Accountancy, like any other profession is going through a number of changes. These changes are experienced across the board from job descriptions, staffing, technology, talent and cloud accounting. As this New Year progresses, it is critical to understand what the profession holds. To better appreciate this, Sakwah Kenya held an exclusive interview with Michael Armstrong (FCA and ICAEW Regional Director for Middle East Africa).
What’s the expectation this year as regards job descriptions?
Job descriptions have become more flexible in today’s environment. It has become quite a challenge to find a candidate who can meet all of a company’s hiring criteria. It is therefore expected that accounting firms will be looking for candidates possessing the most critical skills and then providing new employees the training needed to succeed on the job.
This strategy results in a larger pool of candidates and serves as a valuable recruiting tool. Future employees especially top accounting students, look for businesses that are generous with professional development.
Skilled professionals are key towards the optimal performance of any organization. What will be the outlook in regards to staffing?
A company can better control costs when its managers can quickly staff up and down as demands change. Therefore many businesses will continue to have a mix of full-time and interim staff. Core team members take care of day-to-day tasks, while specialized consultants and temporary professionals handle the extra load and work on critical projects when in-house staff lack the requisite skills or capacity.
What key technological trends should the profession expect?
This year we will continue to see accountants remaining agile, embracing new technologies while evolving their business models in an environment of changing legal, regulatory and industry standards in response to heightened community expectations. This will require greater transparency and individual accountability.
A key trend will be the progressive full automation in labor-intensive tasks like tax preparation, payroll and audits and banking, and finance professionals will need to adapt to this new environment.
How will talent affect the present accounting profession?
According to latest research on business needs, the top concern is finding the talent to service businesses. As accounting enters a new chapter in the evolution of the industry, it is never been more important for firms to have a team of skilled, talented and flexible accounting professionals.
The accounting profession is constantly evolving and this offers a huge opportunity for the profession to be more relevant than ever. Achieving this will require us to train and develop people with a different range of skills and abilities.
For 2019 and beyond, the mix of skillsets is critical. The profession will need people who have accounting skills but who are also extremely IT literate. A knowledge of analytics is becoming more important – and also the ability to code and work with a range of new technologies. Increasingly “soft” skills are also in high demand, such as communication, strategic thinking, negotiation and leadership.
Audits will be enhanced by technology, but this is only part of the equation. Highly skilled humans will always be needed to interpret the big data, report and to interact with other humans on key judgement areas and provide assurance around the new technologies which are generating the data.
What impact will cloud accounting have on the advancement of the profession?
We’ll continue to see cloud accounting shift the landscape of accounting away from the desktop to the cloud. This is because companies will be looking to save plenty of money and storage space by allowing users access the software via the internet instead of having to install the software across every employee computer.
Recent research shows that companies that use 100% cloud-based accounting saw a 15% year-over-year revenue growth.