The role of the bookkeeper is changing – but for many cloud-savvy accounting and bookkeeping professionals, this observation comes as no surprise. New developments in cloud technology are enabling machines to perform tasks that once had to be completed by humans (often faster and more accurately).
This evolution doesn’t necessarily mean that bookkeepers are soon to be replaced by robots – rather, it means that bookkeeping responsibilities are changing. Instead of spending time performing administrative tasks (such as data entry and filing documents), bookkeepers are now empowered to focus on a new set of tasks, many of which provide more value to clients.
To gain more insight into the evolving role of the bookkeeper, and what bookkeepers can do to stay on top of these changes, we chatted with Sherri-Lee Mathers, Proprietor of Balsam Way Bookkeeping. Read on for some of her insights!
How are bookkeeping responsibilities evolving?
The role and responsibilities of the bookkeeper are changing in many ways (and will continue to evolve as new technology is introduced). The items mentioned below are a few of the most impactful areas of change.
1. Data management instead of data entry
Perhaps the biggest way that the bookkeeper’s role has shifted is in their relationship with data – specifically, transitioning from data entry to accounting data management.
“We don’t just post to journals anymore,” explains Sherri-Lee. “We now employ a large amount of information from different sources. We’ve fought the idea of being called ‘data entry people’, but now the word ‘data’ is no longer a low-level word. We’re the stewards of their accounting data.”
While technology takes care of data entry, bookkeepers must now have a grasp on where data is coming from, and the integrity and security of that data. Which leads to the second key way in which responsibilities are shifting...
2. Technical knowledge is a necessity (and a priority)
As stewards of accounting data, it’s imperative for bookkeepers to develop a deep knowledge of the technology being used to collect and manage data.
Technical knowledge will primarily enable bookkeepers to make the right technology recommendations for their clients. Building a standardized tech stack is a great place to start, but client needs will always vary (depending on their industry, type of business, location, and so on). “With all these systems, it’s not ‘one size fits all’ anymore,” explains Sherri-Lee. “We’re using different solutions to meet the clients’ unique needs.”
While honing technical knowledge is a necessity for meeting client needs, it’s a priority for data integrity, quality, and security purposes. Bookkeepers now play a key role in ensuring data is accurate, but with the added responsibility of protecting the data quality, how it’s presented, and how it’s used. Additionally, they also play a role in the protection of that data and making sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (both in and out of the office).
“Are you designing a system to make sure fraud won’t take place? If you’re giving someone access to the payroll system, for example, are they able to push payments through? There’s so much that we’re responsible for now,” says Sherri-Lee.
3. Educating your client
As bookkeeping tasks and responsibilities adjust, so do the type of conversations that you have with your clients.
Instead of having low-value conversations (e.g., requesting a source document that can be automatically fetched), discussions are shifting to focus on the data available to a particular business and what they can do with it. “Think budgeting, cash flow projections, and inventory analysis. We have to understand that part of our job now is making sure the correct information is coming in (by scrolling through and refreshing bank feeds and connections, for example). Part of our job is also communicating that you have so much information available in the data to help the client make decisions,” explains Sherri-Lee.
In addition to having access to more data, and therefore being able to provide your clients with more timely and relevant business insights, it’s also important to educate them about the technology. It’s up to you to help clients learn and understand the role they play in using the technology, and who has access to important information. The relationship with the client is changing – the bookkeeper is an important member of their team.
Adapting your skills
The evolution of the responsibilities mentioned above might seem a bit scary – and that’s a perfectly reasonable reaction! Heading into any kind of unknown area and making changes to long-held processes can cause discomfort. Fortunately, adjusting your mindset to take on these new responsibilities is half the battle.
Beyond welcoming this adjustment, a couple other things you can do to stay on top of changing responsibilities include:
- Staying educated: Developing technical expertise requires active learning, and there is a countless number of resources available to help you do just that! From online courses, to webinars, to newsletters, to engaging with your peers, there are a number of ways to make sure you have the knowledge needed to excel in this quickly evolving industry.
- Considering specialization: Adopting a niche (if you haven’t already) is a great way to focus your efforts and hone your expertise in one particular area. Cloud technology will enable you to serve clients who fall into this niche, regardless of location, opening up more business opportunities (instead of limiting them).
Embracing the change
As the well-known saying goes, the only constant is change. Adjusting to evolving responsibilities and adapting supplementary skills is part of the new normal for firms that want to build long-lasting relationships with their clients.
New technology brings new opportunities, and it’s up to you to either resist or embrace the changes they bring!
Bookkeeping tasks that used to take hours now take only minutes to complete. Learn more in our free guide, Hours to Minutes: How to Save Time in Your Bookkeeping Workflow.
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