From Accountant to Advisor: The Growth of Accounting from Number Cruncher to Strategist

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From new technologies to evolving client needs, change is one of the only constants in the accounting field. More technologies are able to handle tax work, cash flow monitoring and other detail-oriented responsibilities. This leaves the role of the accountant less clear in the digital age – but certainly not less important. Indeed, rather than disappearing, the accounting discipline has expanded into new realms, meeting evolving needs brought on by all of this change.

Today’s senior level accountant is often responsible for everything from financial consulting to decision-making at the executive level to leadership of multidisciplinary teams in interdepartmental projects.

A modern accountant works on strategy

The Need for Agile Finance

Real time attention to detail is more important than ever. Companies are facing competition from industry leaders who are implementing the discipline of “going agile,” which is basically being able to respond to an audience at the speed of digital commerce.

Agile finance is an important part of the response process. Companies have a need for accountants who understand how to look beyond static numbers on balance sheets and help to drive growth using a better real-time methodology. Being able to focus on strategies for how best to respond to trends as they happen is a key component of the modern accountant’s role. Studies from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs uphold this notion, as do the numerous conferences and online appearances from Fortune 500 executives.

Agile finance has also been shown to pay off. In terms of revenue, Oracle reports that companies who implement the concept experience 95 percent positive growth, as opposed to the 70 percent of companies that did not. If you are a student pursuing accounting, understanding and preparing for a world that moves at a faster and faster financial pace is key to your future success. Building your strategic thinking skills is more important than ever as you begin your career in this fast-paced environment.

Global Opportunities

Opportunities for accountants that can adapt to fast-moving technology and rapid changes in the marketplace are improving around the world. This is actually even true of countries with shrinking economic growth. Those companies are more in need of people who know how to maneuver operations within a shrinking budget. Accountants can fill this emerging need – though it may not be included in the traditional accountant’s job description.

All around the world, accounting is becoming recognized as the central competency that it is. More companies are creating positions for accountants at the main table of decision-making. These specialists are relied upon to interpret real-time financial data, cross reference numbers with other big data, and create synergy among the standards of otherwise dissociated software platforms.

The New Skill Set

The new skill set that accountants need include these core competencies:

• The ability to communicate ― The position at the head table means that accountants are counted on to translate finances into other disciplines, including IT, marketing and the executive leadership within the company.
• Leadership skills ― Accountants are being tapped to lead interdepartmental coalitions for efforts that are driven by budgetary concerns.
• Presentation skills ― In order to convince other department heads of your research, the modern accountant must be able to present information in a way that those leaders can take in.
• The ability to analyze ― With all the time spent on new presentation and communication disciplines, accountants will have less time to analyze the numbers. They will, however, have more technologies to help them not only work with numbers, but also derive valuable information and strategies from them.
• Strategic thinking – Developing and adjusting financial strategies in real time to respond to evolving needs in a digital world.

A True Leader

Accountants today are becoming leaders who are proactive, not reactive, in nature. Cloud technology, automated accounting software and service centralization give the modern accountant more time than ever to focus on the strategic aspects of the job. The computers bring in the data and reduce the amount of human error that professionals have to contend with. The question is simply this: Can you use this data to give your company more market share, a lower cost of doing business?

Accountants are also becoming more responsible for defining financial KPIs within a company. You need confidence to trust your research enough to say that the company should direct itself in a certain way based on your interpretations. This is just as essential in your training as the development of your technical prowess.

Pursuing an online Master of Science in Accounting degree at New England College is a helpful way to prepare for the new roles coming under the purview of the accountant. The basic skill set is the same ― an ability to understand the details and manage day-to-day operations for better business operations. However, the application of the skills that you will cultivate is much different and be more strategy-oriented. If you have the right skill set, your role within a company can expand far beyond the scope of a traditional accountant, giving you more opportunity for advancement later in your career.


From bean counter to strategist, a bright future for accountants