Accounting and finance functions have been rapidly evolving in recent years. Finance professionals expect a tech-first approach, yet many organisations still rely on manual processes that cause frustrations and slow down the ability of business leaders to make key decisions.

Accountants and finance teams undoubtedly need to invest in technology to keep up with the complexity and fast pace of the sector’s needs and wider technological advancements. However, there are still many legacy and outdated systems in place.
In an accounting software market which is rapidly growing – it is expected to hit $37.63bn by 2032 – there is a real demand for mid-sized businesses to have the financial visibility and control needed to scale beyond basic functions without the complexity and cost of enterprise ERPs.

Adopting technology within the accounting sector can make significant, positive changes that allow businesses to make informed decisions in real time. They no longer need to manually collate details at the end of each month, quarter, or year – these elements are automatically collated and ready for analysis.
Common challenges

The obvious hurdles for finance teams to overcome are the use of legacy systems and traditional working habits. Excel is, quite rightly, a well-established and sturdy tool for finance teams. Yet the limitations of relying on spreadsheets are hindering productivity and holding back finance professionals in their day-to-day work and with their career ambitions.

This increases the chance of errors creeping into datasets, limits the extent of real time data analysis and subsequently adds more pressure to employees’ workloads.

Our research in the industry has illustrated that many firms still use an array of individual systems to manage different business processes. A CRM system will be used for managing sales enquiries and prospect management, another system for payroll, and another for invoices and expenses. This multi-product structure can inhibit data integration, and data visibility and add complexity to many job roles and departments, from IT to sales and marketing to finance.

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But at the same time addressing all of these challenges is inhibited by organisational blockers such as resistance to change. As such, immediately introducing new working practices and platforms to overcome these challenges will likely overwhelm staff and your business. To create change, you have to show the benefits of undertaking the change.

Benefits of a tech-forward approach

One of the benefits of the latest financial accounting software is that it allows finance teams to harness automation. Through automating monotonous manual processes, such as data entry and reporting, teams are remodelling how they operate: they are using their newfound time to analyse data, report the findings to stakeholders and contribute to business planning. This process automation includes activities such as the processing of supplier invoices, matching against purchase orders, bank reconciliation, intercompany transactions and revenue recognition – and it can eradicate days of manual work each month.

What’s more, the latest cloud platforms not only automate these tasks but provide access to real-time data and analytics. They leverage custom APIs to form deep integrations with CRM, inventory, payment platforms, and a host of other business systems to paint a real-time unified picture across the organisation and remove the need for the manual re-keying of data from one system to another. This one source of the truth approach can direct decision-making and help teams to improve the overall financial performance of their business.

The implementation of new tech is only the start though. Staff need ongoing training and support to feel confident in the tech and how it will enhance their role; tech needs to be gradually integrated into workflows and adaptable to employees, and the company needs to deliver value. That way, finance leaders can gradually bring everyone on board with a tech-powered strategy.

AI will transform the accounting sector

While tech has already transformed traditional financial processes, AI and machine learning are now set to dramatically upgrade these processes, shaping a more competitive and value-driven landscape.

AI capabilities are advancing at a far faster rate than the majority of companies can keep pace with. As such, there is a need for business leaders to swiftly assess the power of advanced AI tools and their capabilities, and where the technology could fit into their operations.

To reap the full potential of AI, CFOs should focus on how best to implement these tools to both save time and empower their teams to elevate their strategic role within the company. Setting out a clear business objective and direction for AI is crucial for delivering its true impact and value.

While other sectors may grapple with broader AI concerns such as bias, hallucinations and data privacy, the accounting sector is in a relatively good position to take advantage of it. AI works best when it is utilised for specific use cases, such as automation of processes and data analysis, and to act as a stimulus for ideas. This of course sits perfectly with many accounting tasks.

So, while the tech has great capabilities, its use and implementation also require a robust strategy and governance framework to avoid hindering, not driving, innovation. This success also rests on broader industry and societal regulations to oversee its development.

Accounting sector needs to keep up with technology change

The accounting sector has its own dichotomies. It is burdened by legacy systems but technology is also driving substantial change across the profession. It is a landscape still dealing with many common challenges such as manual data entry but also reaping the benefits of automation and a tech-forward approach.

As the accounting software market continues to surge forward alongside AI developments, the impact of technological change is set to be even stronger and more widespread. To enjoy the benefits of this change, and not suffer the repercussions of falling behind, finance teams must smartly and gradually integrate new technologies into their workflows and ensure their organisation buys into the project.

As the accounting world evolves, blending tradition with technology, staying ahead means not just adapting, but thriving in a landscape where innovation shapes the future of financial management.