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Double-edged swords

Keeping your skills up to date in the face of fast-changing technology developments can be a struggle, but chartered accountants are well placed to rise to the challenge, says Lesley Meall.

Accountants have always needed to be adaptable and flexible. Assimilating repeated regulatory change is part of your professional DNA; so is using available tools and technologies to meet the changing needs of clients, inside and outside your organisation. Those who were not around at the time (and those who were), can take pride in the knowledge that your profession’s widespread adoption of spreadsheets – back in the late 1970s and early 80s – helped to kick-start the personal computer revolution that propelled us down a long and winding road that eventually arrived here: in a world where information technology (IT) is integral (and essential) to the accountancy profession – and many others.

There are benefits for accountants and their clients. Accessible and affordable cloud-based tools have enabled Pillow May accountants to streamline its processes, more easily share data with clients and partially automate bookkeeping and expenses services that would otherwise be too labour intensive to be viable. “The clients input their receipts, then we pick up the process,” says Jessica Pillow, MD, who discusses this in more detail, along with other practitioners, in issue 203 of Chartech. Pillow is comfortable showing her clients the benefits of this approach and she is keen to automate further. “My dream is to get everything to connect together,” she says, citing one of the main barriers to this as a lack of UK bank APIs (the software needed to automate bank connectivity).

Progressive automation of this particular service may come to seem less appealing. Mark Taylor, the faculty’s technical innovation specialist, thinks it may be a service area where accountants are eventually entirely absent from the process. “In the future, people will use smartphones and software to totally automate this. After they have taken a photo of a receipt, smart software in the background will extract information such as the data, amount, location and other relevant information from the receipt and automatically process this,” he says. 

Final accounts production is already moving away from practitioners, with developers of cloud bookkeeping software offering their business users tools that they can use to produce and file their own statutory accounts.

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