How Will Technology Redefine Accounting in 2015?

How Will Technology Redefine Accounting in 2015?Technology has its roots in everything we do, from our weekdays at the office to our evening and weekend night activities.

Even with the widespread impact of technology on the business world today, few industries have felt the effects as much as accounting. This is due to the data-driven nature of this work – CPAs and other professionals rely on information, and leveraging technology to improve data collecting, sharing and storing data in all aspects of the accounting industry.

To stay ahead of the curve, accountants must understand the new trends in technology, and how they will affect the profession.

Today’s Top Technology Trends That Improve Efficiency

The trends shaping the accounting industry today will benefit professionals in a number of ways over the coming year. One of the biggest improvements will be related to efficiency – new technology can not only make the job easier, but it will streamline operations and improve client relations.

In an article for WIRED’s “Innovation Insights,” Jeremy Roche outlines five of the top technology trends facing the accounting industry:

  1. Cloud Computing
  2. Social Collaboration
  3. Mobile Devices
  4. Real-time Analytics
  5. Risk of the Shared Computing Environment

These trends are great for streamlined business operations. Take the cloud, for example. This remote data storage and sharing network has been one of the biggest boosts to efficiency in recent memory. Users can upload information to the cloud and access it from anywhere, on any device, whether at the office, at a client site, or working from home. This trend has been driven by cost savings, but it also allows businesses to be more flexible and adaptable.

Using Big Data and Analytics to Improve Decision-Making

Another key trend on Roche’s list involves analytics. For the accounting industry, success often hinges on access to data and the ability to piece together information to make educated decisions.

Technology helps and using analytical tools will improve business efficiency by reducing research time, aggregating information to form trends and saving money. According to the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs, big data is another trend changing the accounting industry.

In terms of efficient business operations, CPAs should turn to big data for:

  • Information - Analytics will help any professional learn current events and understand future trends.
  • Diagnosis - Analytics can save time by outlining what has happened and why.
  • Prediction - Analytics can help professionals determine what will happen in the future.
  • Solution - Analytics can highlight the ideal solution moving forward.

Technology has its grip on the accounting industry. In 2015, it is likely that new devices, tools and resources will allow for easier collaboration, information sharing, data storage and much more, all improving the business efficiency of today’s professionals.

Business Ethics in the Age of Technology

Business Ethics in the Age of Technology"Business Ethics” is a dangerously murky term with real and profound effects. Ethics are a vital part of every decision, not just hiring practices and the handling of corporate resources.

With the prevalence of social media and the ease of accessing information through technology, training your employees on ethics is more important than ever. Every single decision has the chance to drastically affect how the public perceives a company.

Companies that have invested in ethical compliance education for their entire staff have achieved praise from critics and fervent support from consumers. Conversely, companies that have shirked this responsibility have been met with exorbitant legal battles, vocally dissatisfied customers, and critical condemnation.

Although many aspects of business ethics seem obvious, every decision made has an ethical component. Without a clearly defined and understood corporate code of ethics, seemingly insignificant decisions can lead to enormously expensive legal gray areas.

You can never take it back

In an attempt to solidify his core demographic, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, publicly belittled the people he felt did not fit the company’s image. During an interview, he casually condemned those who did not meet the brand’s image as being unworthy of wearing their clothes. Consumers found this statement to be offensive and unethical, resulting in a 15% drop in sales and a 10% drop in share price. However, the remarkable part of this incident is that the backlash came six years after the comments were made.

In 2013, social media websites brought the CEO’s comments to a much larger audience than imagined at the time of the interview. The permanent and public nature of social media and electronic record keeping changed a forgotten comment into an irreversible and hugely expensive PR nightmare. Almost every major news outlet picked up the story and these articles still appear prominently with a simple Google search of Abercrombie & Fitch.

The CEO’s unethical comment, along with ethical issues of racial discrimination in hiring practices, have resulted in millions of dollars in legal fees, a diminished clientele, and highly expensive restructuring of ethical training and policies for A&F. However, offhand remarks or discriminatory hiring practices are by no means the only unethical actions with drastic tolls on businesses.

Who Owns the Information?

Poorly drafted IT policies regarding the ownership of information created on company computers can also place a business at risk of being perceived as unethical. The lack of clear policies and workforce training regarding the content of e-mails, accessing social media, and personal communications on company computers create easy opportunities for issues of harassment. Only proper training in ethical use can help shield a company from liability.

Ethical decision-making has a direct and profound impact on a company’s brand and can result in substantial expenses if not handled properly. Taking ethical compliance education seriously, drafting and implementing clear policies and guidelines are of vital importance in today’s business.

With successful startups like Uber, giants like Comcast, A&F, and the Livestrong Corporation being crippled by unethical behavior, business ethics are a pressing need in every workplace.

Interested in safeguarding your business from ethical issues? Click here to learn more about Merit Career Development’s business ethics training courses and consulting services.

Hyperconnected & Collaborative: Gen Z Hits the Workplace

Collaborative and Hyperconnected, Gen Z is Gen Y 2.0 Are you ready to manage this generation?

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace: Part Three

Managing Generation X’s need for direct feedback and millennials’ desire for innovation is challenging enough, but a third generation of workers is trickling into the workforce. Generation Z, comprised of individuals born after 1995 up to the present, is already one of the biggest generational groups in the U.S.

While they may share a number of qualities with their Gen Y predecessors, communicating with this collection of young adults is an entirely different process. Continuing our four-part series on generations in the workplace, it’s time to break down the final crew: Generation Z.

Reliance on Technology

Like millennials, Gen Zers have been using technology since pre-adolescence—but their focus has been on more automated programs that require creativity or social networking over digital engineering. The Association for Talent Development suggests that managers retool their work processes and infrastructure to accommodate for automation. For example, inputting electronic data and running spreadsheets suits Generation Z’s technological preferences, but building spreadsheets doesn’t. Their focus is on easy-to-use programs that coordinate activities or communication.

As a result, members of Generation Z may require more guidance than workers of other generations when it comes to learning new software or tasks. They benefit greatly from instructor-led training exercises that utilize simulations or computer programs. A 2012 Forrester Research report showed that Generation Z is the second-largest demographic owning iPhones at 24 percent, ranking a few points below millennials (29 percent). Managers should take advantage of this group’s inclination for mobile technology and coordinate educational materials that are accessible via handheld devices.

Sense of Hyperconnectivity

According to Bloomberg View, Gen Zers might be overconnected in comparison to millennials. They’re accessing a wider variety of media: television, smartphones, tablets and mobile devices. A recent report from New York-based advertising agency Sparks and Honey revealed that members of Generation Z spend roughly 41 percent of their time outside of work or school interacting with computers or other technologies. Managers can utilize this sense of hyperconnectivity through modalities like chat programs that bring employees together and foster communication among staff.

In another study conducted by Wikia, “GenZ: The Limitless Generation,” researchers surveyed 1,200 Wikia users between the ages of 13 and 18. They found that 60 percent of Gen Zers share their knowledge with others online, an indication that they possess substantial collaborative skills. An additional 64 percent contribute content to websites because they enjoy learning new things, while 66 percent believe technology makes them feel as though anything were possible.

Given the penchant for collaboration, managers should include Gen Zers in more project management assignments. Generation Z’s networked approach to learning and development makes them feel engaged when working with a team. Social interaction is the optimal choice for communicating with this group, and hands-on training is the best option.

Unlike millennials, there’s still time before the majority of Gen Z enters the workforce. Managers should begin thinking about this generation and how to manage them now. Stick around as we segue into the final chapter of our series where we discuss strategies to connect all three generations—X, Y and Z—into one cohesive workforce.