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Is Technology Making Accountants Dumb and Lazy?

For those of you that have been following me online for a while, you’ll probably know one of the early experiments I ran at Accodex was, “How do I build a firm where I can get a 19-year-old to do the work of a CPA in one-third the time.”

With this goal we invested heavily into technology, systems, systems knowledge management and standardization. After two years, the experiment was a success* but had an unintended side effect: Laziness.

Last week, one of my staff escalated a complex fixed asset issue to me. I sighed and thought, “Accounting work? Seriously, why hasn’t this been automated yet?” I dived into the problem for about 30 minutes and it took a lot of mental effort. Once I had the problem fixed, I was pleased for a moment. Soon after, I was disappointed again, that the technology couldn’t handle it, and that it wasn’t documented in the our knowledgement system. But then I remembered that ten years ago, that same problem would have taken about half a day to fix, and I was doing that kind of work every day!

I thought more about the situation from a cultural perspective. I think we at Accodex have invested so much in technology and standardization, that there’s a culture of laziness prevalent in our office. Further, I think not using our core accounting muscle, has made us dumber. These days I’m barely using the skills I learned at university or my Chartered Accounting course. My team and myself see a lot of the traditional accounting value chain as a chore and an inconvenience.

Now this is not necessarily a devastating thing. Bill Gates once said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” This attitude sees us jump on any new technology that will save us 10 minutes a day. This keeps us innovative. Conversely, we have not invested enough in problem solving and deductive reasoning. These skills are going to be paramount in the accounting profession and I probably should have added it to my last article on how accountants can protect themselves from the Accountapocalypse.

The fact is that the accounting value chain hasn’t been automated fully, and is still another decade away. With this in mind, I’m going back to our training system and adding these skills to our curriculum. Because even when our value chain is automated, these skills will still be useful skills, and worth the investment. To that end I encourage you all to do some training in this area, to level up your skills and future proof your career.

* Keeping in mind we’re in general practice for small businesses and startup, this would have failed in a more complex area of practice.