This year’s tax season was unlike any other, and accountants have been under considerable pressure during this period which has coincided with the deadline for the government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative.
In the last few years, accounting as a function is becoming increasingly digital and firms need to understand what technologies they can utilise to cope with the increased workload tax seasons bring. With the shift to digital processes, there is an industry-wide opportunity to do away with manual and repetitive processes and improve efficiency and create more engaging work for staff.
In the UK, the tax accounting and compliance industries would benefit significantly from the introduction of robotic process automation (RPA) . We have seen the acceleration of the digital transformation timeline within firms as leaders seek efficient, effective, accurate, and scalable business solutions to meet ongoing challenges stemming from the pandemic.
Additionally, the need for automation has become more urgent as the industry braces for new demands in tax regulations, risk advisory, mergers and acquisitions, financial forensics and business valuation in a post-Brexit and pandemic world.
There is potential for the accounting sector to take the lead on automation. Accounting firms are increasingly choosing to automate manual processes. Embracing RPA allows firms to optimise operations, minimise human error and spend more time nurturing client relationships.
Create Purposeful and Engaging Work
In a recent survey, 56% of UK accountants said they were suffering with stress and burnout due to their increased workload. The accountancy industry can be very demanding on professionals which is why many firms are investing in RPA solutions as a point of differentiation when attracting new talent.
Repetitive tasks from monitoring, tracking, printing and reports can be automated to free up 10-15% of billable hours. Again this means staff can devote more time to tasks requiring human input and oversight. While this approach will save businesses hours in manpower, it also means employees can focus on more engaging work that requires creativity and judgement.
The Future for Accountants
The future of accountancy is digital. Accounting professionals require support in upskilling and redesigning their job roles to meet the challenges of a post-Covid-19 world – particularly those posed by digitalisation. The industry trend towards digital technology can no longer be ignored and RPA provides new opportunities for growth. However, automation is worthless without the people behind it or those that rely on its output.
It is true, the line between digital and non-digital skills is increasingly blurred. That’s why accounting firms are increasingly looking for candidates with both skill sets to further drive digitalisation within their organisations. However, recruiting top talent can be hard to find, so it is imperative that firms introduce robust training and support to accounting professionals.
The latest McKinsey Global Survey on reskilling, which shows that it’s more critical than ever across all industries. The majority of respondents believe that skill development (rather than hiring, contracting, or redeploying staff) is the most effective strategy to bridge those gaps.
Automation considers the value of an employees’ time and expertise, giving them more freedom to perform higher level, higher reward tasks. One way to reduce RPA total cost of ownership (TCO) is to invest in training and development. By educating and supporting staff in the use of automation, you empower them to improve their daily work lives. Not only does the organisation gain in-house support for their automation programs and increase responsiveness, but this opens the door for employees to become problem-solvers in their own right as citizen developers.
The outlook for accounting professionals is bright as demand for more accountants, auditors, and other professionals to manage financial records remains resilient. However, increased regulations, such as MTD, and globalisation will require an agile and tech-savvy workforce to meet these new requirements and challenges.
The bottom line is that automation is virtually inevitable. Implementing RPA across the accounting firm saves time and money, improves consistency, and reduces errors. But it also improves the employee and customer experience and retention, both of which ultimately benefit any company’s bottom line.
By Dor Haim, vice president of Global Customer Operations, Kryon