Accountants – Can Your Job Be Done by a Computer?

In a study published in late 2013 by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of the Oxford Martin School, 47% of all US jobs are susceptible to the risk of automation by computer. Surprising, it’s not the jobs may you think.

A heavy portion of the jobs listed in the study as ripe for automation included jobs in the accounting and banking fields. The Future of Employment provided the accounting world with the catalyst it needed to evolve its services in an automated world. The accounting profession itself was analyzed to have a 94% chance of automation. While another common profession, loan officer, has an astonishing 98% chance of being automated. As shocking as it seems, the technology market has already set this prediction into motion with fantastic new tools being introduced every month. Products like Expensify, for expense reporting; T-Sheets, for automated timekeeping; and Finagraph, for automated financial analysis.

While the inevitable may be unavoidable, you don’t need to throw your hands up in despair. In fact, this is the perfect time to shift your accounting responsibilities to a service that’s less likely to be automated while leveraging technology to best position you for opportunities. Meaning, now’s the perfect time to become the trusted advisor you’ve always envisioned yourself to be. While a computer might be able to indicate a problem and potential solution, the human brain still surpasses the computer’s capability to solve “on-the-ground” problems.

As a former small business owner, I definitely welcomed the change. One of the most frequent disputes my accountant and I had involved the amount of time it took his office to complete accounting tasks. Since my agreement with him was to pay for time spent, I was always sensitive to the amount of time it took to do things like math. In my mind, math shouldn’t take very long since we live in the computer age. While I’m sure it must take longer than I could imagine, it made the conversations uncomfortable for us both. I was the typical client who didn’t want to pay for the service, even though I desperately needed it.

The time I never complained about was the time when he and I were sitting across the desk from each other discussing the future. During this time, my accountant would block out a small portion of his day and explain the work he was doing and the reasons behind it. It made perfect sense. I especially liked how he would give me suggestions about key items I should be paying attention to in my business. Recognizing this personalized service was critical to my success, I was more than willing to pay for it.

I was happy to pay for this consulting because I saw an entirely different aspect to the level of service he was providing me. I got the sense that he was a valuable member of my team, not just a contractor who filled government forms. His one- hour sessions become a regular part of my quarterly close. He helped me track my business, minimize my risk from liability and pay less tax. I just needed the time to understand his value.

Solving problems in real time, with physical variables is a unique human characteristic. Taking the time to arm yourself with technology that not only makes your day-to-day tasks easier, but that also provides you with the smart tools to work side-by-side with your clients will indeed demonstrate your value as a trusted advisor. Free tools like Finagraph, can help you and your small business clients, build a stronger relationship. A relationship built on the common goal of helping a business. The robustness of the solutions you can provide using the combination of technology and brainpower will set you apart from those who watch their jobs become automated.