CFOs looking for talented accountants and audit lieutenants aren’t having much luck finding them.
Just ask crypto executives how their search is going.
Across the board, audit and accounting jobs are taking longer to fill despite a record volume of job postings. The percentage of new accountants starting positions is down 15.9% for the year, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Dec. 16.
Securing and retaining a new generation of accountants won’t be easy. Graduates of accounting programs cite increasingly high levels of burnout from tedious tasks, long hours and relentless busy seasons.
This waning enthusiasm of account teams to perform manual tasks day in and day out will reshape the future of the accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) departments.
At the same time, demands on accountants and auditors have only grown. Transaction volumes are surging, supply chains remain unpredictable, and digital transformation has brought with it a new bag of risks to control and challenges to address.
Automating the Tedium
While digitization and automated accounting solutions for AP and AR likely can’t close the employment gap, they do provide an attractive solution for reducing repetitive pain points, such as crossing T’s and dotting I’s for every invoice, while also offering the opportunity to free up time for accounting professionals to focus on what they find most interesting about their business’s financial operations.
Automated accounting solutions can be leaned on to act as “translators” that process layers of AP pain points previously dealt with manually, removing the need for employees to parse through endless numbers and spreadsheets themselves.
In fact, studies project that over the next three years, nearly half of all business-to-business (B2B) invoices will be issued, processed and paid without any human intervention.
Intelligent software and AI tools are already proving in today’s environment to be a key value-add to the CFO office, as they allow finance teams to think “less like bookkeepers, and more like businesspeople,” Tillman said.
Digital and automated tools go a long way toward reducing delays and minimizing errors around common processes including invoice processing and record keeping.
The more automated a company’s processes are, the more likely that company’s leaders are to report they’re satisfied with their accounts payable platforms — and the more satisfied their suppliers and vendors are, too, as payments get sent reliably, efficiently and in the expected manner.
As remote work becomes a mainstay, more businesses are finding ways to intelligently automate and consolidate back-office functions to drive efficiency.
“Pre-automation, when I would show up in the office, there’d be a stack of documents I had to sign that would be, literally, sometimes a foot tall,” Ferretti said.
Now, with automated solutions in place, “it’s a lot easier to track what’s going on. … Instead of having to review a gazillion checks, I review six or seven exception items each month, and we’re good to go. That’s just added hours to my life.”
He said he would have expected that at some point there would be diminishing opportunities to automate or simplify processes, but that his company hasn’t run into one yet.
Time for a Change
Separately, small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), buyers and suppliers, are growing increasingly fed up with inefficient and outdated AP and AR platforms.
That’s according to the PYMNTS report “AP/AR Quick-Start Guide: Reducing B2B Payments Friction For SMBs,” which reveals that many SMB buyers and suppliers are interested in using an all-in-one solution.
All it takes to leverage AI tools for business and accounting teams is a little training. PYMNTS research shows that 9 in 10 SaaS firms are just a month away from onboarding new software into their existing AP systems, with a further majority of surveyed executives saying the process would take just two weeks.
Automating functions leads to better strategic decisions by providing leaders with a transparent, integrated data flow across functions and processes, helping reduce the daily labor burden on accounting teams by evolving their responsibilities from doing the process to managing or overseeing it.
Next generation tools will not replace accounting teams, but they will help save countless labor hours and simultaneously enhance and transform the way those teams operate and fit within the larger architecture of their business.
While there may be a shortage of accountants, there is certainly no shortage of available solutions.