Someone once mentioned to me that the only reason you still have a job is that no one has invented a machine to do it yet! We live in an era where things are changing rapidly and where the cost of developing software and building machines and tools (with 3D printers and outsourced manufacturing) is a fraction of what it was 10 and 20 years ago. But practically what does that mean to those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs?
How things are changing
It means we need to look up from our spreadsheets and emails for a minute and look around at how and where things are changing. If the world around us is changing and we remain static we become like the dinosaurs who couldn’t deal with changes to their environment. There are jobs that exist today that didn’t exist 10 years ago and there are jobs that will exist in 10 years time that we haven’t even imagined. Whilst we can’t be expected to shoot for a target that we don’t even know exists it does require us to make a calculated guess as to where things are most likely to go.
Which jobs are at risk
The first jobs in the finance department that have already come under pressure are those that require manual data capturing. Things like processing of sales orders, invoices, bank transactions and time and attendance record are already heavily automated and these systems are becoming standard features in most off the shelf ERP systems. In my prior business we managed to triple sales volumes in three years without hiring one additional resource through the implementation of EDI, let alone the resultant improvements in processing time and customer service. Next to come under pressure will be collection of receivables which currently requires the sending out of statements, invoices and proof of deliveries. With the right OCR (optical character recognition) and integration a business can automate the entire process. Even follow up emails on outstanding debt are now also standard.
Automation is the song being sung by many CEO’s and CFO’s being the future of business. Many businesses seeking ways to improve their process to cut out inefficiencies and increase Return on investments. Although much of the automation song is being sung seems a good concept and not reality. The finance function which reports the financial impact of automation is still operated manually. What is the impact of automating reporting? Simple, accountants will have more time to analyse results, ensure accuracy, and add more value to what direction the business must take.
The consequence of a lack of innovation and automation for the finance function has resulted in terrible financial consequences to many businesses due to incorrect information being reported thus incorrect business decisions being made. Business leaders need to look at investing more in their finance function and avoid unnecessary business failures.
The future and what to do
Future finance and admin departments will be managed on an exception basis with an overall higher level of skill required to run and ma
nage these systems with real time or near real time management of numbers replacing the current monthly reporting cycle. If you’re currently in one of the positions mentioned above its not all doom and gloom. It simply means reskilling or upskilling to keep up with the changes in your environment. Machines and systems are great but they require management and maintenance and will need someone to manage the exceptions. Its no secret that business is becoming more complex. That will require accountants that know how to interpret the complexity and are able to easily package and explain the complexity that’s happening in the numbers to those running the business.
Don’t become a dinosaur
The days of joining a company’s finance department and hitting the keyboard generating a myriad of report for 8 hours are most certainly over. If you want to stay ahead of the curve have a look around and make a change in your skillset before you become like the dinosaurs.