Evaluating the Current State of Accounting Departments in the Middle Market & How to Position for the Future
Author: Graham Michitsch, Senior Manager, Risk & Accounting Advisory Services
Level Setting and Examining Current State
In today’s current business environment, accounting departments play a critical role to help ensure the financial health and sustainability of organizations. From managing day-to-day financial information and transactions to providing strategic insights to decision-makers, accounting professionals have their hands full with a wide range of responsibilities.
However, the accounting landscape is rapidly changing, driven by technological advancements, shifting regulatory requirements, competitive marketplaces and evolving consumer expectations. To stay ahead of the curve, accounting departments need to adapt and embrace new tools, processes and mindsets that enable them to deliver value through their organizations.
To navigate the complexities of today’s accounting world and position the department for the future, each company must first identify their individual starting points and understand the maturity and complexity of their accounting processes and the department’s related capabilities. Using our insights and practical examples from our clients, we will provide an overview of the current accounting landscape and offer considerations for organizations looking to optimize and better position their accounting functions.
Managing the Labor Shortage Challenge
The first issue facing the accounting landscape is the availability of high-performance talent. No one can overestimate the importance of the right delivery model and skillsets, so having the right talent blended in the right delivery framework is the source of success for today’s accounting departments. There is currently a labor shortage in the accounting profession driven by a few factors, including demographic shifts, increasing global demand for accounting services, gap in skillsets, competition for talent and overall perception of the profession.
Positioning for the future will require companies to revisit and respond to these contributing factors by offering better pay packages and more flexible work arrangements to attract and retain talent. Additionally, many are investing in training and development programs to upskill their existing staff and fill skills gaps, since technology and business savvy accounting professionals are in high demand to deliver value as trusted business partners within organizations.
However, these solutions can take time. Some organizations fill the talent gaps through short-term staffing solutions, which allows for flexibility in workload, seasonal fluctuations or unexpected complex accounting projects. Leveraging CFO or accounting staff augmentation services provides access to specialized skilled professionals on a project or “as needed” basis, and can assist in filling in the labor gap until a more sustainable solution is implemented.
Developing Accounting Alignment With Corporate Strategy
Aligning an accounting function with corporate strategy is becoming increasingly important in today’s accounting profession and viewed as an embedded evolution in the role of accountants. In the past, accounting was primarily focused on recording and reporting financial transactions, with less emphasis on the strategic implications of financial information. However, in today’s business environment, accounting is seen as a strategic function that plays a critical role in supporting corporate strategy and decision-making. For example, accounting is being asked to serve as strategic advisors for various corporate strategies including being responsible for the due diligence and post-acquisition integrations as it relates to acquisitions and growth.
Another factor contributing to the importance of alignment with corporate strategy is the growing recognition of the importance of sustainability and social responsibility in business, specifically Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting. Accounting professionals are increasingly being called upon to help their organizations measure and report on non-financial metrics, such as environmental impact, corporate governance and social responsibility. Alignment with corporate strategy may represent a new shift in the traditional role of accountants who are now tasked to understand and support their organization’s strategic goals.
Leveraging Technology & Process Optimization To Lift Competitive Advantage
Leading accounting functions strategically leverage technology to improve operational performance, generate insights and deliver risk intelligence across the enterprise. Innovative and often disruptive technologies are forcing the department to adapt and evolve, and embracing this shift can provide competitive advantages. On one hand, technology enables accounting professionals to work more efficiently, accurately and quickly, freeing up time for more strategic tasks. Additionally, technology can improve collaboration, automate routine tasks and provide real-time access to financial data.
At the same time, technology is disrupting the traditional role of accountants and changing the nature of the profession. Some routine accounting tasks, such as data entry and bookkeeping, are increasingly being automated through technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and cloud computing. However, it is becoming evident that in order to embrace and implement new technology solutions, companies also need to carefully evaluate and optimize the underlying processes and supporting workflows that will ultimately use the technology. Understanding your organization’s objectives and unique needs, results in better decision-making on software, vendor selection and technology implementation.
How We Can Help
Every organization and accounting department has different needs and business drivers. Whether your organization is going through transactions, adopting regulatory changes, or simply looking to mature or optimize an existing platform, Cherry Bekaert’s Accounting Advisory team can help you design and implement strategies with results in mind. After exploring the current state of your accounting department, let us help you identify opportunities for growth, expansion and modernization.
In our experience, it is never too early or too late in the accounting transformation journey to talk. Reach out to discuss how Cherry Bekaert can help you evaluate your company’s future through accounting transformation, process improvement, accounting standard implementation, CFO services, short-term staffing solutions, ESG reporting and other accounting advisory solutions.
We understand the internal constraints and challenges your accounting and finance department face. Let us help create quick wins with facilitated dialogue sessions against current-state successes, challenges and opportunities for your organization today.