By BlackLine

As every accountant knows, change is a way of life. Businesses grow, go public, merge with others, create new products, and find new markets. Accounting teams are required to keep up, and in many cases, step up their efforts.

Today, change is coming at a quicker pace than ever before. New technology is changing the ways companies work, and disrupting operations across the organisation. The same is true in Accounting, where cloud-based process automation is bringing new efficiencies to the financial close and other accounting processes.

Accounting automation technologies are doing something else, too: they’re offering today’s accountants opportunities to learn valuable new skills and explore new career paths. That’s because automation solutions offer new analytical tools, along with widening opportunities to add value to the business.

“Opportunities for analysis are immense,” says Michael Shultz, BlackLine’s director of strategic accounting. “This is true both in and outside of Finance and Accounting. In Finance, accountants can take on responsibilities overseeing compliance or governance functions. Outside of Finance, they can apply analytical skills in decision support for business partners.”

Identifying & Seizing the Opportunities

There are plenty of educational resources today for accountants who want to augment their skills. Most important, though, is the desire to grow and the willingness to take on new challenges.

“The accountant should put him or herself out there, and seize the opportunity,” says Shultz. “Take a proactive look at the business and see where you might be able to help. Think about the business and what they’re trying to do, then be creative in finding ways you can help in those areas.”

“Some folks still consider technology to be disruptive,” he says. “It is, but that disruption is for the better when it’s the right technology. And that’s your opportunity, as an accountant, to find creative ways to use that technology to partner with the business.”

An accountant could, for example, put analytical skills to use by serving as a contract review manager. This is a job Shultz held before coming to BlackLine. He reviewed any contract that exceeded a certain dollar threshold to determine if the terms were favorable from an accounting standpoint. The contract couldn’t be finalised until he approved it.

“This is an example of a job that brings real, monetary value to a company,” he says. “It’s an example of putting the accounting analysis at the most beneficial point of the contract workflow, where the analysis can have a financial impact, rather than waiting until after the contract is signed.”

Shaping the Story

Opportunities for such partnerships are becoming more widespread as process automation continues to flourish in finance and accounting organisations. Automation frees up accountants to develop greater analytical skills, and it also supplies the tools—such as unified data stores and sophisticated reporting—needed to apply those skills to real-world business initiatives.

“For years, accountants were asked simply to tell the story of the business through its numbers,” says Shultz. “Now we’re getting a seat at the table, and we’re helping to shape the story—what I call helping to advise forward.”

“This is good for accountants who enjoy being proactive, and it’s good for businesses that have the foresight to ask for help and encourage career development in their finance and accounting teams.”

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