A New Generation of Accountants – Embracing Automation
Technological advancements bring about many changes in the accounting profession, however, rather than fearing the new phenomenon, young professionals should embrace this opportunity to redefine their role and value add to their company. Recognizing the importance of technology, back in 2012, 3E Accounting Founder Lawrence Chai set up IT Solution, a technology company under 3E Accounting to provide a comprehensive range of IT solutions and digital marketing to complement the professional services offered to its clients as well as forming the firm’s Digital Research and Development (DR&D) team for leading development in new technological growth areas like robotics process automation (RPA), Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). 3E Accounting’s employees were given the opportunity to support the new technology by redefining their role.
Threat Poses by Automation
With new emerging technologies, tasks previously performed by accountants were replaced by automation. Tedious manual work can be taken over by machines and the machines can handle a larger volume of transactions as compared to humans, machines enable the work process to be efficiently performed and improve the company’s overall productivity.
Advancements in accounting software also reduce the reliance of businesses on accountants. For example, the advancement in cloud-based accounting software makes it easier for small businesses to accurately enter and edit financial information without the help of accountants. Such advancements in technology will replace the work previously performed by accountants and consequently pose a threat to accountants who only perform basic data entry work.
Opportunities Brought by Automation
Instead of opposing the changes automation brings about, young accountants should welcome these advancements as it creates new opportunities for accountants to take on new roles that value add to the company. Accountants should explore their skillsets and consider how it can augment automation.
Accountants should take this chance to step up and perform tasks machines cannot do. While automation can handle routine tasks like bookkeeping and data entry, tasks that involve professional judgement and interpersonal skills are unable to be performed by machines and can only be done by a human. In addition, breakdowns are bound to happen with automation, when this happens, human intervention is needed to step in to rectify the situation. This is not limited to just monitoring the machine’s functions and output, but also to scan for any variation in the business environment.
By finding an ideal function or role within the profession, one can excel in times of automation by focusing on that particular role. Furthermore, accountants should make use of this time to develop their own automation tools by riding on the rapid advancements in machine learning (ML) and artificial learning (AI). For example, a new auditing concept – continuous auditing was developed. With continuous auditing, the technology will monitor the company’s transactions and compare it to the benchmark and identify any anomalous events. Alarms will be triggered and route the anomalous events to accountants for further evaluation and solution. With this, accountants do not have to do the monitoring work as it will be performed by the technology, accountants will play the role of using their professional judgement to select the suitable technologies to build resilient audit processes that meet the intended audit objectives.
3E Accounting Using Automation to Their Advantage
To go along with the growth of technology, a digital master plan was developed by 3E Accounting’s DR&D team to map out the business’s digital transformation. Within 15 months since the DR&D team was formed, the team successfully completed the digital transformation of 3E Accounting and all services offered by 3E Accounting can be fully processed digitally.
Progressing ahead, 3E Accounting’s goal is to build intelligent robots to perform tasks and work with human co-workers to improve productivity and enhanced value creation for both 3E Accounting’s internal and external stakeholders. 3E Accounting has already successfully developed Financial Report Robot and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Robot and is currently in the process of completing a Tax Robot and Bookkeeping Robot with the Tax Robot officially launching in 2021 and the Bookkeeping Robot targeted to complete by 2022.
The development of robots help save up to 90% of time spent on tasks and with these AI technology, a 99% increase in 3E Accounting’s productivity is expected. For example, with the customized RPA robot, repetitive tasks involving retrieving data and forms are automated, and the process is programmed to be effectively accurate in selecting the correct data such as the correct Year of Assessment and solving Captcha without any human intervention. The Financial Report robot is programmed to pick up data in different formats and analyze, learn and verify the data to generate financial statements in accordance with the appropriate standards.
By using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to perform the mundane tasks, 3E Accounting’s accountants are able to leverage on the technologies to gain deeper insights and focus on value-added activities such as financial advisory work. For example, as there is no need for 3E Accounting’s accountants to generate the financial statements with the deployment of the Financial Report robot, 3E Accounting’s accountants can focus on analyzing data to discover ways for clients to improve their business.
The Future Accountants
With automation reimagining, the work of accountants in the future, accountants need to capitalize on the automation’s accompanying opportunities to stay essential for businesses. Beyond that, accountants need to consistently upgrade their skills to remain relevant given the rapid developments in technology. Young professionals can also explore areas they can step in facing increasing demand, such as the area of continuous audit and forensic analysis. Ultimately, accountants should not fear automation but embrace it positively.