Future of Accounting

Four Skills All Accounting Professionals Need in a Post-Pandemic World

June 21, 2021

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

46% of workers in a global survey of over 31,000 people will likely leave their employer this year because they can now work remotely. At the same time, another 46% are planning to make a major career transition. If the trend is accurate, the ‘anywhere workforce’ will be getting into a game of musical chairs as businesses open doors to a hybrid work routine. Complimenting this wave is the number of new job openings, which hit a record high of 9.3 million in April in the US.

But there’s a BIG problem

One in three businesses are struggling to find skilled talent. In a recent report, 96% of finance leaders said it’s very or somewhat challenging for their company to find skilled professionals right now.

As businesses come out of hibernation and ramp up operations to meet the demands of a post-crisis economy, CFOs are expecting a different set of skills from accountants of the future. The next generation of financial professionals needs to be tech-savvy, versatile, and comfortable working alongside the latest technology and software. They should know how to communicate with the broader organization and be able to provide highly accurate forecasts based on in-depth analytics.

With massive new changes rolling in fast, upskilling and reskilling is taking a renewed sense of urgency. Here are the top four skills that will help you succeed in finance in a post-crisis economy.

Share expertise
Finance leaders will be expected to share expertise with other departments on how to make the business more cost-efficient

Cross-functional collaboration

Once upon a time, accountants would sit in the back-office with their files, calculators and scanning machines. Now the profession is moving to a bigger integration of technology where accountants are interacting with co-workers, different department heads, vendors, and other associates virtually. Accountants are expected to share expertise with them on how to improve numbers and help the business become more cost-efficient.

As part of the modern-day finance team, you should know how to increase cross-functional collaboration, and act as a check and balance to validate financial decisions across the firm. For example, meal delivery service Marley Spoon has its financial planning and analysis team working with the menu planning team. According to the CFO at Marley Spoon, “They work with procurement to help them identify opportunities to spend money more wisely.”

AI automation
Finance leaders have identified expertise in automated tools as a desired skill requirement

AI and automation

In the age of big data, processing an ongoing tsunami of information and making sense of it can be a major roadblock. Cloud technology and AI can solve this problem by freeing up your time from manual tasks, such as data entry, so you contribute more time to high impact work, and solving complex problems. According to Deloitte’s 2021 CFO Signals Survey, which was conducted focusing on pre-and post-pandemic changes, automation skills were often cited as a desired skill requirement by finance heads.

With the proper knowledge, accountants can capitalize on the opportunities such as cost savings. For example, a reduction in days sales outstanding (DSO) means additional cash flow, allowing the business to reinvest that money into growth strategies.

Accountants must familiarize and understand software that can assist and amplify their performance. Keeping up to date with current technology so you can automate processes as much as possible will save time, improve accuracy, and position you as a vital component to a company.

Accountants must know how to analyze critical financial KPIs, such as how much does it cost to process one invoice

Analytical awareness

While having real-time access to data is a great start, knowing what to do with that information and using it to shape strategic goals is far more beneficial. Accountants must know how to study a company’s KPIs and bring fast, visible insights to the leadership team. Critical thinking will help you ask key questions to gain a deeper understanding about which indicators are crucial and which are anomalies. For example:

  • How much time and money does it cost the business to process one invoice?
  • How many steps does an expense report submission require?
  • What kind of cyber or internal fraud has the business experienced?
  • What is the average time that it takes to approve an invoice?

Financial professionals are now expected to track and resolve such challenges. An automation software like Beanworks offers features to assist accounting teams with tracking KPIs within accounts payable (AP). It creates custom, predictive reports to support and enhance the company strategy.

improve the existing system and workflow
By staying on top of the latest tech tools, finance professionals can help make improvements to broken or traditional systems

Enhancing existing processes

There are certain limitations that you can only see if you have the technical expertise – they will be invisible to others. And by optimizing workflows, you can help achieve better results. Before remote work became a global reality, the majority of  finance teams relied on paper and spreadsheets. A whopping 86% of finance teams were entering data manually, spending hours on this tedious task.

Now, accountants are expected to execute and train others within the team to replace these processes with more dynamic models. One finance team that was processing more than 250 invoices per month on paper, automated this part of accounting and switched to electronic payments during the pandemic.

“The pandemic is forcing everyone to change their business model,” says Douglas Chow, accounting supervisor at Science World in Vancouver, Canada. “It’s very rare that an electronic payment gets lost. With checks, there’s always the risk of them getting lost in the mail or delayed during a crisis like COVID-19,” he adds.

With technological knowledge you can make improvements that will fix broken and antiquated processes. Whether it’s a document management system or an online audit procedure, accountants will be expected to share valuable insight in making a business secure and efficient.

The economic crisis created by COVID-19 will require major recovery efforts. The more outdated processes become sophisticated and modernized, the more employees can offer their company in terms of output and commitment. And with fluency in cloud technology, automation and AI, accountants can delegate more time toward major tasks like finding new revenue streams and making analytical, data-driven decisions that create new opportunities. Last year taught us many lessons – now is the time to harness the power of those insights and for the accounting sector to build back better.

Learn about the latest fintech trends from the experts. Watch our on-demand webinar ‘Fintech Trends You Need to Know in 2021’

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* 96% of business leaders say it’s very or somewhat challenging for their company to find skilled professionals
* 31% of CFOs plan to develop finance teams with a focus on reskilling to meet current business demands
* 38% of finance executives said they are hiring for new positions
* 21% increase in LinkedIn job postings advertising skills and responsibilities instead of qualifications

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