These 4 Trends Are Changing Accounting (Even If No One Knows It Yet)

By Fergus Cleaver

Like death and taxes, accounting is one of those things that just…is. (To be fair, accounting does intimately involve at least one of those things.)

Seriously: It’s only a small exaggeration to say that the field of accounting is one of the few human professions that always was, always is and probably always will be. But that doesn’t mean it’s incapable of reinventing itself.

In point of fact, accounting has seen more changes this decade than at any point in living memory. While it’s never safe to chance at predicting the future, it’s nevertheless fair to bet that these changes will continue—and maybe accelerate—in the coming years. That could have major ramifications for younger accountants, students contemplating accounting careers and children not yet old enough to know what they want to do with their lives, other than be astronauts.

Most important, the changes rocking the world of accounting will affect the millions of practitioners currently in the prime of their careers—too young to retire, for sure, but (feeling) too set in their ways to adapt to radical change.

For all those affected by the changes rocking the world of accounting, and those interested for whatever obscure reason, these are the four crucial accounting trends you need to understand now.

1. Accounting Now Lives in the Cloud

Modern accounting is built on the back of an increasingly powerful, increasingly intelligent (e.g., HubDoc) set of cloud software solutions. This is a tremendous time-saver for human accountants, and a potentially game-changing value for small-business owners set on going the DIY route.

2. Business Software Leverages Built-In Accounting Functions

Even as basic accounting functions are digitizing and moving into the cloud, the accounting landscape is becoming ever more diffuse. Case in point: the proliferation of “light accounting” capabilities in dozens of business software programs (most based in the cloud) whose primary or secondary functions have nothing to do with accounting. Look for more of this going forward.

3. Mergers & Acquisitions Will Dominate Corporate Accounting

After a brutal downturn in the wake of the global financial crisis, M&A activity has picked back up in a big way. As accelerating technological change drives consolidation in virtually every industry, this looks to be a secular trend. And that’s big news for young people looking for reliable work in corporate accounting, which has seen its share of lean years.

4. The Gig Economy Is Here to Stay

The gig economy is important for two big reasons. One, as its practitioners grow more ambitious and successful, they need more accounting help than ever. Two, accountants themselves can take advantage of a growing set of lucrative opportunities to work as consultants or hired guns, stringing together full-time-equivalent incomes on the back of high-value, task-based work. The Uber of accounting has yet to be invented, but it’s probably not far off.