISE Consulting was even named one of Accounting Today’s ‘21 people helping shape the accounting industry in 2020 and beyond.’

“For me, reshaping the industry is about creating and curating relevant micro learnings for areas like accounting apps, and surfacing them for the community” Heather said. “I'm able to share these micro learnings via books, podcasts, videos, online communities and in real-life presentations that enable thousands of people to take that information and run with it.” 

Heather is passionate about championing digital technologies that help accountants work smarter and add value for clients. Let’s explore some of Heather’s key focus areas for accountants looking to transform their businesses. 

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning use predictive algorithms to help business owners see what the future is potentially going to be like – both the good and the bad,” 
Heather said.  
Heather Smith CA
Heather Smith CA

Accounting apps and automation technology

In many workplaces, accounting apps and automation technologies are reducing cumbersome manual processes and freeing up time to focus on more rewarding tasks, such as client service. While some accountants have been quick to embrace these technologies, others have been more reluctant.  

“When accounting apps first arrived in the community, I could see people talking about them as if they were robots and they weren't being very kind,” Heather said.

“Part of my mission has been to tell the human story behind the apps and the passion and the drive of their developers. Of course, they're businesses, they’re interested in making a profit, but they’re also very much trying to improve efficiency in our industry.” 

One notable example is Xero, an app which has revolutionised many accounting departments across the world. Heather's book Xero for Dummies, has helped accountants in small to medium enterprises better understand and maximise the use of the cloud-based accounting software and the connected eco-system.

“There are cloud integrators, which enable businesses to move to an online accounting software solution and integrate with relevant apps, allowing data flow between different apps,” Heather said. 

“We were seeing businesses gain back a massive number of hours because their systems were automated and speaking to one another. It’s really given accountants the time and freedom to humanise the delivery experience, bring in other projects or think about working less.”

Embrace Artificial Intelligence for decision-making 

A key challenge for accountants is that they regularly rely on outdated data sets to inform important decisions, often because there’s no alternative. Heather says artificial intelligence and machine learning can help overcome this barrier and lead to more timely, accurate information. 

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning use predictive algorithms to help business owners see what the future is potentially going to be like – both the good and the bad,” Heather said.  

“This is why I want to encourage all businesses to get online and get all their operational data connected. I want data flowing in a secure, timely and clean manner so they can surface it and use it to make data informed decisions.”  

Heather cautions that data responsibility does not rest solely with accounting, or any one department. A ‘rolling decisions’ mindset is required across the organisation to start delivering results.

Accountants need to work with bookkeepers and management to ensure the smooth input and flow of information. Once this is in place you can get to a point where you’re surfacing useful data daily,” she said.   

“Having a rolling decisions mindset allows data to be reviewed more easily on a regular basis. It’s a better option than say spending weeks developing a forecast which ends up being irrelevant based on what new data is showing.”

It’s important to remember there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation in businesses, but that’s no reason to dismiss the effect these technologies can have on day-to-day operations. Heather says accountants should remain curious and optimistic about how they can use technology to transform their businesses. 

“Sometimes you only need to make one small change, to a process, or an App setting to benefit from an improvement in a workflow. But if we've got all these people making these small changes, that can have a transformative impact on the business.”

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