What is workforce automation – and why should accountants care?

December 14, 2022 Kamran Rajah
What is workforce automation airpa

Workforce automation is the process of replacing human effort with automated systems and processes. It started in industry 200 years ago and, with the universal availability of cheap computing power, has slowly rolled out through professional services in recent decades. 

For accountants, it offers the potential to do more for clients with the same resource, or less. More importantly, it also frees up their time to focus on work that really benefits from the human touch, such as the delivery of high value business advice.

Workforce automation: a brief history

From windmills to mechanical clocks, people have been building tools and machines to perform manual tasks for them for thousands of years. But workforce automation as we know it picked up pace during the industrial revolution in the 1800s, and then developed as mechanised production lines were adopted during the 20th century.

In recent years, we’ve seen digital automation in more use by businesses of all kinds, as data storage and computing power becomes cheaper and more accessible. Developments in fields like artificial intelligence are also broadening the scope of automation, allowing for increasingly complex work to be taken over by a computer.

In the accounting industry, desktop accounting software was common until a decade or so ago. Now, more firms are using software based in the cloud to provide a more up-to-date version of their clients’ accounts, and connect more easily across other digital systems.

How can accountants use workforce automation?

Accountants are already using software to make manual tasks like bookkeeping, financial processing and reporting much quicker and easier, as well as broader practice management, HR, client support and more. 

Beyond digitising basic tasks, more accountants are now integrating the systems they use, and employing sophisticated technology to reduce the amount of work that needs to be carried out by humans.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no use for accountants themselves anymore. It just means the profession is changing. 

As experts in working with financial data, accountants can play a vital role in interpreting and explaining this information to their clients, and translating it into practical guidance for running their business. This has contributed to a boom in advisory services offered by accountants in recent years. More firms have also started introducing technology-enabled support across other areas of their clients’ businesses, including payroll, financing, and more. 

The more automation is used, and the more work is conducted by software, the more important it also becomes that someone with technical expertise is available to oversee those systems. 

A business owner might be able to implement accounting software themselves, for instance, and have a good enough grasp of basic accounting to operate it. But if something goes wrong, or they make a small mistake, they might not be as attuned to it as an accountant who’s working with this kind of information day in, day out.

They might also be missing out on important financial management tools and features of the software. These are all ways an accountant can offer more value, applying their human expertise to a robust digital system.

Find out how you can use AIRPA to automate accountancy functions from payroll processing to client communications with a free trial or demo.