How Offshoring and Automation Could Change How You Do Accounting


Basically speaking, accountants prepare and examine financial records. Some may specialize in tax preparation for individuals, some choose to focus on helping businesses cut their costs, and others might ensure that a business is following financial laws. There are many other areas of accounting to work in as well, and whatever the type of accounting you do and for whom, it could change soon—if it has not already. This is thanks in large part to offshoring and automation.

In fact, the accounting profession 10 years from now could look noticeably different than it does now. Many accountants will survive and even thrive by becoming more specialized and/or by offering consulting services rather than focusing strictly on calculating financial data.

What’s Up with Offshoring and Automation?

Automation technology has infused accounting with possibilities and made it even more accessible to the average person. Of course, the flip side is that accounting personnel, particularly bookkeepers and accounting clerksOpens a new window , have been hit especially hard. However, automation is supposed to make routine tasks less of a hassle for higher-level accountants such as CPAs and free up more time for them to look at bigger-picture problems and solutions. (No more data entryOpens a new window !)

At the same time, accountants may also be trying to understand the pros and cons of offshoring. For example, offshoring agencies may tout accounting services that:

  • Cost less
  • Are more efficient than traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. accounting jobs since personnel all over the world can work when a business is closed
  • Say that they offer more talent and self-driven workers because of the international pool.

In many ways, offshoring helps and hurts accounting personnel like automation does. Lower-level U.S. workers performing bookkeeping-type and tax-return-type tasks may be most affected, while higher-level accountants can benefit from having the “grunt” work done already.

Offshoring can also fill a gap with some accounting firms by providing seasonal labor during times of heavy demand. In this vein, offshoring can lead to the expansion of some accounting businesses.

However, accounting personnel do need to ensure that their clients’ data is still secure and that the workers, whether domestic or overseas, are trained for what they’re doing. Quality control can also be a concern.

So, if you own an accounting firm or work for yourself, offshoring means that you have access to many potential workers who can expand the scope and profits of your business. At the same time, you have the responsibility to vet the competence of these workers and to communicate to your clients how your processes have changed and who may be seeing their data. It’s best to offer all this upfront and to have it on your website and other materials rather than be forced to explain it after the fact if an issue arises.

Some Accountants Will Offer More Consulting Services

So, since automation does much of your data entry and calculating, what can you do? Offer consulting services, of course! For example, accounting and financial programs can help you notice patterns and trends you may not have been able to discern before.

By offering consulting services to clients, you can help them better manage their risks and study the effects of inflation or the effects of certain market conditions, among other things. You’ll engage in more critical thinking and use more soft skills such as communication, collaboration and prioritization.

Some Accountants Will Become More Specialized

You may also decide to become more specialized. In other words, to find a nicheOpens a new window . Examples of potential niches include healthcare accounting, mergers and acquisitions accounting, life insurance accounting, estate accounting and international tax accounting.

Similarly, you can build a niche that caters to those in the gig economyOpens a new window —freelancers, for example, even those who live and work hours away from where your business is physically located. You can also focus on an area such as restaurants.

Of course, to become well-versed in these niches, you’ll probably need more study. For instance, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is not going to carry as much weight 10 years in the future as it does now. More classes and seminars will let you keep up with trends or to get ahead of them.

What Should You Do if Your Business Focuses on Basic Accounting?

So, what should you do if your business focuses on basic accounting tasks such as preparing tax returns and/or keeping the books for small businesses? Since many of these processes are automated now, will you be out of luck at some point?

Perhaps not. There will always be clients who prefer to work with flesh-and-blood people rather than with apps and programs.

That said, it may be a wise move to expand your services to include business and financial consulting. You can render assistance in areas such as:

  • Inventory control
  • Operations review
  • Budgeting
  • Financial projections
  • Financial planning
  • Cash flow analysis
  • And more.

Alternatively (or additionally), you can decide to focus on niches such as restaurants, retail, technology firms and/or law firms. You’ll have to emphasize how your background and expertise help you provide superior service to these customers, of course.

It’s actually an exciting time in accounting. Automation streamlines basic processes and makes them more accurate, giving you the time to scope out the bigger picture. At the same time, offshoring gives you a way to temporarily or permanently expand your services, build your business and reach more clients.