Marketing & Media trends
- 10 predictions around fintechDominique Collett
- The 4 themes for the new yearAndrew Duvenage,
- 3 wealth management trends to watch in 2021Maarten Ackerman
- 4 strategies to rethink investing in SMEsKuhle Mnisi
- Microinsurance ready to reach new heightsMarius Botha
- Finding alpha in the age of Covid-19Nema Ramkhelawan-Bhana
- Purpose or profit. It's not a choiceMike Middleton
- Shifting towards a digital - but still human - approachHenry van Deventer
Construction & Engineering trends
- 3 major trends in the commercial property space in AfricaPeter Hodgkinson
- A bright horizon for South Africa's energy landscapeBarry Bredenkamp
- Achieving developmental goals through constructionCyril Vuyani Gamede
CSI & Sustainability trends
- Time for NPOs to show their real impactKeri-Leigh Paschal
- 5 sustainability trends that will shape business in 2021Christelle Marais
- 4 trends set to continue or be re-interpreted in the NGO sectorInnocent Masayira
- Strengthening NPO skills and processesNazeema Mohamed, Feryal Domingo and Soraya Joonas
- Sustainability is key for social investment in 2021Keri-Leigh Paschal
- 4 trends in employee skills development and training you need to know for 2021Siphelele Kubheka and Desikan Naidoo
Energy & Mining trends
HR & Management trends
- 4 areas in which your business can practice its swivelFrancois Kriel
- 5G is coming. Here's what it could mean for SASamantha Naidoo
- 3 big issues demanding legal attention this yearJonathan Veeran, Nozipho Mngomezulu and Burton Phillips
Logistics & Transport trends
Marketing & Media trends
- Tech democratisation will set the tone for 2021Andrew Smit and Johan Walters
- Auction industry survival depends on going virtualJoff van Reenen
- Covid-19 drives new trends in local property marketMarcél du Toit
- A bold year for beveragesAlex Glenday
- Acceleration of digital paymentsJonathan Smit
- Safety vs sustainability - the packaging industry's key conundrumNthabiseng Motsoeneng
- The evolving e-tail landscapeVilo Trska
#BizTrends2021: 3 skills finance professionals cannot go without in 2021 and beyond
The accountancy and audit industries are on the cusp of an automation transformation, guided by the incredible growth of emerging technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI).
PJ Bishop, vice-president for partners, accountants & alliances, Africa & Middle East at Sage
To fill this role, finance professionals must evolve their skillsets.
1. Be technologically fearless, yet empathetic
Automation is transforming the accounting industry, driven by fourth industrial revolution technologies. Advanced cloud-based accounting solutions already incorporates some of these, which automate invoice processing and facilitate continuous consolidations.
But working in finance in 2021 won’t only be about becoming familiar with, and comfortable using, new technologies. AI is already good at automating repetitive accountancy tasks, which increases accuracy and efficiency, and helps firms to discover hidden insights and trends that affect their clients’ businesses. It can automatically upload documents, understand entries, and classify them using the right accounting codes.
This has allowed accountants to do more with fewer resources and has freed up time and energy for creativity when it comes to analysing and interpreting data to extract real value for clients.
Our ability to relate to, engage with, and work well with others will be crucial to our success because these are the skills that help to create connections and build relationships.
Soft skills like creativity, empathy, communication, negotiation, and leadership are critical to master.
2. Become customer centric
Customers expect more from their accountants – and businesses expect more from the finance department. This was already evident before the pandemic.
Cloud-based accounting solutions are a lot more intuitive and user-friendly, making it possible for businesses to manage their own books – which means accountants need to provide value in other ways. Businesses don’t need number-crunchers anymore; they need a business partner and advisor. Someone who can spot problems before they arise and identify opportunities that otherwise would have been missed.
To provide this level of service, finance leaders need an in-depth understanding of every department, their challenges and opportunities to improve.
Becoming customer centric might require a cultural shift and a change in operational processes. But this will prepare you for the future, where change will happen fast and often – and it’s only the agile and adaptable that will survive.
3. Cultivate a life-long learning habit, starting with business advisory skills
No one can confidently say they have nothing to learn. In fact, your best defence against uncertainty is to ensure that you’re always learning something new because deliberate skills development is an investment in yourself and your future.
Building your business advisory skills is a good place to start. For example, your customers might need help understanding their finance reports and knowing what decisions to take on the information presented. You can help them to become hyper-focused on metrics that matter and help them to drive change in their businesses.
Many small business owners want the kind of expert advice and insight only an accounting professional can provide. And they’re willing to pay for it. Knowing how their business is performing compared to industry benchmarks, and how they can make operational improvements, is priceless.
And remember, the best business consultants have also mastered the softer skills. They’re excellent communicators, they build trust by providing direction, and they’re master problem-solvers.
Steve Jobs encouraged business owners to hire people who are smarter than them, and who can drive the business forward through diverse thinking and approaches. That’s what your customers are looking for. Someone smarter than them, who can analyse their problems, structure a plan with clear goals, and guide them in achieving them.
About the author
PJ Bishop is the vice-president for partners, accountants & alliances, Africa & Middle East at Sage