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CPAs advance their careers through the cloud

Cloud technology offers accounting professionals the ability to increase their job value and more fully enjoy their work.

The shift from on-premises to cloud technology is rapidly changing the business world. It speeds up processes and reduces IT overhead, enabling companies to push through previous limitations for greater profitability. Almost every department within a company is being impacted by this change. Accounting and finance teams aren’t exempt. In fact, these teams are some of the most rapidly evolving as new cloud technologies simultaneously presents new opportunities and imperatives.

Adopting Technology Increases Value

Finance innovations have historically been met with apprehension. Even spreadsheets and ERP systems, which are standard tools today, took time to become commonly-used. Humans are biologically hardwired to be wary of change, so it’s understandable that technological advances create discomfort. But accounting professionals who rise to meet the challenge that new technology presents are increasing their value to organizations and are being rewarded with opportunities to advance their careers.

Exactly how does adoption of new technology reward accounting professionals? FloQast recently sponsored research that resulted in a report entitled Cloud Technology Advances the Accounting Profession, A Survey of Accounting and Finance Professionals. The goal of this research was to learn how technology is once again changing the accounting profession, how teams are embracing technology to help with hiring challenges, and how accounting professionals who are championing new technology are faring compared with their counterparts who are slower to adopt it.

Completed by the independent marketing research firm Dimensional Research in June of 2018, the report reveals the results of a survey of over 500 accounting and finance professionals worldwide in various roles. The statistics and insights included in this article are taken from the results of the final Dimension Research report.

Key insights include:

● Perceived benefits of cloud technology

● Trends in modern accounting and what skills are needed to succeed

● Ways technology can affect hiring and retention.

An Overview of the Cloud and How It’s Used

The benefits of cloud computing are directly related to how it functions. The cloud is an IT infrastructure where users have access via the internet to shared pools of computing resources. Users no longer need to dedicate budget and staff to maintaining on-premises servers, freeing up resources for other purposes. Organizations can use public clouds, private clouds or a combination of both for a variety of purposes. Cloud systems allow companies and their accounting teams to connect to a wide selection of applications using APIs, streamlining processes and increasing functionality. Cloud systems have also given rise to a new generation of applications that borrow heavily from consumer applications and are typically more intuitive, easy to use and be productive more quickly.

While the cloud was initially popular with smaller companies that could not afford to support their own robust computing systems, larger organizations quickly realized that the cloud had advantages from which they could also benefit. Ease of scalability, cost efficiency and flexibility rank high as reasons that even enterprise-level organizations use cloud technology. And accounting teams are leading the way in cloud adoption at many of these organizations.

According to the Dimensional Research study, the use of cloud computing for accounting is pervasive. Seventy-nine percent of respondents reported using cloud-based applications in their financial processing, from payroll to invoicing to close management, and more.

Automation is Making Hiring More Difficult

One of the main benefits of cloud technology is that it has rapidly increased the pace of automation, improving efficiency. Manual handling of repetitive tasks is significantly reduced, since cloud-based software products now handle much of this work. As a result, accounting teams are looking for staff members who are capable of performing higher-level tasks and who are skilled in the use of technology. In fact, 81 percent of respondents reported that technology, data and systems skills are much more important in an accountant than they were 10 years ago.

But these accountants aren’t easy to find. Sixty-three percent of respondents in the Dimensional Research study said it’s more difficult to hire and retain staff members today than it was 10 years ago.

Automation is a Magnet for Desirable Staff

While technology has made hiring more difficult, it also acts as a magnet for the types of employees companies are looking for. Eighty-nine percent of accountants who responded to the survey said they view the impact of technology as positive for their careers. If organizations are going to attract accountants with the skills they need, they’ll have to provide the automation tools these individuals have come to appreciate.

How Cloud Technology Benefits Accounting Professionals

Those who view technology as having a positive impact on their work and careers identified several specific benefits offered by the cloud. They reported increased work efficiency because of automation (89 percent), the flexibility to work from any location (87 percent), having less paper to manage (74 percent), and requiring less training as software has become easier to use (52 percent).

Technology was also recognized as offering accountants broader career options, such as application architecture (45 percent). Other benefits include reduced errors, more time for strategic work, having better controls, and improving the ability to do data mining and analytics. Multiple respondents mentioned that technology has helped them become more valuable to their organization.

Positive impacts of technology for accounting professionals

Cloud technology also has benefits related to emotional wellbeing. Respondents whose jobs are fully integrated with technology are least likely to find their work stressful (13 percent). They are also the least likely to think that the accounting profession is at risk of losing job security (38 percent).

Additionally, while accountants who embrace cloud technology are the most likely to say that they like to be known as a person who gets stuff done, they are also the most likely to say that work/life balance is important. While this insight is interesting, it shouldn’t be surprising, since the use of cloud-based applications is likely to make accountants more productive while freeing up time.

What Does This Mean for Today’s CPAs?

Cloud technology provides accounting professionals with an opportunity to set themselves apart as highly desirable while simultaneously making their work more enjoyable. While learning new skills and new technology can be challenging for those who dislike change, the rewards for rising to meet the challenge are great. Organizations are more likely to hire and promote staff who are proving their value through strategic and skilled use of technology.

Cloud technology isn’t going away, and it’s sure to continue reshaping the accounting profession. But CPAs shouldn’t fear new advances in technology. When looking to the future, 81 percent of the Dimensional Research survey respondents said they’re positive about the changes that technology will bring to their careers, believing their jobs will become more interesting. As mundane tasks are increasingly automated, accountants will be freed to focus on work that they find engaging.

Insights for Organizations Hiring Accounting Staff

For the last six years, jobs in accounting and finance have ranked among the top 10 most difficult positions to fill. For organizations who will need to replace retiring baby boomers in the near future, cloud technology offers a lifeline. The perks that millennials and many Gen Xers are looking for are made possible by cloud technology:

● Flexible work schedules

● Remote working capability

● Intellectual stimulation from varied and interesting projects

● Opportunity for promotions

Cloud technology enables organizations to allow staff to work from anywhere, on their preferred schedules. Beyond accounting software, the cloud offers communication tools for remote teams that streamline collaboration. Automation of repetitive tasks means that employees can spend their time on more interesting work, allowing them to engage and demonstrate value that leads to promotions.

The combination of benefits that cloud technology and cloud-based applications offer is positive for companies and their staff. For companies, automation paves the way for a better bottom line, as efficiency improvements snowball over time. Individual accountants, while facing the challenge of learning new tools, are rewarded with better work/life balance, greater enjoyment of their work, and the ability to increase their job value.

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