The launch of Digital Beanie – a collaboration between Tangent Solutions and SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) – ushers in a new era of digital accounting.
“Digital Beanie is a portal for accountants to get educated on the world of digital accounting and to give them a feel for what it should look like,” says Glen Ansell, intelligent automation lead at Tangent Solutions, a global frontrunner in robotics, automation and AI.
Adds Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of Saiba: “We’re following similar model to that adopted by the Singapore government, which took the lead and developed the guide and support mechanisms for accountants and SMEs moving into the cloud. Digital Beanie will provide training videos, support tools, and links to technology providers. The Singapore government decided to take the lead in moving accountants into the cloud because it wanted to upskill the nation and avoid job losses due to the 4IR.
“We want to invite other stakeholders, technology providers, government and accountants to participate in this collaborative effort. It’s safe to say that accountants won’t become IT specialists – although there are some that are doing just that – but they do need to know what tech is available so they can properly guide and advise their clients.”
Digital Beanie is a product of the seismic shifts taking place in the accounting and finance fields.
“Technology is creating a shift in the roles and responsibilities of finance professionals. Machines and automation can process and collect data much more effectively and efficiently. Therefore, the focus of the finance function must be to ensure data integrity and the creative use thereof in other words, provide insights, generate revenue, and create value,” according to Re-inventing finance for a digital world: the future of finance, published by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.
Many of the routine accounting functions are rapidly being taken over by automation. Accountants are having to get used to terms such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Intelligent Data Extraction using Optical Character Recognition, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Business Intelligence (BI).
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Van Wyk says it is vital for accountants to position themselves as overseers protecting the interests of their clients in this new, evolving 4IR occurring in the business space. “Facebook and Google take your data and on-sell it to advertisers. We think if these tech providers have access to our clients’ bookkeeping systems and are selling that data, they should pay for that. We see an opportunity here for accountants to audit tech providers code to make sure that they are not selling client data.”
There is an anti-trust drive in some parts of the world to rein in tech giants like Facebook and Google and make them pay for data that it currently obtains for free from users. “We say there should be a similar model for tech providers in the accounting and finance space where they should not be allowed to sell client data or, if they do, they share the revenue with the client,” says Van Wyk.
Ansell says Digital Beanie will provide accountants (including tax and payroll practitioners) with educational resources to bring them up to speed on the latest technology and tech providers serving the accounting community.
“Many accountants that are stuck in the old, analogue way of doing things don’t understand that these technology solutions are available. The accountant of the future is going to have to be less of a bookkeeper and more of a business intelligence analyst. They will have to add value to clients’ businesses, while many of the bookkeeping functions they currently perform will be automated,” he says.
Van Wyk agrees, adding that accountants in the near future will be expected to guide clients on what tech solutions are most suitable to their businesses and to guide the implementation.
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