Ask the expert: Technology

Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances, Sage

Jennifer Warawa

The changing role of the accountant

Q How do you see the role of the accountant changing in the next few years?

A Accounting is more competitive today than at any time in history, as accountants strive to match the expectations of increasingly demanding clients. At Sage, we recently surveyed 3,000 global accountants and found that most accountants (83%) have clients that expect more in terms of services and resources than they did five years ago. Also, nearly half of clients (42%) expect their accountant to provide business advisory services, over and above accounting, compliance, and tax services.

Technology is already helping CPAs rise to the challenge of meeting growing client and team expectations and compete in the aggressive marketplace. Over the next few years, accountants will continue to move their business to the cloud and embrace new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) to improve productivity and the customer experience. In fact, our survey also highlights that more than half of accountants (55%) plan to use AI over the next three years.

Q How will cloud accounting develop in the near future?

A With cloud accounting, accountants and business owners are discovering that they can reduce expenses and make accounting more accessible to their teams. For many accountants, cloud accounting enables the automation of basic administrative tasks, providing more time for accountants to offer advice and financial expertise and to foster client relationships. Over the next few years, we expect professionals to continue to adopt cloud and automation to make accounting more efficient.

As cloud accounting solutions start to integrate with other key business functions, such as invoicing, inventory management, payroll, and HR, we expect machine-learning features to create real-time closes and audits and, in turn, more accurate insight and decision-making into the financial health of the business. Last, with the proliferation of cloud accounting into core finance systems, accounting will minimize the need for costly data warehouse projects and will tie insights to detailed transactional data, allowing for precise, highly actionable insights in real time.

Q What can accountants do now to prepare for the future?

A These are exciting times for accountants. They must continue to embrace new technology, learn new skills, anticipate the future, and reorient their thinking to put their firm ahead — all while adapting to the increasing and evolving needs of clients and competitive services.

Still, it isn’t just the technology that will put accountants ahead of change. It’s an entire culture shift. Disrupting the traditional ways of working and workflows is crucial to embracing the future and unlocking new opportunities. How accountants respond to the challenge of competition and client demands will ultimately determine their success or failure over the next five to 10 years.

Jennifer Warawa serves as the executive vice president of Partners, Accountants and Alliances at Sage, a global technology company operating in 23 countries around the world, with a customer base of over 3 million and a partner ecosystem of over 20,000. In her role, Warawa is responsible for the strategy and execution of Sage’s partner program worldwide to drive success and generate revenue for the partner network.