Rise of the technologist in accounting firms
There is a new breed of employee that is becoming ever present in accounting firms today. I remember looking for an accounting role after completing my ACCA and the typical requirements were, 'Experience', 'Qualifications' and a good handle on MS Excel. Some forward looking firms also called out the need to know 'Sage50' (this was many centuries ago) but it was possibly the first indication that firms placed the need to know 'software' as important as Experience and Qualification.
Move forward a few years to the present era where there have been two key shifts in our industry-
More clients now are prepared to do their own bookkeeping on solutions which are easy to use and and are prepared to use various applications which all connect together to make this task easier.
Software now has shifted to the Cloud and is built on a platform where thousands of apps can be connected to the main bookkeeping solution. These apps typically focus on workflows such as data entry, project management, reports and other industry specific apps. Many cloud accounting solutions now see themselves as Small business platforms and not just bookkeeping products, the add on apps connecting together to provide the small business client with an all in one solution.
These key shifts have a profound impact on us Accountants/Bookkeepers, our services are becoming more focused on insights and advice along with the compliance jobs (typically y.e accounts and Tax returns) whilst our clients are happy to take on the bookkeeping.
The other impact is the expectation our clients now have of us...
It's this expectation from our clients that has resulted in the birth of the 'Technologist'. For the first time in a while, it’s no longer enough for some firms to hire people who have the Experience, Qualifications and the working Excel knowledge. In this era you may need to know which app to connect to your cloud accounting software to make the data entry flow seamlessly for your client or a time roster app that allows your client to manage their employees across multiple locations across the UK. Having this knowledge provides your firm with a competitive edge, it helps your clients to easily manage their own bookkeeping and it allows you to spend a little amount of time in creating awesome management reports and insights (another app) which you can send directly to your clients.
The expectation therefore is that when your client has a question around these new apps they're using, you should be able to answer some basic questions and also train them initially on how to best use this app with their cloud accounting solution. Many of these apps offer their own training and on boarding demos, so the 'Technologist' typically also arranges the app training with their client and the app provider.
The Technologist will know how to set up bookkeeping software with a bundle of apps that fit perfectly well for specific clients. Apps which help them with their bookkeeping by pushing through accounting data by just taking a picture of an expense or bill. Apps that allow you to manage a large team of workers and track the time of their shifts so all the employees are in sync with their work patterns. Project Management apps which tracks each project and the invoicing as per the stages of completion which directly syncs back to your cloud accounting solution.
It's an interesting time to be in this industry, it's also a moment where firms are adapting and changing the way they approach software and technology externally for their clients but also internally by ensuring they have the people in house who understand this change. It's no longer an after thought once you have engaged with a new client, in many cases it's the reason why you may be receiving more enquiries via word of mouth from your existing clients who are benefiting from this technology revolution.
In the near future I would expect the main Accounting bodies to cover software and technology in their courses or at least expect some of the main accounting training companies to offer software training/awareness as part of their commitment to develop 'Accountant Technologists' in this new era.
Maybe an accounting job in the very near future will look like this...
You will understand cloud based and mobile technology and have experience in using various applications that connect to cloud accounting solutions.
You will have significant experience within a firm of accountants and be qualified ACA or ACCA, or by experience.