How has technology changed the accounting profession?
Luca Pacioli’s Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalità, published in 1494, marks the point at which the modern accounting profession began. The Summa was the first codification of the double-entry method of bookkeeping – the method had been used, but not published, in 7th century Muslim civilisation, 11th century Korean civilisation, and 13th century Florentine civilisation. This methodological innovation – a technology of order – created a platform from which business transactions could be reliably recorded.
Accounting took to using calculative technology, as that technology was developed – from abacuses to analytical engines.
Since the advent of the age of personal computing, the accounting profession has adopted innovations that have allowed greater accuracy, less fixity, and better service. First among these technologies is Sage’s cloud-based accounting software.
How has modern computing technology changed the accountant’s professional identity?
In touch with information
Thanks to modern accounting systems, a company can keep comprehensive records in digital form. Having their sources of information integrated onto one software means that a company can manage their business processes, such as purchasing or manufacturing, far more easily. Integrated information allows less space for clerical errors, less time spent reconciling different aspects of a business, and greater ease in distributing important company information.
Modern accounting software greatly reduces the likelihood of human-error. With a modern accounting information system, financial data are more easily captured and stored. When using cloud-based accounting software, you don’t need to worry about having your data lost due to theft or device failure. These innovations have made the mundane part of accounting – collating invoices and so on – an unnecessary part of the profession. When invoices can be digitally processed, there should be no need to work your way through a mountain of slips.
Modern accounting software can simplify the process of finding insights in data. A great accounting software system will be able to produce a variety of reports on demand. A modern accountant can see crucial company data almost at the speed of thought. Innovations in reporting have made it easier to show off important financial details, which is helpful when explaining difficult concepts to clients. These innovations mean huge reductions in rote work, and more time for an accountant to spend on finding valuable insights for their clients.
Time for strategy
The new wealth of information available to the accountant has further benefits. With the use of statistical programming suites, analysis can be more easily performed on company data. This can lead to strategic advantages – if a company is illumined about the key factors driving sales, for instance, they can make better business decisions. If they can be provided with future-oriented models, that use relevant data to predict business outcomes, they can act ahead of their competition to secure growth.
The modern accountant needs to be able to use computers knowledgably. If a modern accountant cannot use accounting software, or extract insights, or develop computational business models, then they risk becoming redundant. But an accountant that can use technology to enhance their ability and understanding is boon for any business.
Is artificial intelligence a threat to accountants?
Some pundits have identified the accounting profession as particularly vulnerable to take-over from advanced computing systems. According to The Future of Employment, a 2013 report by Carl Frey and Michael Osbourne of Oxford University, 47% of total US employment is liable to be replaced by artificial intelligence.
In their extraordinary study, they categorised over 700 jobs, and graded these jobs by the probability that these jobs are able to be computerised – meaning that an artificial intelligence could take a human’s place in performing the function. The jobs least likely to become computerised are those such as recreational therapy, whereas telemarketers are 99% likely to be replaced by computers.
Accountants and auditors do not fare well by Frey and Osbourne’s study – according to their figures, there is a 94% chance that these jobs will become computerised in the near future.
But how close to the truth is this prediction? How worried should accountants be?
Automation and its effects on employment
New technology will, inevitably, take jobs. The spinning jenny was a mechanised device invented by James Hargreaves in 1764 that revolutionised the yarn production process. It was so effective that Hargreaves had his machines destroyed by yarn spinners, and he had to take his production into hiding. But the spinning jenny was an inevitability, and inevitably led to the vast extension of the clothing industry.
Artificial intelligence is no different – jobs will be lost, but the new opportunity that emerges from the new technology will leave its mark in new employment. As has always been the case, adaptability to the new economic climate will be a large determinant of success post-change.
Accountants already use AI
The accounting profession has embraced the computer revolution. The most prominent (and ubiquitous) computer program in the field is Microsoft Excel, whose digital spreadsheets hugely reduced the burden of accountants.
Similarly, programs like Sage that allow people to access their books from wherever there is an internet connection, bring vast improvements to both accountants and businesspeople. Being able to see the present state of a business, and having a medium through which business information is more easily understood, allow for productivity gains – the less time spent on the tedious, means more time to spend on the more creative aspects (or, perhaps, more time for leisure).
These computer programs have made a number of jobs redundant – but these are largely administrative jobs.
What would it take to make accountants redundant? The fact is that an artificial intelligence that would make the accounting profession history would likely make most jobs redundant. The kind of problem-solving, creativity and pattern-finding that an accountant has to produce in their role requires a kind of intelligence that is not currently reproducible. It involves qualities of thought that are used by engineers, strategists, marketers, lawyers and other professionals. In the scenario in which artificial intelligence sophisticates to that point, it would fall to the newly-anointed artificially intelligent accountant to find a way to resolve the problem of comprehensive unemployment.
While many of the number-crunching aspects of the profession are likely to fall, the business savvy and strategic competency that is inherent in the accounting profession will live on.
Wrapping your head around Sage’s services
Sage’s comprehensive cloud-based accounting software may seem intimidating to the uninitiated. With a wealth of features on offer, knowing where to begin may be the most difficult thing to figure out.
But though Sage provides a panoply of features, its core value is of ease of use, and practicality. Sage has built its global reputation through high-quality software for accounting, and through providing comprehensive software support. This means that if you run into a dead-end while learning to negotiate the software, you can be assured that the solution to your issue is only a call or click away.
So, where to begin?
Learning Sage’s core services is the best starting point. Thankfully, Sage provides inclusive product support – if you need to learn how to use a feature of Sage’s software, there is likely a video that can set you on your way.
Sage cemented its reputation for excellence through its comprehensive support services, and this user education and support service remains an integral part of Sage’s offerings today. But what are the key features that you need to know?
Sage offers banking integration, which means that you can check on your cash flow on the go. You can consolidate all of your banking accounts in one place using Sage, which means that you have complete knowledge of your financial status, whenever you want to check
With Sage, you can process invoicing from suppliers and clients online. You don’t need to rely on out-dated print invoices anymore, nor do you have to manually process your invoices. With Sage, your invoices are linked to your inventory, keeping your records up-to-date in real time.
Do the To Do
Sage gives you complete understanding of your business’s finances. Take control with Sage’s planning capabilities – see who owes you money and when they are due to settle their accounts, get detailed breakdowns of the line items, and even access the documents that comprise your dealings with each individual company. Sage lets you plan more thoroughly.
Sage’s online accounting software gives you total financial control. Keep an eye on your budgets in real-time, and check how your budget is faring against the actual performance of your company. Because Sage integrates your financial data, you can see how your profits and losses are stacking up compared to your forecasts – this gives you the power to make crucial decisions before it’s too late.
Sage offers automated reporting services that give you the ability to process and produce reports on the internal state of your company, as well as making reports for your customers. You don’t need to rely on others to see a detailed balance sheet or profit/loss statement anymore – with Sage, the effort you need to put into your financials is done for you.
With Sage One Payroll, you can ensure that your employees are paid on time. Sage One Payroll is fully SARS compliant, meaning that you don’t have to face the hassle of calculating deductions like PAYE, UIF, and other government-mandated legislation. Sage One keeps payroll simple, efficient, and reliable.
Why should I choose Sage cloud based accounting software
As a small business owner and entrepreneur, you need to exercise discretion in how you choose to invest in your business. You know that there is no excuse for spending hard-won money on frivolous things. When you choose to invest, you have to reasonably expect to see returns on your investment.
So, you might choose to do your bookkeeping yourself, relying on tried and tested manual methods. But is this the best way to spend your time? Could you be making more, doing better, with Sage?
The short answer is yes – Sage can take your business to the next level. Sage’s cloud-based accounting software is a modern small business essential. Sage is designed to bring your finances and accounts to order, bring hidden business insight into the light, and save you time and mental effort so that you can attend to crafting your business into your legacy.
How does Sage accomplish this, and how does it stand out from the crowd?
The numbers you need, in one place
Sage brings your finances into one place, providing you with everything you need to run the money-side of your business, and more.
You cannot underestimate the value of keeping a close watch on your business’s performance. The entrepreneur is a seeker of opportunity, and the crucial element of discovering an opportunity is knowing where to look.
Sage business insight
Your books contain hidden insights that can be extracted and brought to light using Sage’s software. If you’re looking to pursue a new strategy, to push your business forward, you need to know what works. Sage’s software takes your raw business data and brings you visualisations that help you understand trends in your business operation. Data-driven business is smart business.
When it comes to important, but mind-numbing and time-devouring tasks – preparing for tax season, for instance – having all your necessary documentation in one place, already categorised, can save you days of frustration. Sage’s true value is discovered in the way that it commits you to good financial practice, by design.
Sage’s integrated systems allows for you to easily transfer information between yourself and your accountant. This level of synergy keeps channels of communication between you and your accountant wide open, saving you both time when you need to make critical decisions.
As a small business owner, you’ve got to be able to rely on every tool at your disposal to get the edge over your competition and to secure and maintain customers and clients. Your reputation can be built on your excellence in your field, your low costs, or your quality of service. With Sage, you can extend your reputational advantages – full client management functionality, from invoicing to payment tracking – means that you can get a deal going at a moment’s notice.
Sage’s move to cloud-based software, rather than locally-hosted software, provided a further reason to choose their services. You’re no longer tethered to a desk when you need to access your financial information. Cloud-based-accounting software means that your books go with you wherever you can access the internet. With Sage’s added mobile functionality, you can carry your accounts in your pocket.
Technology and small business
In an ever-evolving technological age, it’s vital that businesses embrace the technology around them and use it as effectively as possible. The world of business is a highly competitive one, so it’s one of your responsibilities as a business owner to educate yourself about the latest technologies and to integrate them into your business as much as possible.
This will enable you not only to remain competitive, but also to meet the expectations of your customers, reduce costs and stay ahead of regulatory demands. Utilising the right technologies can also help a business to improve its relationships with its clients, enter new markets, as well as to increase efficiency and revenue – something that can ultimately lead to the impressive expansion of business operations.
With the introduction of cloud computing, businesses have multiple options when it comes to business management solutions. From digital platforms, to business applications and reporting tools, it’s now possible for businesses to have access to a range of solutions that are not only effective and reliable, but most importantly, affordable. The cloud offers simplicity and flexibility, and you’re able to access all your data from wherever you are, any time. Plus, all the information stored on the cloud is safe and secure, so you never have to worry about backing up data or losing it. What follows is five ways your business should be using technology to its advantage.
Accounting and Payroll Software
Online accounting and payroll software, such as that available from Sage One, means that those days of thumbing through file drawers and battling with complicated, inefficient systems are behind you. Sage One allows you to see your profits and losses at a glance as well as manage all your accounts, payroll and budgets quickly and easily. The best part is that you can do this where ever, whenever, all you need is an internet connection.
One of the common reasons for businesses failing within the first two years is a lack of marketing savvy. If your small business makes it past the two-year mark, then it’s up to you to find effective yet affordable methods to market the business and what it offers. There are many cloud-based marketing applications available that provide the perfect solution when it comes to marketing technology. Small businesses don’t have to rely on sophisticated and expensive technology to do a great job when it comes to marketing, and when used correctly, the cloud-based marketing applications available can achieve the same results to that of larger companies.
Social media is one of the most powerful technological tools available and when used to its full potential, can help a small business grow in the best possible ways. A strong social media presence allows a business to interact with customers regularly, something that helps build brand loyalty, but also extends the business’s reach. For example, having a simple blog on your website that is updated regularly with relevant content will increase customer engagement and hopefully attract new business through it being shared across social platforms.
Every business should have a calendar system or some kind of planning resource in place. This will help you to be more organised as a business, meet deadlines and run daily processes more efficiently. With so many demands needing to be met on a day-to-day basis, business owners and their employees will benefit from a system that helps them manage their time effectively, because at the end of the day, time is money.
This is something that has become a “must” for all businesses. People are able to do more and more on their phones/tablets, and so it’s not surprising that they expect to be able to do everything via their mobile device. It’s in the best interests of a business to ride the mobile wave, both in terms of its utilisation of mobile applications as well as ensuring that its customers are able to connect with the business via their mobile devices.
When it comes to technology, it’s important that small businesses use it in a lean and smart way. It’s become a huge part of the business world and the reality is that it needs to be embraced in as any ways as possible, so keep up with the times and make technology your friend – it’s sure to serve you and your business well.
Featured image: http://www.technology-in-business.net
Here’s why you should follow your dream of becoming an entrepreneur
It’s incredibly difficult to realise your business dream when so many external pressures and opinions seem to stand in your way. From co-workers scoffing at your wish to run your own successful business because of the state of the economy to your fretful parents worrying about the loss of your steady career; the road to entrepreneurship is one you often need to go alone.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many positive reasons why you should become an entrepreneur and fulfil your dream – even while you’re still working the nine to five.
Maximise your time
Many business owners emphasise the importance of managing and maximising every moment of your day. Like many in the working world, we have our jobs to balance along with our personal responsibilities. However, there is plenty of time to be spending on working towards your business goals. For example, concentrate on trying to achieve one little thing to help your dream business per day and concentrate on the larger projects on the weekend. Maximise your time by cutting out unnecessary activities that sap otherwise productive periods you could use to further your business dream.
Some tips to stay focussed:
- Don’t idle time away on social media or on your smartphone
- Wake up earlier
- Prepare your meals for the week on Sunday
Take a business course
These days, it’s extremely easy to take a quick business course online or at a local college. There’s something for everyone, from digital marketing to learning how to use accounting software.
Notable course providers include:
- Get Smarter
It’s always advisable to learn how to use digital courses like Google’s Digital Garage and Facebook Blueprint – both of which are completely free.
Learn from the masters
Just like there are naysayers who will discourage you from your business path, there are just as many who have gone before you and achieved their dreams. These are the people you should be trying to learn from as much possible. An easy way to do this is to watch TED Talks that focus on business. On their site, TED Talks list talks given by industry leaders who give advice and insight on numerous topics from how to be productive to what makes an effective leader.
Remember this helpful quote: “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.” Don’t neglect your business dream by remembering to keep your courage and dedication, even when it seems impossible.
Up close and personal: A day in the life of a Sage One employee
Following on from our interview earlier this year with head of Sage One, Steven Cohen, we’ve decided to get to know another one of the many faces behind the company’s success: introducing administrator extraordinaire and sales guru, Juan Stander.
We asked him a variety of questions to give you a better idea of what an ordinary work day looks like for someone at Sage One. Read on not only for a glimpse into the life of a Sage One employee, but also to learn more about what Sage One can offer small business owners as well as some valuable advice for those looking to go out on their own.
What is your role at Sage One?
JS: I am the Sage One sales administrator, responsible for all administration activities relating to the product.
Describe an average day at the office.
JS: I arrive at the office approximately 05:10am every morning. Once I’m at my desk, I start to peruse the emails forwarded to myself after hours. Once done, I attend to clients’ queries, also known as “incidents”, where I then capture the payments and email the clients their invoices. After all invoices are up to date, I ensure that all the previous day’s debit order requests have been attended to and that all the debit order application documents are received. Once all the above has been dealt with, I normally jog to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. By the time all sales consultants are at their respective desks by around 08:00am, all my work is usually up to date, ensuring that individual and precise attention can be directed towards any new queries received throughout the course of the day. My day then normally ends 16:45pm.
Why do you enjoy what you do?
JS: Being top notch in my field is one of the many things I do best and pride myself on. Working with my target-driven team provides me with great pleasure, making a long and often exhausting day really worthwhile. Client satisfaction is the main reason I love what I do.
Why is Sage One a great company to work for?
JS: Everyone moves forward as one and not one person gets left behind or left in the dark. One worker’s success equals the whole team’s success. Sage One motivates all employees, including the managers. The whole team is dedicated to committing themselves to teamwork.
What is the thing you love most about your role?
JS: Working every day with different clients with different personalities, and ensuring that each of them gets both individual and full attention.
What made you get into this field?
JS: I saw a golden opportunity to work closer and more in depth with client queries. I saw Sage One as the perfect growing path in the company as online accounting is the future of accounting software. This made me realise that I needed a new challenge and therefore I chose the field I’m in now.
What do you think Sage One offers people that other similar companies can’t?
Sage One offers hand-in-hand client support which is sustainable and efficient. We walk side-by-side with our clients, putting ourselves in their shoes and always ensuring that all their needs are taken care of.
What advice for people wanting to start their own business?
When I think about this question, there is only one thing that comes to mind: I want to compare starting your own business to that project you did in primary school when you grew your own “bean stalk”. The reason being because of the mere fact that you need to take care of your business and in return, it will take care of you. My advice, therefore, is that you have a good business plan in place and that your goal is set and realistic right from the start. Always keep an emergency fund available should you hit that one “dip” (because the chances are that you will at one point or another). Lastly, make sure that your business is both profit and target-driven.
Thanks to Juan for taking the time to answer all of our questions.