Accounting for the Future: The Profession in 20 Years
If you’re a nonprofit organization, an accountant, or some combination of the two, you spend a lot of time thinking about the future. What will it look like in five, ten, or twenty years? Chances are, you’ve got growth on the brain, and you’re doing a bit of planning for these increments. Predicting the future is impossible, and hypothesizing can be difficult of even reckless, especially with something as fluid as financials.
Accounting is poised to change, but maybe not as much as you think.
Because you’re thinking it....robots
Everybody’s idea of the future has always been robots. Twenty years ago, we expected robot butlers to be serving us cocktails on the patio. Today, we imagine artificially intelligent machines making all professions obsolete, eventually ending in a robotic uprising of some sort. We aren’t totally disillusioned--some form of robot will likely be utilized in the industry.
In accounting, artificial intelligence is a big deal, and that won’t change. But it doesn’t mean that humans are on their way out. In twenty years, files will probably be completely digitized and stored in the cloud, but humans will always be smarter than machines. There are certain tasks that just can’t be left to or checked by an automated service, and much of an accountant’s job falls into this category.
A need for agility
An accountant 20 years from now will be dealing with a different set of tools and expectations. As always, the accountant will need to be versatile and flexible. While machines may take over some of the more routine accounting tasks, human accountants will need to have a more clear and holistic idea of a business’s goals, process, and overall workflow.
Accounting is likely to become even more relationship-based, and people who work in accounting will also become accountants and confidants.
Back to the basics
There are some skills that never go out of style--riding a bike, rockin’ that fanny pack (wait, what?), and good old fashioned accounting know-how. Strong math skills and accounting knowledge will still be necessary, because even computers make mistakes or fail, as anyone who has ever tried to use a computer in front of a group of people knows. Having the knowledge to catch these sorts of mistakes will remain crucial.
The human touch
Some jobs are just better left to humans. Accountants will always have a role interfacing with clients, and good accountants are doing that now. Accountants that do that AND understand technology will excel.
The bottom line
Ultimately, versatility is key, in this and every other profession. Accountants should focus on building good communication skills, relationships, and business knowledge--now, and 20 years from now.