Becoming An Exceptional Accountant

Zach Deming

Part 9 in the Continuous Accounting Series. 

As an accounting and finance professional, you do so much more than just handle money matters; you’re also critical for creating strategy and driving process improvements across the entire organization.

But if you spend most of your time manually reconciling accounts and matching transactions, little is left for these bigger-picture activities.

What if you could be more productive with fewer resources and less overtime, and also easily improve the quality of your work? Not only would you be pleased with this improvement, but it would set you apart in the industry.

The modern approach

Continuous accounting is a modern approach that enables this improvement and creates competitive advantage. It transforms the way accounting and finance are done by embedding automation, control, and period-end tasks within day-to-day activities, smoothing out the end-of-period spikes and allowing the rigid accounting calendar to more closely mirror the broader business.

Effectively implementing continuous accounting requires a holistic approach, combining a mix of technology, process, and people to realize continued improvements across the accounting organization.

Using technology to automate procedures enhances the benefits of process optimization while increasing the overall productivity of accounting team members. Optimized processes will streamline automation, reduce risk, improve accuracy, and increase efficiency, benefiting the entire accounting and finance function.

Optimizing your people

Your accounting and finance professionals are at the heart of your organization’s innovation, and crucial to driving strategy and future business growth. But according to a recent BlackLine survey conducted by Censuswide, many midsize and large company decision-makers are not fully leveraging this talent.

Manual processes and tedious tasks take up too much time and result in this invaluable skillset being widely underutilized. To unlock this value, companies need to automate the tedious and manual accounting work that consumes so much of accountants’ time and effort.

When manual processes are automated, accounting and finance teams spend fewer hours on transactional activities. The focus shifts to analyzing the data and reports, and addressing only the exceptions.

Thus, by embedding continuous accounting practices, every accountant can become an exceptional accountant, providing high-value services in areas like fraud detection, compliance, data analytics, technology, and business advice.

What is an exceptional accountant?

By researching only the anomalies, accounting and finance staff can also refocus on providing strategic guidance to the business, such as improving internal processes or finding cost-saving opportunities. In other words, the added time allows accountants to apply not just their knowledge and expertise, but also their nuanced creativity and intelligence.

According to Helen Brand, chief executive of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), “To succeed as a professional accountant…a vastly different set of skills is required than was necessary just 10 short years ago. And in the next decade, things are likely to change even faster and more dramatically as the global economy continues to evolve at an ever-quickening pace.”

So, what does the exceptional accountant of tomorrow need to cultivate today? Think mastering communication, not macros. Strategic aptitude, instead of being spreadsheet savvy. In short, capabilities that enable any accountant to deliver predictive insights to leadership, drive data-based decisions, and provide expert counsel. Analytical skills, communication skills, relationship skills, creativity, business acumen, and tech savviness: these six skills work in unison to serve as building blocks to Exceptional Accountant status.

My next blog on Wednesday, August 2 will explore in more detail.

To learn more about continuous accounting, read the Ventana Research Paper.

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Zach Deming

About Zach Deming

Zach Deming is the director of Product Marketing at BlackLine. Zach partners with accounting and finance leaders to help them realize how their spreadsheet-driven processes hiding in the shadows simply can’t cope with the demands of always-on modern business, and the expectation of real-time analysis. After a decade in the industry, he thinks the benefits of cloud software can free accountants from the chains of transactions, liberating them to focus on strategy and analysis. Zach is skeptical of the robot uprising, and as a champion of Continuous Accounting, he believes the future of accounting does not lie in new technology alone, but also with the nuanced intelligence of skilled accountants. Connect with Zach on LinkedIn and Twitter (@ZachDeming).