Welcome back to the second of our three-part series on the changing role of the financial professional. As new technology, such as accounting and financial management software, fundraising and donor contact management systems, and much more, financial professionals may wonder what the future holds.
In Part I of this series, we talked about what’s driving these changes: constituent demand, artificial intelligence, and improved automation. Today, we’ll take a look at one area of the change drivers: automation. How is automation changing the way accounting professionals work? How can automation be used for added constituent and organizational value?
Automation, a Driver and Enabler of Change
It’s difficult to recall a time when automation wasn’t present in the workplace, but not too long ago, many automated processes we take for granted were once manual tasks. Great-grandparents may recall a time when bank tellers tallied up a customer’s account by hand, manually adding sums as they made deposits and entering the amount with pen and ink into a portable ledger eventually known as a bank book. Now, we wait for the computer to update in seconds what took the teller minutes to do and a receipt spit out from the teller’s terminal provides us with the proof we’ve made a deposit and our current balance. We can look up our bank balances online, write checks and pay bills, and all with the touch of a button.
Automation now provides accountants with simple, push-button technology to update many critical systems at their nonprofit. For those still using spreadsheets to provide financial data, it’s time to rethink spreadsheets and manual data entry and consider automated accounting and financial management software for a nonprofit.
Such software not only saves time, as in our bank teller example, but prevents mistakes. Consider how easy it was years ago for those old-fashioned bank tellers to make additional mistakes and end up accidentally shortchanging customers or perhaps crediting them with too much. Well, the same thing happens now in a spreadsheet, only it perpetuates the mistake as the spreadsheet potentially carries the error over into multiple formulas, columns, charts, and graphs!
Automated systems take away much of the potential for error. They gather data from different sources seamlessly, updating in the background. Cloud-based systems offer the ability to connect websites with financial systems so that sales of membership materials, books or periodicals, or donations can be accepted online. The system automatically updates the ledger, providing you with immediate and timely updates on the financial status of the organization. That’s a compelling reason to embrace automation.
More Time to Add Value
Another area in which automation can help accounting leaders is by freeing up valuable time so that you may add more value to your organization.
An accountant who no longer has to add up every penny in the general ledger has the time to think critically about budgets, expenses, and program needs. They have the time to advise department managers on cost-saving measures, work with the marketing team on donor campaign data, and assist others with their needs, too. The result is an accounting leader, not just a manager, but someone who advises, consults, and adds significant value to the daily workings on the nonprofit organization.
AI and Machine Learning
As the world turns more and more towards automation, look for new software to use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to remember and act upon common data needs as well as retain and recall frequently required items. New systems offer voice-activated commands, simple remembered queries, and customized interfaces based on what the system ‘learns’ from its interaction with you and your team.
We’re at the beginning of a new era in the world of automation. As software evolves, the role of the accounting professional evolves alongside it. In Part III of this three-part series, we’re going to take a look at the skills that accountants need in this ever-changing world of technology. Check back soon for our new article.
In case you missed it:
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.