By: Lyle Ball, Avii Cofounder and CEO

Okay, our premise is more than just a bit tongue in cheek. None of us had a crystal ball on the events of 2020. And yet we’ve not only survived, separately and collectively, we’ve also thrived. Yes, the year in accounting ushered in a fair share of pain. (Can we say poorly-timed downtime? Actually, the very term is an oxymoron—the very existence of downtime, by and large, is ill-timed.)

Yet, in the face of the pandemic crisis, the accounting industry and its participants have achieved innovation in days—even hours in some cases—adjusted workflows, automated processes, even adjusted the very nature of “work” to fulfill our roles as trusted advisors during the time that our clients and our own organizations needed us most.

Regardless of those painful impacts, several 2021 accounting aspects are clear.

The future is digital. According to research from The CPA Advisor, 2021 will see the fields of finance and accounting invest in technology to turbocharge their digital transformations into “a modern accounting model that unifies all of a company’s systems and data into a single source, automates manual and repetitive tasks.

In honesty, this is an easy prediction to make, because it’s the vision we’ve been seeing for several years. The years of custom development for Big 4 and Top 25 firms provided a unique vantage point on the ways Big Data and automation have affected the biggest and best—and would inevitably re-focus the accounting sector at large.

As tempting as it would be to note we were right, it is only fair to note that COVID-19 has been no respecter of companies or persons. CPA Advisor notes, “The pandemic didn’t care where a company was in their digital finance transformation.”

COVID-19 has proven an incredible test for Finance & Accounting. Business changed radically, and so did Finance, as companies had to shift to a digital model overnight. According to a recent survey of finance and accounting professionals by FSN (the Financial Services Network), COVID-19 led to unprecedented disruption, as follows:

  • The virtual accounting function has arrived, with the pandemic forcing the issue. Seventy-four percent of CFOs say they intend to grow remote work permanently, according to Gartner. It’s never been more important for the applications accountants use every day to be integrated, aligned, and responsive to the ways they now need to work.
  • Storing data in the cloud allows instant access to necessary resources from anywhere, any time. Information is updated in real-time, allowing accountants whose roles are increasingly evolving to trusted advisor to analyze data and make decisions quickly.
  • And speaking of people, finance and accounting firms will place a priority on investing in their people and change their recruiting processes to attract the right candidates.
  • Our current employees are more important than ever. People are being asked to do much more, never turn off, and to juggle more pressures. Recruiting new talent was already challenging for finance and accounting before the pandemic. Now, nurturing and growing our existing employees is more important than ever before.
  • In 2021, firms will invest in tools and technologies that help their employees better manage their time, whether it be automation for repetitive, time-consuming tasks, or collaboration tools which help teams find creative ways to connect.
  • As finance evolves, the nature of work evolves with it. Firms will require people with an increasingly diverse set of skills. As the cloud and AI become more widespread, firms will rely more heavily on individuals who are motivated to learn new skills and embrace change.
  • Firms will learn to recognize attributes such as creativity and people skills (yes, even and especially in accounting) that can complement traditional knowledge. These qualities can be difficult to identify in traditional interview settings, where the focus is often on technical skills instead of highlighting the full potential of new talent. As such, all firms will need to re-think their hiring processes to remain competitive in 2021.

So how does our crystal ball compare to the shifts you are seeing and thinking? I believe I can say with confidence, the direction we’re heading and the priorities we’re predicting are not wrong.

We’ll have more to say on the Future of Accounting 2020 in our upcoming webinar on January 28 (you can register here). I invite you to join the conversation. It is sure to be of utmost importance for all.

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