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Are Computers a Full Replacement of Accountants?

The profession of an accountant has been the same for many years. They make the financial statements, audit these financial statements and often give advice about them. An accountant can work within a company or at an audit firm. Nothing about this has changed for decades, but now the profession is going to change. Due to automation, a big part of the work of an accountant or auditor can be replaced by a computer. At first, the computer was just a tool accountants used to do their work faster and better, think of Excel. But now there are programs which can do a lot more. These computer programs have become so advanced that a discussion has appeared whether accountants will disappear in the near future.

Luckily for everyone who just started an accountancy major: this is not the case. But the profession itself is most likely going to change. Due to automation a big part of the work an accountant normally does is going to be replaced by a computer. At first sight this may seem bad, but in the long term it can also be an advantage for an accountant. One of the biggest software programs is Robotic Accounting. This software programs is a replacement of simple bookkeeping. Robotic Accounting uses an algorithm to make sure that invoices are registered correctly in the bookkeeping system of a company. Due to this software program, a big part of the work of a bookkeeper can be done by a computer. Whereas some people think that an accountant or auditor is almost the same as a bookkeeper, this is not the case. As the name says, a bookkeeper keeps the books. An accountant may not only do this, but also control and give advice These software programs will replace simple, routine and mostly time consuming work. With the time that is now left, accountants can do other things. So automation makes the job more efficient.

But what are these other things an accountant can do? Firstly, the auditing part is being expanded to many more areas of a company. Besides their financial statements, other aspects of a company are also being checked, think of their business culture, engagement with the environment and risk management. The demand for audits who also check other aspects than only the financial statements has grown. The reason for this is that consumers not only buy a specific product because they only need it. They want to buy these products from a company which is good for the environment, does not contribute to child labour and has a good reputation. Companies can promote that they produce little pollution and that everything is made green. However, since consumers and investors want to know for sure, there is a demand that these aspects now also are being audited. Therefore a whole new function has been added to the discipline of an accountant.

Besides auditor, an accountant is also a controller and an advisor. When simple auditing becomes less, the other two become bigger. Advise can be given concerning liquidity, mergers and acquisitions. Also advise about restructuring and specific advise for management can be given. In the future this branch within accountancy is most likely to grow. Opportunities can be found with insurance advise, strategic advise and advise about cash management. Other opportunities are data-analysis, bench-marking, credit ratings and how to interpret them. When an accountant is able to interpret these financial data, advice can be given. For example, companies want a future prediction, often on sales. When the analysis predicts an unfortunate number, an accountant should be able to help the company achieve the number they do want in the best possible way.

It is important that an accountant firm makes use out of as many opportunities mentioned above as possible. There is a huge difference between accountant firms that uses many opportunities in comparison to the firms which do not. Namely 56% of the companies which uses these opportunities face a growth in revenue in the advice apartment. To compare, only 38% of the companies which do not make use of these opportunities experience a revenue growth.

Due to the increase in the advisory branch within accountancy, personal contact between the accountant and the customer has become more important. For a long time accounting firms have been neglecting personal contact between their firm and the customer. But the last decade this is slowly changing. More social and commercial skills are required. In most firms training is being giving and new accountants are recruited who already posses these skills.

Not only more social and commercial skills are demanded, there is a massive increase in demand for IT-professionals. Due to automation, there is more time to do a data-analysis and quantitative analysis. Even though the software programs make the work quicker and easier these programs need to be installed and explained. Often an external company did this, but there is now an increase in the demand for IT-professionals who will work permanently at accounting firms. These IT-professionals also work on new software programs at R&D, each company wants the best program, and of course want to be the first to have it.

To conclude, the profession of an accountant is about to change, but the accountant as a job will not disappear. More software programs are going to be used and probably replace the auditing of financial statements. But for the interpretation of these financial data accountants will be needed. In addition, giving advice as a result from this interpretation will become a big part of accountancy. Furthermore, more IT-skills, commercial and social skills will be demanded from an accountant. The result of all these changes and how they eventually affect the discipline of an accountant is something that only time will tell.


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