Welcome back to the second of our three-part series on the changing role of the financial professional. As new technology evolves, such as accounting and financial management software, fundraising and donor contact management systems, and 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 of these 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. Bank tellers once 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, the computer updates in seconds what took the teller minutes to do; and a receipt 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 addition mistakes and end up accidentally shortchanging or perhaps crediting customers with too much. The same thing happens in a spreadsheet, only the spreadsheet perpetuates the mistake as it potentially carries the error over into multiple formulas, columns, charts, and graphs!
Automated systems take away much of the potential for error. They seamlessly gather data from different sources, 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 to attend to more critical duties in 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 are generally more available to help all staff. The result is an accounting leader, not just a manager, but someone who has the time to advise, consult, and add significant value to the daily workings on the nonprofit organization.
AI and Machine Learning
As the world turns automates ever more, new software will use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to remember and act upon common data needs as well as to 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.