Technology has required accountants to adapt their business.
According to Larry Friedman, director and chairman of the tax department at Barnes Wendling CPAs, and John Graham, senior manager in the investment industry services at Cohen & Company, both in Cleveland, accountants have seen many changes.
“The expectations of everyone in the industry and community as a whole are changing,” Graham said. “In the Google world where anyone can look something up and become their own professional, it makes it a little different there. People might see something out there and assume we do the same things. So, it shifted those expectations and how accountable clients hold us in certain situations. It also changes our expertise in the technical aspect.”
Friedman said most of the changes have been in the tax side of accounting.
“That is where I focus my practice, and the old-fashioned answer would have been we can certainly do a lot more work because of the power of the software we use and the availability of our clients to transmit information to us in a faster and more efficient manner,” Friedman explained. “In the stone ages, we did everything on paper. And the truth is, many people continue to do that. But, I’m seeing people send us information digitally more often. Now, we have a lot more flexibility to store and convert that data to tax files.”
But Friedman did add that with all the changes and technological advances, the human side of the work will always be key.
Both professionals said technology has made their jobs a bit easier.
“Internally to what we do, it’s a lot of the manual processes that are changing,” Graham said. “We’re able to streamline our internal processes because we’re able to digest more information. So, it makes it easier but a lot more difficult too because we are digesting more information. But, now we can also provide better materials back. As clients say what they want to see, we’re able to tailor that information.”
Friedman added though the work is easier, technology also allows customers to do a lot of the research themselves.
“The younger generation will be less apt to say they need professionals like us to do pure compliance work like we will send you our tax forms and you transfer that into income tax returns,” he explained. “But, I am very bullish on the impression that we will be able to offer them other services that add on to what they need. I still see plenty of clients, from younger to older, that still need someone to explain what it all means. Truth is, there will always be a lot of complexity there.”
Now, technology is important to the job of an accountant.
“The advent of technology and the enhancement of technology has allowed us to do more work at a faster pace than ever before,” Friedman stated. “Our clients recognize that and their expectations have grown to pressure us to do more work and to turn it around faster. But without question, we can do more work more efficiently.”
Graham added his specific career in accounting has changed directly because of technology.
“I realized I needed to become an expert in these tools and technologies and become more prepared in it,” he recalled. “I saw the technology come out and how I needed to leverage that. That made me shift my role within Cohen as a whole. Now, I’m the main person in charge of data efficiencies and analytics in investment. Technology changed my career path.”
Both professionals said technology will continue to develop the field into the future.
“The biggest piece is the move towards continuous auditing, especially with more timely and real-time reporting as it is feeding into these technologies,” Graham said. “You could get up-to-the-minute projection-based information instead of waiting until the end of the year. This holds us accountable and pushes us to be better advisers.”
Friedman added, “There is going to be an upward trend in the amount of data we can look at, and how we can find more information that is useful to us to analyze and report back to our clients. We will be able to look at more information faster and return with conclusions that are hopefully more meaningful.”