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Securing accounting’s latest technology trends [How-to]

Emerging accounting technology helps you get your job done faster, more efficiently and accurately. But a lot of accountants are avoiding it (like a mall-walker avoiding a middle-aisle salesperson). Here’s how to manage it all.

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Last Updated February 14, 2024

Woman in a mall looking happy.

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Before discussing emerging accounting technology—let’s go back in time to your mall days…

Does the internet ever make you feel like you’re walking down the middle of a mall (remember those), and you’re having a grand time until someone starts shouting at you about how their diamond-plated straightener will change your life?

This proverbial shouting is non-stop out there in web land. And if you’re anything like me, you probably ignore those middle-aisle mall salespeople, because your hairdryer with the round brush gets the job done just fine. (Stick with me.)

The more I learn from the accounting profession, the more I realize that their disillusionment with emerging technologies is precisely like this. They’ve been—you’ve been—doing your job and doing it well. Why rush to any new solution?

Because these new tools provide you with equipment to get the job done faster and more efficiently. Automation helps us avoid repeating tasks to focus on the big picture. Artificial intelligence (AI) spits out formulas and definitions so we can spend less time looking stuff up and more time on critical thinking.

As Emily Frels wrote in her post on the tech taking over accounting in 2024, these trends “will continue to shape the profession.” AI, ever-changing security threats and paperless processes aren’t going away.

In the face of all this change, there’s only one thing to do: prepare.

Continue reading to learn how to protect yourself from the latest technology with the newest technology.

What are emerging technologies in accounting?

Here’s the setup. First, we’ll define the three most significant trends we’ve seen and will continue to see in the accounting profession.

Then, you can click below to jump to a section for more information about each trend. And bonus: You’ll learn how to stay secure while still taking advantage of that trend.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): When it comes to accounting, AI helps save you loads of time on manual, time-consuming data entry tasks. It processes large volumes of data with near-faultless accuracy and can even detect if something’s amiss. (Ready to try AI for yourself? Check out SPARK, Rightworks’ purpose-built AI tool for accounting firms.)
  • Security threats: “Why is a threat being categorized under emerging technologies in accounting?” Great question, reader. The answer: Because this post isn’t just about the tech helping us out—it’s about the tech having the most impact on the profession. And right now, security threats are having a significant impact. Cybersecurity threats aren’t slowing down, either. Just as soon as the white hats (good hackers) hack a solution to what the black hats (bad guys) create, the black hats make something new to circumvent the fix. The cyber arms race is troubling, albeit impressive.
  • The cloud: Unsure about what the cloud, or remote access technology, is? Check out my latest post on the subject, where I dive deep into how the cloud works, why it’s great, etc. TLDR: The cloud has been around for a while, but the accounting profession is still beginning its adoption journey. It’s great because it transforms software that’s traditionally used on the desktop into web-based software. And when things are web-based, they’re typically faster, more secure and updated automatically. There are many perks to the tech—too many to put here—so I suggest you read this section on cloud benefits instead.

No. 1: Artificial intelligence (AI)

An image of a quote that reads: AI won’t replace accountants. Accountants trained in AI will replace other accountants.
AI isn’t going away, so firms need to learn how to put it to work for them.

AI is here to stay—and the partner/director/owner at “accounting firm” couldn’t have said it any better.

But while AI and automation offer significant efficiency gains and opportunities for innovation in accounting processes, they also introduce new risks.

The information you put into certain tools goes into a database somewhere, making it essential that you do not type anything into it that’s proprietary or personal.

When considering an AI-based solution at your accounting firm—you must:

  • Fully vet the solution before implementing it. Is it just the cool new shiny toy, or will it help you do your job quickly, efficiently and accurately? Define use cases and guidelines clearly for yourself and for staff.
  • Use purpose-built accounting AI tools like SPARK, VIC.AI, BILL and more. Since they’re made for accounting, these tools will be easier to adopt, and their support will know your specific workflows.
  • Check its security protocols. Does it encrypt the data going into it? Is access controlled? Eliminate any uncertainty before you start throwing client information into the ether.

No. 2: Security threats

Cyberthreats constantly evolve. To stay secure, accounting firms must:

  1. Stay vigilant.
  2. Adapt security measures accordingly.

Here’s how:

  • Keep software and systems updated with the latest security patches to mitigate cyberattackers exploiting known vulnerabilities.
  • Conduct regular security assessments and penetration testing to identify and address potential weaknesses in your firm’s defenses.
  • Educate employees about common cyberthreats, such as phishing scams and malware, and emphasize the importance of practicing good cyber hygiene.

How to foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness

That last bullet, “educate employees,” isn’t as simple as providing ongoing security awareness training. (Although that is a great first step.)

Fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness is much more. Remind employees that they’re responsible for protecting sensitive information. (I mean, they literally are, but do they really know just how important their role is?)

Here are a few ways to promote cybersecurity awareness and keep your firm protected from emerging threats:

  • Discuss every employee’s role—from the senior partner to the executive assistant to the maintenance person to the office dog—in protecting your accounting firm. No need to be super formal. Just aim for ongoing, open, honest communication to and from every team member.
  • Make reporting cyber incidents (and any IT-related issue) easy. If you have an internal IT department, provide a link to the form where IT issues are initiated. Ensure there’s also a way to communicate with IT support that doesn’t involve a computer. (Because if your computer is down, then what?) If there’s outside support, make sure everyone knows how to reach them.
  • Provide ongoing training. Keep folks up to date about cybersecurity best practices, emerging threats and compliance requirements so staff can stay informed and proactive in safeguarding against potential risks.

No. 3: The cloud

Quote that says remote workers report being happy in their jobs 22% more than workers who are never remote. Source: Owl Labs
One study reports that remote employees are happier, have a higher retention rate and work longer hours.

The shift to more accountants using cloud technology? Fantastic. The fact that this has expanded the cyberattack “surface”? Not so fantastic.

Remote access technology and cloud-hosted apps, software and tools will only become more popular. Their usage is widespread. The tentacles are in. There’s no going back.

So—here’s what to do to keep your accounting firm safe while using remote access tech:

  • Implement multifactor authentication.
  • Choose cloud providers with robust security measures already in place (encryption, data backup and access controls).
  • Enforce policies to ensure compliance with security protocols (like security awareness training requirements).
  • Monitor for unusual user and data activity.

Better yet—get someone to do all of the above for you.

Don’t throw in the towel just yet

Technology innovation isn’t going anywhere. New stuff is just around the corner. Don’t be like me—the ultimate, bull-headed Taurus—and refuse to try something new just because you’re used to doing things another way.

With the proper security measures in place, these emerging technologies will help you. You’ve just got to prepare.

For more information on keeping your information cybersecure, subscribe to our blog or contact an account executive today.

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