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An accountant's role in a dynamic environment

Written by: Martin Finch
Published on: 19 Jan 2012

Martin is an experienced accountant with expertise in reporting in  UK GAAP and IFRS. Martin also has significant systems experience having implemented SAP at his current employer.   Prior to his current role he worked in public practice on a varied portfolio of clients ranging from PLCs to not for profit and charitable organisations.

In the current economic climate many companies and indeed the Government itself are more focussed than ever on operational costs. Accountants tend to be very comfortable recording, controlling and accounting for costs within the business but the value of the work completed by accountants and the potential for accountants to add value to a business often goes un-noticed. A focus removal of non value adding steps (and costs) from business processes will inevitably mean that unless accountants successfully adapt to be seen as value adding, at some point the accountant themselves will be the target for cost reductions.

Although at the start of 2012, we are facing some tough economic conditions, it does not mean that there are not opportunities both for business and the accountant. Businesses need to be innovative and adaptable in order to meet the increasingly choosy and cautious customer's wants and needs. The accountant has a key role to play in assessing new products and opportunities.

For companies to succeed, the need to understand relationships with customers and suppliers is more important than ever. Accountants have many skills that are an essential part of any successful  strategic management team. Analysing costs and number crunching, acting as a last check to ensure that the entrepreneurial heart of the business has not made any miscalculations will not be seen as a strategic value adding role. Rather than be the team member left analysing the costs after the key decisions have been made accountants need to position themselves at the heart of the business identifying potential business opportunities.

In order to fulfil their position  and potential to add value, accountant's themselves need to be flexible and move away from dealing with the historic costs they are comfortable with to appraising opportunities and associated financial risks that are not quite as definite, appraising the intangible future as opposed to the tangible past. This approach can go against the accountant's instinct and training but without moving out of comfort zone and being innovative and entrepreneurial, accountants themselves will be perceived as a business overhead to be controlled.

As accountants, it is essential that we all promote the skills and abilities that accounting training can provide. I remember studying marketing, performance management, HR and law during my training, although I do not have specialist knowledge in these areas, it demonstrates that the accountant is more than a bean counter but an all round business professional and a key player in the business that can in turn transform the modern business helping the it to adapt and achieve in a dynamic market place.