2020 has been a year like no other, with changes seen across the business world--and the accounting industry is no exception. Nearly everyone we have interviewed on CFO Weekly has said they are looking forward to 2021 and excited to see what's to come in the future of the accounting profession. What trends will continue? How has this year shaped our new reality? And what we can expect moving forward?
Megan Weis, the host of the CFO Weekly podcast is here this week to share with all of us her 2021 predictions. Where she sees the industry going in the new year, why it’s going there, and what we can do to prepare for this change in accounting today.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we can't wait to see what the future will bring after the New Year. Megan gives us her top predictions of the state of accounting starting with what's changed for the better.
Remote Work is Here to Stay
A recent Stanford University study showed that 42% of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full time, and of that number, 98% would like for it to remain that way. So this isn’t a trend that is going to go anywhere.
While Zoom meetings won’t ever take the place of face-to-face work, there are obviously a number of benefits to remote work in the long term for large or small businesses, and accounting firms alike. Business expenses are lowered because you’re spending less money on things like real estate. There’s a bigger applicant pool because geography is no longer a restricting factor in applying for a job. There’s better disaster preparedness, as well as improved employee satisfaction & retention.
“I think companies have been trending toward a work-from-home environment for probably the past two decades, and this pandemic has accelerated that by at least a decade," Weis said.
We'll See Continued Cloud Migration
Focused on moving data to the cloud. You aren't alone. And, according to Weis, you certainly won't be the last to make this critical shift to cloud based either.
The past decade has seen a slow but steady migration to cloud computing. But as with so many other things, the COVID pandemic has accelerated that adoption of cloud computing by at least a decade. Cloud computing allows easy access from anywhere, at any time, on any device, in real-time.
In 2021, companies are going to continue to migrate their accounting software, platforms and other applications to the cloud, for a number of reasons. There is an incredible increase in mobility with cloud computing, allowing for access from any device. Cloud computing deploys top-notch security, process automation, an increased ease of recovery and improved collaboration & scalability to take into consideration.
Accounting Outsourcing Will Increase - Future of Accounting
Businesses have seen that remote workforces work. When you combine that with the cost reduction associated with outsourcing, there’s going to be an increased demand, particularly for accounting work, and a surge in demand for accountants in 2021.
"Outsourcing can be a wonderful way for companies to properly staff their accounting needs, while maintaining, or even cutting their current budgets," Weis said.
Virtual accounting through outsourcing also helps to alleviate some of the talent shortages in accounting here in the United States. While the U.S. has seen a decrease in accounting graduates and professionals, countries like the Philippines and India have seen an increase in those areas for human accountants, because those are prestigious and sought-after positions in those countries.
Cost Cutting Will be Key & Automation Will Grow
Facing a possible recession here in the United States, the name of the game for CFOs is going to be cost savings. While this is often the case, the COVID pandemic has created even more cause for cost containment.
Companies are going to want to hang on to as much cash as they can, including their accounting professional(s) which will lead to an increased desire to automate. And automation can be a great cost-cutting tool.
But before you throw up your hands about automation meaning the loss of jobs, take a breath. Automation can take away the mundane and transactional work, which will require accountants to upscale and focus on analytical and soft skills, allowing them to put their efforts into problem-solving, leadership, and people skills while they leave the rest of their time-consuming tasks such as data entry to be taken care of by artificial intelligence.
Data Will Take Center Stage - The Future of Accounting
A lot of companies already invest heavily in big data and automation, while failing to realize that the people and processes are the things that are lacking. You can have the most robust data in the world along with the most sophisticated machine learning solution but if you don't have the right people to analyze it and the right processes in place to make sense of it, you’ll not reap the benefits of your data.
More and more companies are aligning their people with their goals for analytics and reaping the benefits. They’re seeing cost savings across the board, an increased speed of decision making and continuous improvement in all areas of business.
2022 is right around the corner, and while we certainly don't’ have a crystal ball, we’re confident that these trends are indicative of where the industry is headed.
Looking for more great content on the future of accounting for all modern accountants? Listen to all of our episodes wherever you get your podcasts: Apple, Spotify, and More. Just search 'CFO Weekly'.