Preparing sales and cash flow reports, payroll reports, balance sheets, administering billings, managing budgets and inventory, forecasting future income are some of the common duties of an accountant while filing taxes for a company. The first skill required for an accountant is that he or she should feel comfortable crunching numbers, irrespective of the tools in possession from a basic calculator to advanced ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.

Presenting financial reports in an easy-to-understand manner while following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) / International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) requires training for which candidates enroll for professional courses including CA and CFA. 

An accountant of today should adapt working under relevant accounting software like Intuit (US) or Tally (India). Ability to use Excel worksheets is almost a must. According to payscale.com survey for accountants in India, experience strongly influences pay for this job and the skills that increase pay for this job the most is SAP FICO.

Expertise in data analytics, advanced modeling techniques and SQL are rare to find in accounting professionals. According to a March 2016 joint report Building aTeam to Capitalize on the Promise of Big Data by Robert Half and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), among technical skills what is missing the most are identifying key data trends (29 percent), data mining and extraction (28 percent), operational analysis (28 percent), technological acumen (27 percent), statistical modeling and data analysis (27 percent). Those who can integrate these into accounting models can bring a new perspective adding immense value to a business.

The same view is echoed in the article The Top 7 Trends in Management Accounting by Gary Cokins wherein it is mentioned that trend number 2 is about integration. The various components of EPM (Enterprise Project Management) are like gears in a machine – they are interconnected.

The course titled Quantitative Methods for Accounting by RMIT University aims to introduce statistical and quantitative techniques used by business managers to aid in decision-making. According to RMIT, “The focus of this course is the application of statistical and mathematical techniques to problems in accounting and finance.” While making use of Microsoft Excel for the analysis of problems, this course concentrates on the analysis and interpretation of results of statistical testing. It is claimed that this should help accountants use quantitative techniques to help them make better decisions, apply mathematical skills to real life problems, undertake estimation and hypothesis testing using knowledge of probability theory and probability distributions, and analyse and interpret numerical and graphical outputs.

In the article ‘The no. 1 reason small business clients leave’ in AccountingToday,  Sue Bosevich, vice president of support at Padgett Business Services, is quoted as saying that citing increased costs is a commonly stated reason, but usually, when you get down to it, it’s the easiest excuse they can come up with. He observes, “Most often, clients leave because there is little correlation between the fee they're paying and the service offered — they simply don’t understand the value they're receiving. Bottom line: it has to be important to them and it's your responsibility to show them that.”

According to the research report titled “Enterprise Performance Management: Not That Popular But Still Bloody Relevant” dated February 22, 2017, “As new technologies make their way into the enterprise world, a core fact remains: organizations still have basic business problems to solve, including budget and sales planning, and financial consolidation and reporting.”  The author of this report Jorge Garcia points that financial reporting, performance monitoring, and strategy planning are still crucial for any business when it comes to improving its performance and operational efficiency.

Trend no. 1 in opinion of the article Top 7 Trends in Management Accounting by Gary Cokins is management accounting must help the sales and marketing functions. A company needs to know the best types of customers to retain, grow, win back, and acquire – and those who aren’t.

Soft skills while communicating with customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders is important throughout. This is more so for independent accountants and auditors who need to do their own sales and marketing as well. For them, advise by Howard M. Rosen, CPA, in the article The no. 1 reason small business clients leave by Kali Geldis is small business clients are looking for value and the best way to make a client loyal to you is to expand your services beyond just the one thing that client may come in looking for. Rosen believes that the more services you provide the more loyal the client becomes. Once you are providing three or more services it is very difficult for a client to leave. It is advised to do more than just generating tax returns or financial statements, take on a role of business advisor and not just tax professional. In this context, courses such as Certified Financial Planner should help take in-charge of financial planning aspect of your client as well while providing accounting-related services and make a seamless combination.

The same view is resonated by Gerri Detweiler, head of market education for Nav when she observes that demand for more knowledge around how to help clients manage and build their business credit is huge. According to Gerri, understanding business credit and financing is often complicated and time-consuming and accounting professionals are hungry for information on how to make that process easier. In the same article by Geldis, Sue Bosevich is quoted as saying, “There is software that helps to manage client work internally and to ensure that deadlines are not missed.” He stresses on using apps like Skype for face-to-face meeting with clients.

In India, investors trust a company believing that its financial reports are strictly supervised by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India or in some cases when it comes to cost audit by The Institute of Cost Accountants of India. But despite this, time and again, there are lapses (like PwC auditors failing to prevent the 2009 Satyam scam wherein auditors could not make out that bank statements presented to them by its founder Ramalinga Raju were forged), calling for a more strict vigilance. As part of tax reforms, GST or goods and services tax is set to be soon implemented in India (tentatively by July 2017). The move will change the way how taxes are levied and existing accountants need to brush up their know-how on GST to stay relevant with the changing times.

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