With technology commoditising compliance services, the impact of digital disruption on the workforce becomes a significant issue not only for employees, but also for businesses.
Technology is changing the face of today’s business environment and there is a great chance that some jobs will soon be replaced by computer learning systems and robotics which can do tasks faster and more accurately.
Most at Risk
According to a report by professional service giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), accounting clerks/bookkeepers are the jobs highly susceptible to be automated in the next 20 years. A smart move, the PwC STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) report listed Australian jobs that are most /least at risk from computerization and technology. The accounting profession has the highest probability (97.5%), with 263,348 number of workers affected.
The Department of Industry has sent an earlier warning on its inaugural Australian Industry Report which also bears the same issue. On a graph labelled “Jobs most at risk of being automated,” accountants topped the list which is nearly twice riskier than the next profession (cashiers).
According to the report, innovation will inevitably lead to some job displacement in the short term, as the price of capital falls relative to the price of labour. But there is a lack of evidence to suggest that this displacement is long term. “Increased automation will bring higher productivity and eventually cheaper goods and higher disposable incomes,” said the department’s chief economist, Mark Cully.
“You Can’t Automate Trust”
Greg Hayes of Hayes Knight, a chartered accountancy practice in Australia and New Zealand, opposes this issue saying accountants have always been the business owners’ trusted adviser, and will continue to be. He said, “When that business owner says, I’m not sure whether this expense is deductible or not deductible, the accountant is there to say ‘I do know that, and maybe I know a way that you do it this way rather than that way’.”
Hayes believes that accountants can never be totally displaced by automation. “You can’t automate relationships and you can’t automate trust,” he said.
Preparing for Action
What can we do to stop digital disruption? Actually, nothing – technology will constantly advance and it is a force that is beyond our control. The more appropriate question is “What can we do to respond to this change?” The best approach we can take is to dive in and adapt to the change.
Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” professional services firms, outline the three primary responses leaders can implement to minimise threats and maximise opportunities. These are: recalibrating cost structures (changes in terms of people, supply chain, and overheads), replenishing revenue streams (building new sources of revenue across segments, geographies, and business models), and reshaping corporate strategies (reconsidering assets, risk, and corporate agility).
The firm should fully understand the extent of the impact of digital disruption in order to take proper action. Remember, the danger lies in doing nothing. Think of digital disruption as a way to reinvent your business in the digital economy. Transform your firm from being compliance-focused to client-focused and start adding value to your accounting services.
The Outsourced Accountant supports Australian and New Zealand accounting firms by helping them understand and implement outsourcing solutions to help them become more proactive and truly add value to their clients. If you want to know more about outsourcing, call us at 1300 896 522/0800 452 853, and download our e-book.