Role of accountants in the past
Accountants like ourselves are in a different position than where we were about ten years ago. Back then, we worked within the confines of our own world that was full of numbers.
We calculated figures, made financial forecasts, checked the incoming revenues versus outgoing expenditures, and overall, we had to be sure that the company’s bottom line was safe.
It was our job to tell our bosses and managers that this department was making money, or that the company overall had to cut down on unnecessary costs if it was to enter a healthy fiscal year.
And then back we went to our respective cubicles, jotting down figures and numbers, and keeping the company’s most confidential data under tight lock and key, in a manner of speaking.
Role of accountants at present
That was then. Today, we face a very different world, where accountants and other colleagues in the financial sector have to mix and mingle with the rest of the workforce.
We will face enormous challenges that our professional predecessors never encountered. We have to study and be knowledgeable of technology, which is saying a lot because software solutions and other innovations are constantly changing.
While security and privacy remain paramount, we have to learn how to chat up a storm as social media is becoming one of the most indispensable tools of our trade.
And we have to be agile; our skill set and the way we perceive things have to catch up with the times, and we always have to build on our training, knowledge, and experience.
Credit all that those new challenges to the evolution of the business world into one that has been characterized as VUCA.
As the Harvard Business Review puts it, VUCA defines the 21st century and onward as an era that is filled with “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.”
The companies we work for feel it. One presidential electoral upset can cause swings in the stock market.
The casual disintegration of once formidable and solid unions of nations in one region can throw economies into a tailspin and pose risks to the branches and subsidiaries that our leaders manage.
As accountants, it is our job to make sure our numbers are correct, interpret them, and make sense out of them.
In short, we too must evolve as leaders and form order and understanding out of the seemingly tons of chaotic data, events, and activities that come streaming into our workplace.
Other challenges accountants face today:
The ‘threat’ and opportunities posed by technology.
The impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the business world cannot be underestimated. Many tasks that are mundane and repetitive will be taken over by machines.
Software solutions, powered by machine-learning AI, can soon do automated bookkeeping and other financial documentation for us. But let’s not make this a reason to become desperate, angry, or embittered.
As Forbes advises, the use of machines to do the above tasks can free human accountants to do more supervision and analysis.
Humans will still lead with machines serving them. But this also means that we, as accountants, should not shirk away from new technologies but instead learn how to embrace them, use them, and maximize their use as resources in their respective companies.
We need to be more agile.
As the Accounting Web points out, we have to stop learning on our abilities and instead make learning a lifelong skill.
Aside from developing new skills that can help us make technology work for us, we might also need to harness others that we once thought were unnecessary.
For example, senior accountants now are often called upon to make presentations to the board and higher management.
Sometimes, we have to take a stand about certain decisions and make an eloquent case as to why we are doing so.
This also means developing soft skills such as presentation skills, communication abilities, and empathy to make strong connections with the rest of our colleagues.
And while we may be excellent in wielding Excel, it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit of Infographic and PowerPoint as well.
Being adept at social media.
As private individuals, we do often spend a couple of hours every day on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linked In, sharing stories with real-life friends and loved ones.
Now, as agile accountants, we have to be ready to network online. Collaborating with colleagues and other members of the trade can give us new information or provide us tips on new economic trends that our bosses would want to know.
One challenge is recognizing that it is no longer enough to pick up this kind of information in the water cooler; we have to go online and socialize.
Becoming ethical leaders.
This is probably the greatest challenge of all, says The CPA Journal. Accountants and other financial professionals are no longer mere yes-men who rubber-stamp whatever financial decisions the leaders make, regardless of their soundness or value.
Leaders who are out for their own gain or are simply careless have made bad business decisions that have led to various economic crises in recent decades.
The public will no longer stand for this and demand total transparency from the companies it deals with. The government, too, has flexed its watchdog role to prevent another subprime crisis from happening.
Accountants and financial professionals have a moral duty to tell their leaders when the course they are taking is unsound and can lead to greater damages in the future. We know the numbers, the projections, and whether certain decisions can lead to productivity or perdition.