While the end for accountants and book keepers may not actually be near, their functions are being turned upside down. The accountants who talked to Smart Company painted an optimistic picture.

“Automation is important even for accountants. It will make life easier and even their services better. Accounting services go beyond accounting and auditing services,” says Fernandes Barasa, chairman of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), which is the body mandated to regulate accountants in the country.

“For me and for the institute my honest opinion is it will improve the accounting services because everything is digitised.”

Mr Barasa says most of these new IT innovations will still require people to function and would therefore never actively displace the work of traditional professional accountants.

“It is not an issue of making accountants irrelevant. Accounting services improve because of those accounting softwares. Our services improve on quality, time and the enhancement of efficiency of our work,” says Mr Barasa (below). “There is no fear at all.”

Mere tools

His optimism is echoed by University of Nairobi lecturer Bitange Ndemo who sees business management solutions as merely tools which aid the traditional roles of professional accountants.

“Those are tools. (When they are adopted) accountants would go more into analytics (and not be declared redundant). Even in the medical world, a lot of computing is there, but it will never replace a doctor,” says Ndemo, a former ICT permanent secretary .

Mr Ndemo adds that the era of invisible administrators may take a while to be fully adopted.

Sage’s Nick Goode concurs arguing accountants will remain a critical cog in the digital transition even though, he adds the accounting community may not be ready for the shift.

Experts say among the advantages of automation is that they provide especially small businesses with additional time to concentrate on their core business activities.

“Accountants will do higher value things…we will start to see the disappearance of receipts and paper within a year or two years,” says Mr Goode.

“The basics of it will come more quickly…the longer term, where more tasks are automated, that will be three, four, five years in the making.”

But where do accountants go from here? Mr Goode says accountants will in the near future be required to take up higher roles. Such roles include offering advisory, financial planning, analysis and strategy services to businesses.

“It means accountants will not spend time doing the low level tasks. Why would you want to be running payroll for people when you could be doing financial planning optimisation.

"Payroll is a transaction, a very important one, but the technology takes care of everything,” he adds.

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