Top skills every accounting professional needs in 2021
The accounting world is changing and that means accountants have to evolve to keep up. The skills they relied on 10 years ago aren’t going to cut it in today’s environment of digital transformation and increased automation. On top of that, the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has many business leaders looking for creative ways to streamline operations and use resources more efficiently. This is a perfect opportunity for accountants to deliver real value to their organization and offer real-time insights that move your company or clients forward. But in order to do that, you need the right skills. To meet the needs of today while positioning yourself for the future of the profession, here are the top skills every accounting professional needs in 2021.
1. Mastery of technology
Accountants used to be able to get by using antiquated accounting systems, and spreadsheets. But now they are expected to have a firm grasp of cloud accounting software and related technology solutions, including collaboration tools, business intelligence and other cloud-based software systems.
Companies don’t make technology investments lightly, so they want to make sure team members have the skills necessary to get the most value out of software solutions. In fact, faced with an ongoing accounting shortage the past few years, many firms have decided to hire people from non-traditional backgrounds, putting more of an emphasis on technology experience. This trend shows just how important it is for accountants to have the right technology skills, including the ability to quickly learn new systems and adapt old processes for new tools.
Accounting professionals who dedicate themselves to learning as much as possible about the technology systems they use on a daily basis will be better equipped to optimize business processes and increase overall efficiency.
2. Data analytics
According to Forbes, “From 2010 to 2020, the amount of data created, captured, copied and consumed in the world increased from 1.2 trillion gigabytes to 59 trillion gigabytes, an almost 5,000% growth.” That’s a lot of data, and it’s only increasing from here. In 2021, companies will collect more financial data than ever. Accountants need to be able to analyze that data using the technology tools at their disposal. But a dashboard can only tell you so much. Accountants need to be able to read between the lines to identify patterns, generate forecasts and conduct predictive analytics. They’ll need business intelligence tools that will provides real-time financial and operational insights that business leaders need to make smart decisions.
3. Advisor role
In addition to mining the data and analyzing it, accountants also need to be able to interpret that data for leadership and act as true advisors for the organization. To be clear, this does not mean simply generating a report or putting numbers into a PowerPoint presentation. Acting as an advisor requires soft skills — communication, building trust, etc. — so stakeholders will actually listen to and consider your advice. As more and more routine accounting tasks become automated, this is where accountants will be able to provide real value to their company. So, it’s important to adopt a new mentality and see yourself as part accountant, part advisor and use your voice and expertise to move the organization forward.
4. Leveraging accounting automation
Some accountants are put off by talk of accounting automation because to them it sounds like machines are coming to replace their jobs. But automation represents cost savings and greater efficiency, which business leaders love. So, whether you like it or not, automation is here to stay. That’s why accountants need to find ways to leverage automation to their advantage.
If the main value proposition of accounting automation is that it frees up time that used to be spent on routine, mundane tasks, ask yourself, “How can I best use that time to deliver value to my company?” What couldn’t you do before because of a lack of time or resources? What process improvements, strategy changes or professional development can you now complete?
The answer to these questions will vary for each individual situation. But by embracing automation and using it to your own personal advantage, you can also deliver great results and remain a critical asset for your organization.
5. Sustainability accounting
Sustainability continues to be a top priority for many companies and can impact just about every area of business, including accounting. Sustainability reporting is expected to become a mainstay in every accountant’s skillset as the industry looks to create more consistent standards regarding environmental, social and governance reporting. Accountants can play a key role in furthering sustainability initiatives by staying abreast of standards changes and learning more about sustainability reporting in general.
The accounting profession is changing rapidly. To keep up with 2021 accounting trends, accounting professionals need to develop new capabilities and adjust their mentality to meet new business needs. The good news is that even accountants with decades of experience can still learn something new. By embracing that fact and proactively working to develop new skills, accounting professionals can navigate new challenges and continue delivering value to their organizations.
For an even deeper dive into the top skills accounting professionals need to be successful — including blockchain, data analytics and cybersecurity — download our ebook: Top Skills Modern Accountants Need for 2020 and Beyond.
Then contact Gravity Software® to schedule an online demo and see how our unique accounting software can help you prepare for the accounting challenges of the future.
Better. Smarter. Accounting.