Will 2018 be the year accounting finally embraces AI? What jobs will the robots take? How can you remain relevant? Over the past three days, we looked to answer all of these questions, and would today like to look at a few skills you will need to develop in order to maintain or grow your role in the finance department.
To be fair, the title may not do this post justice. As we discussed in part one of this series, robots aren’t out to take over the finance department, due to the fact that there will always be a human element in finance and accounting (i.e. while robots can do the legwork, organizations will still need someone to put context into the analysis, interpret the information, and recommend next steps).
However, If you’re the person responsible for crunching the numbers in Excel, you should be a bit more worried about your job prospects than many of your fellow employees. As the technology landscape evolves, finance employees will need to find their niche in order to stay relevant in the future of finance.
4 Skills That Accounting and Finance Professionals Need to Stay Relevant when the Robots Come
This is why we would today like to discuss some of the top skills for finance professionals in the wake of the robot takeover.
As we discussed in part one of this series, one of the most important things that separates us from the robots is our ability to “be human,” and our ability to have human interactions. This is why your ability to communicate will be essential in the coming years, as much of the manual calculating work will be done by robots.
As robots continue to automate everything from the monthly and annual close to the analysis factor in financial planning and analysis, organizations will lean more heavily on finance professionals to take the outputs and present them in a way that even the least tech-savvy CEO or CMO can understand. You will take on the role of facilitator and communicator, sharing with other business leaders what something means, explaining how it affects the company, and recommending the best paths of action.
Knowing this, one of the first things you will need to brush up is your ability to communicate, selling ideas to business leaders and presenting these ideas confidently.
With finance relying increasingly on technology to get the job done, you will be working with an increasingly diverse group of people. If you’ve worked primarily with other accounting and finance professionals throughout your career, you will need to learn how to work with technology professionals. Finance pros and technology pros are wired differently, and for most of your career, it’s likely that you dreaded the idea of having to call IT.
With companies adopting AI at an increased pace, your younger hires growing up in a technology-first environment, and the increased likelihood finance will have its own technology teams, you’ll be working with new types of people. For this, you will need to learn new management skills and rethink the way that you work with different teams.
One of the biggest benefits for organizations as they move to automate is that the robots will free professionals from the manual labor that they have to do every day. With day-to-day tasks like transaction processing being taken over, you will need to be able to unleash your inner CFO—taking the results and recommending short- and long-term actions. You will need to develop a department and company vision, and use all of the newly-available data to your advantage.
You’ll have more access to information than ever, and deeper insights on drivers and components of macro numbers. Being able to build a vision and action plan around this will position you for success.
As AI, robotic process automation, and machine learning are designed to take the predictable, repetitive, and well-understood processes out of finance, you will need to position yourself as someone who can think more broadly than a robot. One skill that finance pros will need to embrace is the ability to think creatively.
This may be the scariest of all for finance professionals, who often are trained to think pragmatically about numbers, and who have spent most of their careers conforming to generally accepted accounting principles, regulations, and standards that have made “creativity” a dirty word (i.e. Mark-to-Market was considered a ‘creative’ accounting concept).
Knowing this, creativity among finance and accounting professionals will not mean that organizations will embrace creative accounting. Creativity, much like communication, will rather be an important way to separate yourself from the robots—allowing you to demonstrate your ability to take results and make recommendations.
Success in the AI Economy
The world is moving to automate, and the right skills will put you in a position for success. Within the next few years, it’s important to look at your options in order to stay relevant. As companies continue to face an accounting talent shortage, the war for talent will likely drive AI adoption, so you could soon see new tools and technologies.
2018 will be an important year for AI in accounting, and one of the safest ways to protect your job (in addition to learning these skills) will be to be on the leading edge of the technological adoption. With this in mind, we would like to invite you to learn more about automating and controlling the accounting process with the help of Sage Intacct, a leader in cloud ERP. Learn more about the future of AI in part one and two of this series, and take a free 30-day test drive of the software here.