This guest post from our partner BlackLine, discussing how technology can help with the shortage of accountants.
Over the years, the accountancy profession has been known for its stability and rewarding nature. Recently, the number of students specializing in accountancy has dropped while the number of accounting professionals leaving the sector has risen. Yet the demand for qualified accountants shows no signs of abating, resulting in a pressing talent shortage in the finance and accounting industry.
Tammy Coley, BlackLine’s Chief Transformation Officer, chatted about the topic with radio station CNA938 in Singapore.
Technology in the Accounting Profession
Tammy and the show host discussed the rise of technology in the sector and its impact on the profession. Tammy noted that the pandemic caused a lot of corporations to think differently about accounting which led to an embrace of technology and its ability to reduce the reliance on manual, spreadsheet-driven processes. But, in truth, she believes the industry should have been thinking differently about it for a long time before the pandemic.
“We in the accounting profession have a significant opportunity to stop allowing these manual routine processes to continue to be the focus of the accounting function. Accounting is critical, yet many accounting professionals spend so much time simply going through the motions, doing those same processes over and over every period,” she explained.
It’s time to automate those processes so accountants can spend their time on higher value-added activities.
“I am so passionate about helping the accounting profession get away from the manual routine processes and really add value by analyzing the numbers and making sure the numbers are accurate.”
The Accounting Talent Crunch
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) notes the talent crunch in the finance and accounting industry in Singapore (and elsewhere) is expected to worsen. The perception that accounting is still manual, routine, and not exciting may be part of this.
“Accounting is an awesome profession. I love, love, love accounting!” exclaims Tammy. But she goes on to say that accounting has done itself a disservice over the years by continuing to allow the processes to stay manual and routine.
However, this has exposed a huge opportunity to embrace technology and let it do the hard work on the manual, routine processes. This gives accountants an opportunity to better understand the drivers of the business and help the company make good decisions.
Let’s look at an example. In the past, you’d come to work and know that you’re going to pull this data from this subsystem, you’re going to put it into a spreadsheet, then you’re going to calculate the journal entry, and you’re going to post it.
What if, in place of you doing that process over and over, the software does it? Now, instead of posting that journal entry, you get an opportunity to step back and say, “Okay, the system posted it, but does it make sense in comparison to last period or last year? Does it make sense in comparison to forecast?” Now, you can focus on understanding whether the numbers make sense, analyzing the numbers, and helping turn the numbers into information—not just data.
Changing the Perception of Accounting
Tammy feels strongly that the industry needs to change the perception of accounting to get more people interested. The current view is that accounting is a lot of manual work—and that’s not wrong in many organizations.
Students go to school for years to become an accountant, and the job is so critical, but then some people just feel stuck in this manual process cycle. “Those manual routines? They don’t have to be manual anymore. We’ve got to take our game to the next level and not just stay back where we were before the technology could do so much for us,” Tammy explains.
With solutions like BlackLine, accounting departments can automate the manual processes, the routine tasks, and the activities that take up so much time. With that time freed up, F&A professionals can provide an elevated level of service to their organizations and stakeholders, while the organizations benefit from increased job satisfaction and employee retention.
This blog post was originally published on the BlackLine blog.