Essential digital skills accountants need in 2024

The accounting field is undergoing a transformation where the necessary technical skills for accountants are evolving. New technologies like automation, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing are changing how accountants and accounting firms work. This shift towards digitization means accountants need to expand their digital skills to stay relevant in the upcoming years.

In 2024, having knowledge in technologies and software that streamline your work will start to become the baseline requirements for accounting positions. Further developing skill sets with leading digital tools should be a priority for established and aspiring accountants alike. To remain competitive within the next year, an emphasis on attaining essential tech skills will need to be made.

Data analysis and visualization is key

The digitization of accounting means leveraging data analytics will likely be a core competency for accountants in 2024. According to a recent market report from CommBank, 43% of accounting firms classified as digital leaders saw digital data and analytics as an area of high demand. Only 13% of non-leading firms thought the same. This highlights that your firm can get ahead of the curve by prioritizing this skill.

Understanding how to utilize software tools to gather impactful business insights will be a highly-desired skill. Whether performing audits or budget forecasting, accountants will need fluency in extracting key information from extensive pieces of data.

Alongside this, having the ability to communicate important figures through visual summaries and dashboards will continue to be favored. As accounting reports become more dynamic and interactive, skills in presenting data findings with clarity and context will give accountants a key edge. Whether creating graphs, charts, or other visuals, accountants must develop the skills of communication insights into takeaways for stakeholders through impactful visualizations.

Automation and RPA

Beyond data analysis, developing skills in automation will also be vital for accountants in 2024. Although this isn’t a new area that requires skill, new advances in accounting automation continue to improve and evolve rapidly. Robotic process automation (RPA) uses AI software to replicate repetitive, manual tasks. CommBank found that 40% of digital leaders in accounting see RPA as a priority skill.

As technology handles processes like data entry, file management, and reporting, accountants can then be free to focus on other areas that require attention. Understanding how to build and leverage automation will allow accountants to eliminate hours of repetitive manual work each week. For example, the same CommBank report found that 80% of accounting firms classified as digital leaders had adopted document automation whereas only 63% of other firms had done the same.

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By streamlining your daily tasks through the help of automation and accounting integrations,  accountants become free to focus their energy on providing advisory services, relationship building, and other daily operational tasks. Having increased knowledge of popular automation tools to streamline your work, will become a necessity in your workflow in the coming years.

Cloud-based software, computing and storage

Although cloud-based software are not new, they continue to remain prevalent and will outlive non-cloud-based options. Not only does this apply to cloud-based accounting software, this encompasses creating an entirely cloud-based business.

According to a recent Wolters Kluwer’s industry report, cloud practices reported a 7% increase in revenue last year whereas traditional firms only saw a 4% increase. Similarly, the CommBank report found that 65% of firms saw a high or very high return on investing in cloud-based computing and storage.

Having a strong grasp on cloud tools is absolutely essential for accountants in 2024. This includes accounting software, payroll, inventory, data integrations and more. Obtaining fluency of how many of these platforms operate and the different functions you can take advantage of will continue to benefit you in the year to come.

Cybersecurity skills are becoming increasingly important

As the accounting industry gives way to new technology, the need for accountants informed with cybersecurity knowledge increases. Being able to both manage and and mitigate cyber risk will also be considered a vital skill set. Because accountants often deal with highly sensitive client financial data, accountants will need fluency in best practices around access controls, data encryption, VPNs, firewalls, and multi-factor authentication applications.

Ensuring accounting platforms and communication channels are secured will be non-negotiable. Additionally, skills in security patches, backup audits, and intrusion detection, will also need implementation to be monitored continuously. According to the CommBank market report, a whopping 67% of accounting firms classified as digital leaders saw cybersecurity, data handling and privacy as a priority capability.

With cyberattacks and online fraud becoming a prevalent issue, staying educated on the latest cyber trends, threats, and security tools will need to become part of an accountant’s regular learning path.

Having the ability to communicate cyber risk levels and explain security settings in simple terms will enable accountants to reinforce cybersecurity without relying solely on IT departments. This is particularly valuable knowledge to possess in a smaller accounting firm. Cybersecurity knowledge can also be shared with clients to safeguard their accounts and sensitive data.  

Artificial intelligence is not the future, it’s the present 

Beyond cybersecurity, all accountants must develop an understanding in artificial intelligence. AI will continue to become even more prevalent in the field by 2024. From chatbots gathering customer data to machine learning algorithms flagging transactions for fraud review, AI is no longer a concept but a current technology with many different applications.

In the Wolters Kluwer’s report, they explained, “technological disruption by automation and AI has empowered firms to focus much less on manual data entry tasks and dedicate greater time and emphasis to helping clients with strategic decision-making and long-term planning.”

Having the capability to test and evaluate different AI tools to save an accounting firm time will increase your value significantly. Skills in incorporating AI for accounting purposes such as accounts receivable and payable, expenses, tax preparation, and reconciliation will increase efficiency significantly. AI also has the ability to provide predictions and insights along with financial planning and forecasting.

Overall, gaining fluency in AI technologies will allow accountants to improve productivity exponentially while focusing their efforts on providing services not yet possible through technology alone.

Key takeaways on skills needed for a accountant in 2024

With the rise of new technology, the accounting industry continues to become more digitized. It’s important to keep up with new and emerging technology that has the power to transform your daily accounting tasks. With the right skills in place you’ll be able to remain a competitive candidate in the accounting industry.