In 2010, Marcus Wagner founded AcctTwo Shared Services and established the company as a provider of Managed Accounting Services (MAS), as well as a leading channel partner for Sage Intacct, the best-in-class cloud-based accounting software provider. Since then, AcctTwo has expanded its technology offerings to include Adaptive Insights’ suite of CPM and FP&A software, and built robust Sage Intacct consulting, development, and technical services practices.
Q: You’ve recently announced that the firm has been ranked the 11th fastest growing private company in Houston; could you tell us something more?
A: Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. and is projected to surpass Chicago for the No. 3 spot in the next ten years. This is such an exciting time to do business in Houston, and we’re thrilled to be a part of that amazing growth. After Hurricane Harvey, AcctTwo was lucky enough to get to volunteer with two organizations, Samaritan’s Purse and the Houston Foodbank, to help those affected by the hurricane. We were also able to raise $25K in subscription fees from the month of September and donate those fees to those two organizations. Houston has shown itself to be an incredibly resilient community and AcctTwo is very proud to play a part in that.
Q: How blockchain fits into accounting systems?
A: Blockchain is a form of peer-to-peer database technology that is distributed among users. It can be shared widely and added to endlessly, but once information is entered it cannot be changed. Imagine a digital receipt that continues to print endlessly.
Both the proponents and the detractors of blockchain do a great job of obscuring what this technology actually does and how it benefits users. But the single most important advantage that blockchain offers is transparency – more users have access to more information through fewer filters.
There is a clear link between what blockchain can provide and what various types of financial management software are intended to do. Typically, this software exists in order to streamline workflows, enhance efficiency and productivity, and improve the accounting function overall. The ability of blockchain to accurately record inputs and effectively distribute information is an obvious asset.
The key difference between blockchain and most existing accounting systems is one of scale. Enterprise accounting software tends to focus only on the enterprise itself. Blockchain, in its purest form, strives to create ecosystems that encompass multiple adjacent enterprises.
For instance, in a future filled with Blockchain a company and all of its suppliers may rely on a single public, replicated, and shared ledger. Essentially, every company would have access to all the same accounting and finance information. As a result, enterprises would consider their roles and relationships within economic ecosystems rather than their own financial health exclusively.
Q: Is blockchain accessible to midmarket companies?
A: There are already blockchain APIs being added to major financial management systems. And this trend is expected to pick up a lot of steam throughout 2018. So, while blockchain may be currently inaccessible to many midmarket companies, it’s not far out of reach.
The question is whether blockchain is actually essential or even necessary at all? There are many solutions already on the market that promise to make data distribution faster and easier. What can blockchain do that can’t already be done?
The short answer is nothing. But a more accurate answer is that blockchain does what is already possible, it simply does it much better. Midmarket companies can expect blockchain to make transferring money quicker and cheaper. It helps companies with opposite incentives to collaborate productively and transparently. Finally, it keeps more data from being lost or corrupted.
Any midmarket company that understands the value of data and the essential role it plays in the future of commerce should be interested in blockchain too. This technology is still evolving, and the ideal applications have yet to be identified, but its potential is undeniable.
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Q: How will Robotic Process Automation (RPA) affect the accounting industry?
A: The Harvard Business Review recently published an eye-opening piece suggesting that 95 percent of accountants may lose their jobs to automation. Any accountant who managed to keep reading, however, learned that new opportunities are being created just as quickly as old opportunities are being automated.
Artificial intelligence is great at handling routine processes and systematic workflows. In that way, it’s ideal for tackling aspects of accounting like auditing. AI is much less skilled at handling creative thinking or strategic decision-making. And, as machines increasingly handle the basic tasks, human guidance is becoming even more essential.
It’s not automation that is pushing accountants to become more strategic. Rather, it’s the evolution of finance from something that is administrative into something that is visionary. Companies now understand that finance is a competitive opportunity for those that manage it well and a competitive obstacle for those that don’t.
The role of the accountant was changing long before technologies like machine learning and big-data analytics began to make their way into accounting departments. Enlisting an army of accountants to handle bookkeeping has been an outdated approach for some time. But enlisting that same army to work on managing risk, forecasting figures, analyzing markets, and generating reports is essentially mandatory these days.
Artificial intelligence will undoubtedly displace some accountants. It will also put a new premium on the sort of experience, expertise, and insight that machines will never bring to the table. Rather than discounting the work of accountants, AI will underline how important and indispensable they ultimately are.
Once we see artificial intelligence as a tool that enhances rather than inhibits human potential, it becomes clear how important it is to embrace the technology. Accountants are eager and able to step into a strategic role, but that’s only possible when their most time and labor-intensive tasks are automated.
Once artificial intelligence is implemented, there’s an opportunity for accounting to improve across the board. Efficiency and productivity rise just as errors and omissions fall. Accountants gain visibility and transparency while communicating and collaborating with one another more effectively. Plus, the sorts of information and insights that are essential for strategic decision making become available instantaneously. Accountants can train their focus forward, and their vision is clearer than ever.