by Allen Lloyd, Executive Director at the Montana Society of CPAs
We keep hearing about automation coming to revolutionize the accounting profession and which will in turn, make many accounting jobs disappear. This made me think about an old friend, George Jetson. While many episodes revolved around the troubles at Spacely Space Sprockets, George typically only worked an hour a day twice a week. I don’t think any of us would complain about that schedule. His main responsibility was to turn the Referential Universal Digital Indexer (R.U.D.I.) on and off.
When can we expect to live in this wonderful new world? Unfortunately, not before tax season and probably not before many of us retire. This doesn’t mean we won’t get to reap some of the benefits of automation. The Big 4 firms have technology that can do most of the work a typical entry level person does today, this will filter down to all firms probably in the next 5 years. Similar technology is being developed to automate much of the work accountants do in business and industry, government, and non-profit.
Initially automation is going to make our lives easier as our workloads shift from routine tasks to higher level work. The bank reconciliation may be automated, but someone still needs to translate the financial statements to help make business decisions. We will also have to monitor the automations to make sure they are working correctly. The days of software not doing things the way it should are far from over.
At a recent accounting educators meeting professors from across Montana talked about the importance of learning the fundamentals of accounting. These skills will be just as valuable in the future as they are today. It will continue to be critical for CPAs to understanding how activity impacts financial statements.
One of the issues with automating entry level work is figuring out how we develop recent college graduates into experienced staff? When computers can do all but the most complicated tax returns how will people learn to complete these returns?
Automation won’t do everything we will still need to manage people, hopefully better than Mr. Spacely.
Change is coming and MSCPA wants to work with you to help shape the future. Leave a comment below or email me your thoughts about the future. We are here to facilitate your conversation and help you adapt to working one hour a day twice a week… someday.