That’s the famous quote by Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher which could well describe a future bookkeeper without the skills for a ‘new’ future. Bookkeepers and accounting technicians may not be made irrelevant by robots and sophisticated accounting software packs but the business case for a bookkeeping professional is reshaping dramatically. Beneath all the hype about robots and technology is the fundamental question: how is your financial literacy? Is it good enough to navigate through unchartered waters?
As we move more and more to the cloud, we move more and more in the direction of near zero data entry. It does seem that there will be less and less for the bookkeeper to do. The role of the bookkeeper is changing, and with that we are going to see a morphing of roles away from compliance work – to improving the quality and utility of their work (level two of the pyramid) and towards assisting SMBs monitor business health. This is akin to climbing the pyramid of financial literacy.
Training and financial literacy
In the print media industry journalists and publishers have had to confront an inverse pyramid effect: the foundation collapsed with the massive re-distribution of adverting revenue to a myriad of digital media. Highly agile organisations like Huffington Post embraced the topsy-turvy landscape and thrived. New skills were needed – and successful participants rocketed into the new dimension. The rest are looking for a new career.
There is nothing to fear with change; indeed firms who lead know they have to become value enhancers.
Climbing the pyramid
As a survivor of the print media industry I can say with some authority that learning is of paramount importance in a landscape impacted by technology. We had to learn faster than the rate of change. If you are running a business, to really come out on top you will want to learn faster than your competition.
That very same cloud technology that will make some human activity redundant also enables us to redefine how and with whom we can work with. Just as many media companies today are virtual hubs with contributors, editors and sub-editors scattered across the country, so too are geographical boundaries being dissolved by the cloud.
The fact is that any business-minded bookkeeper can, once they understand the accounting fundamentals, apply them to any industry, for example hospitality or construction, located anywhere.
From there it’s a case of figuring out what matters to the business owner and configuring the logistics and understanding the nomenclature for a particular industry and offering service packages not locked in to hourly rates. That’s Level 3 of the Financial Literacy Pyramid.
Practitioners are going to need to know how to explain the numbers to their clients. What do they mean? What can they tell us about how the business is performing?
Presenting tools that improve cash flow, increase productivity is now within a bookkeepers’ grasp given the vast array of add-ons now being on offer. Some bookkeeping firms are integrating themselves with such providers so they too can be beneficiaries of the technology-enabled ecosystem (read: new revenue streams).
We don’t need to reject or blame technology for increased stress levels about an uncertain future. This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another.