It’s been a focus of our fears, really since the Industrial Revolution. While we all appreciate modern technologies there are few people who have never had to worry about being “replaced by machine”. Originally, it was machinery and assembly lines which took the place of human workers, effectively eliminating their jobs. However, computers have taken this even a step further. It’s no longer just manual labor which can be done more cheaply and efficiently with automation. Now, it’s actually becoming more realistic for software to replace skilled professionals. There’s legal software that can be used instead of a lawyer, online study tool to take the place of classes with human teachers, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, there’s even accounting software.
We’re actually at something of a turning point at this moment in time. Businesses are always looking for ways to reduce expenses and maximize profit. Investing in a piece of software at fraction of the price of hiring a trained expert seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Why keep a professional accountant on staff, for instance, when you can purchase accounting software that will do all the work for you? Or will it?
Let’s look at the reality of the situation. Accounting software is not new. We’ve seen programs for both individuals and businesses for bookkeeping for years, and the same goes for tax preparation programs. Tax preparers and professional accountants certainly haven’t gone out of business. Perhaps more home users are doing their own tax returns, but accounting professionals are using the software tools as well, to make their jobs easier. And there’s another somewhat ironic twist in this whole scenario. Accounting professionals themselves are playing an active role, consulting with software developers to create the very accounting software which could potentially replace them in the not-too-distant future.
But is out-of-the box software really capable of taking the place of skilled professionals? There’s no question that automation is a real threat to the the workforce of today and tomorrow. Few people use the services of travel agencies, since the rise of websites like Travelocity and Expedia. Uber and Lyft have put a serious dent in the taxi business. Will the same happen to the accounting industry?
Realistically, there are some immediate advantages that accounting software can provide to almost any company. There is certainly plenty of time-consuming bookkeeping “grunt work” which can be made more efficient by accounting software. Data entry is vastly simplified, and in some cases, eliminated, as data is pulled and automatically populated from various sources. Tedious tasks are streamlined. Financial reports can be generated with ease. But what happens then?
It’s our belief that accounting professionals will still be needed to interpret the data, to do more high-level analysis and come to conclusions. There’s certainly value for many companies to invest in accounting software to reduce the time they spend on bookkeeping. Accounting software certainly provides some threat to the industry, but we don’t see that as an indication that we’ll all be out of work soon. We’re inclined to think that, at least until artificial intelligence becomes much, much more advanced, there will still be a place for skilled accounting professionals to decipher the numbers and data, and give advice that helps business owners make critical financial decisions.