Today, there are more opportunities than ever before to leverage the digital landscape and improve productivity.
In the accounting space, we know the role of the bookkeeper is changing — but for many cloud-savvy accounting and bookkeeping professionals, this is just the norm.
New developments in cloud technology are enabling machines to perform tasks that once had to be done by humans — but faster and more accurately.
This evolution doesn’t mean that bookkeepers are going to be replaced by robots or machines — but that their job scope is changing.
So instead of spending more time performing admin tasks such as data entry and filing documents, bookkeepers are now empowered to develop a new set of skills, many of which will add value to their customers.
Accounting is the backbone of all businesses. It allows business owners to keep track of their finances and business performance, and run analysis and financial forecasting to plan ahead and set up goals.
However, in small businesses, accounting can easily take a back seat in favour of seemingly more urgent tasks like sales and product development.
After all, it takes a lot of time and patience to carry out admin tasks, such as recording expenses and processing invoices. But one way to provide relief for the accounting burden on small businesses is to start digitizing the entire process.
Full digital transformation is still a bold statement, but when done in a sustainable way, it fosters great results.
In light of the many solutions that automation provides to bookkeepers, there’s now a growing demand to incorporate it.
Automating data entry doesn’t only keep bookkeepers in line with or ahead of competitors, but it also enables them to better serve customers and become more efficient.
To gain insights into the evolving role of the bookkeepers, and what they can do to stay on top of these changes, we will shed light on some of the most important learning points bookkeepers can tap on.
1. Data management is more effective than data entry
Human error in data entry is considered to be among the major causes of accounting issues. A Bloomberg study reported that as many as 27.5% of companies have incorrect data manually inputted into their systems, causing tax and accounting mistakes.
Perhaps the biggest way that the bookkeeper’s role has shifted is in their relationship with data especially when it comes to switching from data entry to data management.
While technology helps to automate data entry, bookkeepers must now have a grasp on where data is coming from, and the integrity and security of the data.
2. Technical expertise
As they are constantly handling accounting data, it’s crucial for bookkeepers to develop a deep knowledge of the tools used to collect and manage data.
Technical knowledge will primarily enable bookkeepers to make the right technology recommendations for their clients.
Building a standardized tech stack is a good place to start, but client needs will vary depending on their industry, type of business, size, etc.
While honing technical knowledge is a necessity for meeting client needs, it is also a priority for data quality, integrity and security purposes.
Bookkeepers play a key role in ensuring data is correct, but there is also an added responsibility of protecting its quality as well as how it’s presented and used.
3. Educating clients
As bookkeeping tasks and responsibilities change, so do the type of conversations they will have with clients.
In addition to having access to more data, and therefore being able to provide clients with timely and relevant business insights, it’s equally important to educate them about the latest digital tools available in the market.
After all, it’s up to bookkeepers to help clients learn and understand the role they play in using technology, and who has access to important information.
4. Improving skills
Heading into any kind of new area and making changes to long-held processes can cause confusion. But changing mindsets to take on new responsibilities is only half the battle. Beyond the shift in mentality, there are a few more things bookkeepers can do to stay on top of changing responsibilities.
• Brush up their technical expertise
Developing technical expertise requires active learning, and there are endless educational resources available to help them do that.
From online courses to webinars to networking with peers, there are many ways to gain the knowledge needed to excel in the industry.
Some ideas would be to:
• Learn new skill sets
Cloud technology will enable teams to serve clients who fall into this sector, regardless of location, opening up more business opportunities.
Ivan Phuah, director specialising in Digital Finance Transformation, PwC South East Asia Consulting mentioned in a Business Times article that as the finance function evolves, the capabilities of the staff will need to change and adapt to their new environment, which will be rich in data and analysis in order to bring value back to the business through their insights to guide strategic business decisions.
This shows that bookkeepers will need to focus on skills like process management, data governance, and financial analytics, which will become prevalent especially if they can integrate them with their own knowledge of finance processes.
• Be open to change
Adapting to new responsibilities and learning additional skills is part of the new normal for firms that want to build long-lasting relationships with their clients.
New technology brings new opportunities, and it’s up to bookkeepers to resist it or embrace the changes they bring!
A Business Times article highlights that accounting and bookkeeping clerks in Singapore require more specialised technical skills such as business and data analytics, strategic business advisory, business partnerships, management accounting, and risk management.
Digitization is indeed changing the world in which we live in. But established and emerging digital technologies are making it easier for bookkeepers to manage and grow businesses and serve their customers better than ever before.
And adoption and properly automating data entry can enable businesses to create a great customer experience, plan better and develop timely financial insights to gain competitive advantage.
• Work closely with the IT team
IT teams who are already working on various systems within the company will have a good understanding of the infrastructure and landscape. This knowledge can help bookkeepers choose the solution that best fits their company and achieve its business objectives.
Once they’ve settled on a platform, bookkeepers need to ensure the IT team keeps them up to date about the progress of the setup and integration procedures. Doing so enables the team to support other departments during and after onboarding.