There is no part of our economy or any sector of our society that has not been impacted by the extraordinary advances that have taken place in all areas of technology over the past 30 or so years. While some industries have all but disappeared along with thousands of jobs, new ones have emerged, creating employment opportunities and requiring a new generation of highly skilled workers.
An excellent example is that of a typical modern business office. The equipment, business management systems and even the layout bear no resemblance to the old-fashioned model of rows of desks with clerical staff bent over stacks of paper and typists pounding away on manual machines. Computer software can now process a weekly payroll for over 200 people with only one or two clerical staff checking the input, and then transferring their wages directly into nominated bank accounts.
The same advances in computer technology and business management systems have also changed not only the way accountants do their job, but also expanded their skills base. Before the office environment became computerised, much of the accounting work was performed manually. Eventually, hand-written journal entries were replaced by ledger machines, and then basic computers with limited processing power were introduced, followed in large companies by mainframe computers that took up an entire room.
The introduction of the personal desktop computer accompanied by word processing and accounting software liberated not only accountants but also administration staff from boring and laborious tasks. Instead of spending countless hours manually analysing computer printouts to produce monthly Income Statements and Balance Sheets, modern accountants can now generate reports weekly and even daily if required.
With the data entry performed daily by a suitably trained bookkeeper, accountants now can run reports on “what if” scenarios applicable to their business. This enables them to suggest possible new business opportunities to management, or conversely, to advise against a business direction under consideration that has a significant element of risk attached.
Some accountants have also become proficient at the administration of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs). Many business owners are setting up their own funds to accumulate wealth for their retirement and are finding that the reporting and compliance requirements so onerous that they are unable to concentrate fully on their business. Companies such as SMSF Assure are now offering their clients the services of a dedicated superannuation team, which includes qualified accountants.
Technology has also allowed accountants to spend more time on developing important decision-making tools such as cash flow projections, financial forecasting, monitoring and measurement processes and establishing clear and achievable financial targets. This is not only good for the business, but also for the ongoing personal development of the accounting staff.
Accountants are still completing tax returns, but these days, there are no multiple page forms. Rather, the information is lodged directly with the ATO via an electronic portal. No longer shackled to endless manual tasks, accountants are using today’s technology to widen their influence, offer high quality advice to their management team and expand their skill set by undertaking new and exciting areas of specialisation.