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Aug
3

What's New in Technology

August, 2019

How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are Necessary

How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are NecessaryAccountants are no strangers to inventions. Known inventions such as the abacus, calculators and computers have helped complete tasks quickly and in less time. However, today’s technology is complex and is reshaping the world of accounting. Such new technologies include big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, block chain, payment systems, mobility and social collaboration, among many others.

How Technology has Changed the Accounting Industry

Accounting, a traditional field, has not been immune to technological innovations. Initially, an accounting department would rely on IT leaders to make its technology decisions. Today, CFOs are increasingly taking part in decision making when it comes to the implementation of new technologies.

These changes are due to technological innovations in the accounting industry that have contributed to improved productivity and operational efficiency. The replacement of manual accounting with computerized tools has contributed greatly to reducing errors, resulting in more accurate reporting.  

The accounting industry has reaped many benefits from adopting technology. Such benefits include virtual storage of documents, compliant online tools for accounting and taxes, use of communication platforms that ease connecting with customers, forensic analysis tools, and filing financial details with authorities.

Technology such as cloud computing means that a CPA can collaborate with clients in real time. This means that you are able to provide your clients with frequent business insights for performance monitoring and decision making.

All this makes it crucial for any company or professional to adopt these new technologies to remain competitive in today’s digital world.

Impact on the Accounting Profession

There is mixed opinion regarding how technology impacts the accounting industry. With the new technologies adopted in accounting, the accountant and finance professionals are expected to master new skills beyond numbers.

As accounting technology continues to evolve, there are considerations about necessary skill sets for new hires. Recruiters also are searching for candidates with extra skills relating to emerging technological trends.

Obviously, some roles such as manual entry and calculations have become obsolete. But technology has introduced new roles that require that accountants to approach the business environment differently so as to drive value. This calls for a mindset ready to embrace the constant state of change.  

Why It's Necessary to Have IT Skills

Today it’s not enough just to have basic training for software programs used in accounting. CPAs are now becoming part of strategic planning teams. Their new roles include developing new processes, giving advice and even performing future forecasts. You may find an accountant working with a system programmer when developing a digital financial process.

This means that apart from learning accounting practices, an accountant should know how to integrate accounting processes with IT programs. Systems used today require technical skills. Such systems include strategic software applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems. Other technologies such as cloud computing have taken accounting to new levels that require advanced skills.

We also can't ignore the fact that technology has also brought with it new challenges. Data security is one such challenge. This requires that accountants also be equipped with knowledge on protecting data and computer systems against cyber threats.

Technology Skills for Accountants

As we have seen, the accounting industry has been impacted by technology. For an accountant to remain relevant in the accounting industry, here are some necessary technology skills:

  • Knowledge of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems
  • Experience in cloud computing
  • Data analytics skills
  • Knowledge of business intelligence software
  • Understanding how processes work
  • Advanced Excel ability

What the Future Holds

Initially, it was thought that the advent of accounting tools would make the accountant redundant. But these tools have helped professional accountants become financial advisors, business counselors and strategists. Hence, the growing automation of accounting tasks presents a great opportunity for professional accountants willing to take up new skills.

It is critical that accountants understand the importance of investing in themselves. This will require learning skills beyond number crunching and preparing tax returns.

It’s also important to note that apart from technological skills, the new work environment will require additional skills such as customer service, business insight, flexibility, communication skills, regulatory knowledge and leadership abilities.


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Jul
3
How To Use AI For HR
Posted by S2C Staff on 03 July 2019 10:02 AM

What's New in Technology

July, 2019

How To Use AI For HR

How To Use AI For HRThere is a lot of new technology being used to automate functions and save money in large corporations, but many small organizations are shut out of those advancements. This is largely because of the cost, training, knowledge and resources it requires to take advantage of such new technology.

But while small business owners might not be able to afford such advances, it’s good to keep up with what’s going on in the tech world – particularly innovations that can help a business owner automate processes and save money on personnel expenses.

One such advancement is how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used for human resources functions. For example, automated processes that adapt to situations can be useful with recruitment, onboarding and training new employees.

Recruiting

In a loose labor market, even a small business could receive hundreds or even thousands of resumes for one open position. In a tight labor market, a job listing might not procure that many responses, but an employer can be very particular about which applicants to meet. In either scenario, AI can be deployed to screen resumes for keywords, experience and education requirements in order to narrow down the list to only highly qualified candidates.

AI processes can help reduce unconscious biases during the initial recruitment process. Furthermore, AI can help businesses automate scheduling and conduct customized text interviewing. In fact, there are now AI pre-screening tools that host video interviews of potential candidates to narrow the list even further before inviting a short list for a phone or face-to-face meeting. One such tool hosts a series of "games" to assess candidates based on their cognitive and emotional features, while avoiding traits related to their gender, socioeconomic status or race. The assessment is then matched up against profiles of past or current employees who have succeeded in that position. If the AI evaluation determines a candidate is not a good fit for the position for which he applied, it can scan other position profiles to see if there is another role for which the candidate might be better suited.

Onboarding

Onboarding often consists of paperwork, digital tools and videos, with very little personal contact apart from a mass orientation. However, AI-enabled chatbots can provide new employees with a more customized and pseudo-personal experience by answering specific questions and providing tailored information based on their role, department or required job skills and processes they need to learn. AI allows a new hire to self-acclimate to the job without having to bother HR, the hiring manager or colleagues with a lot of questions – helping the new employee get up-to-speed and gain confidence on his or her own.

Consumer goods manufacturer Unilever uses a chatbot that is able to speak and answer employee questions in plain, human language. The chatbot can answer hundreds of general questions and even tailor specific advice, ranging from where to catch a shuttle bus to the office in the morning to how to handle HR and payroll issues.

On-the-Job Training

No matter how perfectly qualified a new hire is for the job, there is always a learning curve. Most of the time, it’s a matter of learning the company’s specific computer programs, processes and even in-house jargon – such as what acronyms mean and the names and locations of conference rooms. AI can help new workers learn basic operating procedures such as these as well as specific job tasks.

For example, a new employee could wear an AI headset throughout the day to help carry out daily job functions, all the while asking specific questions and receiving guidance on best practices. An AI headset may even use image recognition technology to identify what the employee is referencing, and even playback images through virtual reality (VR) to help direct the worker to the appropriate screen on his or her computer.

Enhance Productivity (of Human Employees)

Instead of replacing humans, AI can be used to handle menial tasks so that employees can engage in more meaningful work that requires experience, knowledge and the ability to make calculated decisions. While technology is widely used these days for communication, data mining and researching information, AI as the technology of the future might replace lower-level administrative positions so that resources can be allocated to hiring more higher-level workers who will have a greater impact on firm revenues.


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Jun
4
Small Business Survey: How Are Today's SMBs Using Technology?
Posted by S2C Staff on 04 June 2019 11:19 AM

What's New in Technology

June 2019

Small Business Survey: How Are Today's SMBs Using Technology?

Increase productivity, Meet customer demand, Enhance innovation, Boost sales, Differentiate themselves from the competition, Avoid obsolescenceOne way to reduce the overhead associated with hiring workers is to make efficient use of technology. According to a recent survey by CompTIA, 73 percent of midsize businesses and 56 percent of firms with fewer than 20 employees say technology is a primary factor in pursuing their business objectives.

Budgeting

According to the 4Q 2018 survey, the average small/midsize business (SMB) invests anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 a year on technology. About half (52 percent) of small business owners think they’re not spending enough on business technology.

Upgrading

The largest share of small businesses (36 percent) say that in recent years they’ve focused their technology budget on infrastructure, such as laptops, desktops, servers, phones and storage. The second largest item in their tech budget was industry-specific software. Areas in which small businesses say they most need to improve technology include:

  • Integrating different applications, platforms and devices
  • Cyber and data security
  • Managing and using data effectively
  • Modernizing equipment and software
  • Improving ROI on technology purchases
  • Hiring skilled employees with experience working with newer technologies

Customer Service

One interesting find was that customer service is the biggest technology spending priority for SMBs going forward. Small business owners are looking to technology to help them renew existing customer accounts, identify new customer segments and markets, and innovate new products and services.

New Trend

A new trend among SMBs is to use technology as a service or product that can be offered to customers. In fact, more than half (52 percent) of professional service firms such as accountants and lawyers introduced such a service last year. For example, an accounting firm might provide a cyber security audit or become a software reseller (buy at wholesale price and sell to customers for a profit). Among SMBs that have begun offering technology services, almost half say that revenue stream is growing faster than their regular business.

Preferred Tech Vendors

Where do the majority of SMBs buy technology? Pretty much the same places as individual consumers, namely online retailers such as Amazon and brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy.

Priorities Compared to Two Years Ago

Another interesting finding from the study is that SMBs are not executing on their technology plans as well as they had hoped. The share of respondents who say they’ve achieved their vision and strategy dropped from 23 percent in 2016 to just 18 percent in 2018. The report asserts that, “Many firms are taking two steps forward and one back as they navigate these new learning curves.”

Emerging Technologies

Despite their sluggish success, more than half (53 percent) of SMBs believe that emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, artificial intelligence (AI) and drones will drive opportunities for them in the future. Thirty percent of SMBs say they’ve already incorporated some form of emerging technology into their business to:

  • Increase productivity: 63%
  • Meet customer demand: 47%
  • Enhance innovation: 42%
  • Boost sales: 42%
  • Differentiate themselves from the competition: 39%
  • Avoid obsolescence: 22%

Still, some SMBs are hesitant to invest in emerging technologies. Ten percent think it will trigger a negative impact on their business while 23 percent believe it’s soon to project the potential impact, especially given the cost of entry, the technical training required, and the time it would take to identify high-quality and cost-efficient vendors or suppliers.


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Feb
5
What's New in Technology February 2019
Posted by S2C Staff on 05 February 2019 02:29 PM

What's New in Technology February 2019

Automated Workflow Tools

Automated Workflow ToolsWe often read about how technological advances such as artificial intelligence will someday be used for customer-facing jobs – even eliminating the human touch. However, small firms that rely on trust and personal relationships are not likely to benefit from these innovations. Nonetheless, technology – when used effectively – can enhance a firm’s efficiency and free up resources so that more human time is spent on customer interaction. Used in combination, technology and personal relationships can improve a company’s bottom line.

One of the best ways to use technology is to enhance current processes. Over the past two decades, many firms have begun tracking their client and prospective client interactions via spreadsheets and data software. These days, automated workflow tools can replace many of those older, time-consuming tasks by integrating single-source data for a variety of uses.

For example, meeting notes can now be stored and mined so as to retrieve and compare reported results from month to month or year to year. Client databases can be integrated with information from multiple sources, including handwritten notes, Post-its, voicemails and emails. By collecting, compiling and analyzing related information from every available source, client-facing personnel can track previously asked questions – and answers – so that information is transparent, consistently communicated and reviewed to help understand the concerns of individual clients. This data can be used for periodic outreach communications that directly touch on the issues of greatest interest to each client – proving that technology can actually enhance client relationships rather than detract from them.

However, to take advantage of automated workflow tools, it’s important to conduct periodic reviews to identify ongoing challenges and issues within your organization as well as research tech solutions that can address them in a more efficient manner. The goal is to compile both client data and relevant project information in a centralized location to improve efficiency and collaboration.

The following are a couple of examples of automated workflow tools that can enhance small business operations.

Scheduling

It’s one thing to have a triggering system designed to automate scheduled appointments. However, many times these meetings are wasted because either clients do not arrive with the information (such as forms and receipts to complete a tax return) they need to provide or the consultant has not completed the assignments necessary to facilitate a productive meeting. A scheduling tool can do more than signal it’s time for a periodic consultation. It should be integrated with previous meeting notes to share any ongoing issues that need to be monitored, discussions tabled for a later date, tasks or forms that need to be completed and details of next steps – updated when they are completed. By integrating scheduling software with client data files, regular consultations are enriched with the information necessary for a complete discussion and more time can be spent building trust based on competence and personal interaction.

E-Signatures

Better yet, the more your client files are digitalized the less need for time-consuming, face-to-face meetings just to get a signature. Digital signatures are now a legally accepted form of agreement in many scenarios, and can be integrated as an automated workflow tool. While clients may initially be hesitant, it’s important to make the e-signature process simple in order to demonstrate its value over having to print out documents and sign, scan, upload and return them. Consider using the time normally spent on trying to get a client to respond to invite him out for lunch the first time he successfully completes an e-signature form.


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Jan
8
How to Build Your Savings Using Technology
Posted by S2C Staff on 08 January 2019 12:25 PM

What's New in Technology January 2019

How to Build Your Savings Using Technology

How to Build Your Savings Using TechnologyAccording to a study by Cornell University, the human brain is wired to earn money more so than save it. As such, when we find we need more money in our lives, our instinct is to earn more and not spend less. In fact, this instinct tends to grow over time, and is one reason why people tend to spend more money when they receive a salary increase rather than save it.

However, researchers believe that by being cognizant of this fact, we can take proactive measures to develop effective savings habits. One way to do this is by using new technology to make saving easier. The following are a few high-tech examples.

  • Set up your bank account to make automatic transfers between your checking and savings account on a regular basis. When you are able to reduce or eliminate a regular expense, set up an automated transferal of that fixed amount. For example, if you start taking your lunch to work each day for savings of $50 a week, automatically transfer $50 each week from your checking to your savings account. That $200 a month in savings can build up quickly.
  • Go online to shop for a savings account at an internet bank. These virtual companies generally offer a higher interest rate on savings accounts since they have lower overhead expenses than a brick and mortar bank. This one move can help your savings compound faster.
  • Download an app designed to help manage your spending habits and automatically transfer money to a savings account every time you make a significant savings decision (like buy a washing machine for $50 less than the one you were considering). Consider popular apps such as Digit, Clarity Money or Saver Life.
  • Consider using an app that helps you delve into the world of investing with small sums of money. These apps offer information and tips to help you understand the basics of investing and make it easy to set up automatic transfers to an investment account. Consider popular apps such as Stash or Acorns.
  • Delete any credit card numbers you have stored at your favorite online stores or on your browser. While saved information is convenient, it is more likely to encourage impulse buying. The longer it takes to input your payment information for each purchase, the more time you have to consider whether or not you really need to buy that item.
  • Unplug your computers, televisions and cable boxes when you’re not using them, as they use energy even when they are turned off. One easy way to do this is to use grounded power strips to turn off several electronics at once.
  • Purchase and install a timer device that automatically adjusts your home’s thermostat. ENERGY STAR reports that reducing the thermostat by 7 degrees to 10 degrees, eight hours a day, can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 10 percent a year.

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Jan
8
ICFiles Downtime
Posted by S2C Staff on 08 January 2019 12:05 PM
ICFiles Notice:

This is to inform our clients of an unplanned maintenance we had to perform on the pod running your ICFiles.com.
Due to performance and stability issues we detected, we have performed a move of your VSI to a new host as a preventative measure.

We apologize for any inconvenience this is causing. 

Thank you,

Charles K.
Compute SRE
IBM Cloud
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