IT literacy a “prerequisite” for accountants

IT literacy a “prerequisite” for accountants

A basic level of IT literacy combined with investment in training and personal development is essential for staff and new hires at accountancy firms to serve clients effectively, according to market participants

IT literacy a “prerequisite” for accountants

Accounting firms are putting IT literacy at the forefront of their business strategies, according to Grant Court, partner at SRLV Chartered Accountants.

“It’s central to both efficiency and our ability to deliver the speed and quality of service that our clients need,” says Court.

While accountants are not expected to be IT aficionados, a general level of IT literacy is essential, according to market participants.

“As the accounting sector relies on technology in order to carry out the majority of its work, this means that IT literacy is almost a prerequisite to work effectively within accountancy,” says Samantha Skyring, head of group training at TaxAssist Accountants.

Skyring says accountants must have “the attitude and aptitude to learn new software” and firms need to support staff to transition to more modern and scalable practices.

Royd Mendes, head of IT at Moore Kingston Smith, echoes this sentiment, admitting that while the firm does not see IT literacy as an issue, it is “mindful that people are unique and learn in various ways through different channels”.

“We pre-empt and provide as much training as possible for different learning styles to ensure everyone has the tools they need to thrive in their roles and beyond,” says Mendes.

Moore Kingston Smith has a dedicated IT trainer on hand for one-to-one sessions with individuals, as well as providing any specific training the teams need when the firm implements any new technology, systems or applications.

“For example, upon launching Microsoft 365, we held virtual drop-in sessions which saw our IT team take questions, and a whole host of video training is continuously updated,” adds Mendes.

IT essentials

Due to the challenges of lockdown and remote working, Court says the firm has undertaken an upgrade of their operational systems and provided comprehensive training to all staff on the benefits, features and key components of the new systems.

“Excel is fundamental to our work as accountants,” he says, noting that the firm regularly runs training sessions on new releases and enhanced functionality. “Staff can choose the level of training according to their level of need, i.e. basic to advanced.”

Comprehensive training programmes support staff in learning the IT essentials “as well as the more specialised accountancy tools needed for the day-to-day operation in their roles,” says Skyring.

“Our training takes people from an awareness of the software through to proficiency,” she says. “When choosing what software we want to recommend to our network, our criteria always to include usability of the software to ensure that it is easy to pick up and doesn’t become a barrier to usage.”

By continuously updating training courses, individuals can level up their skills and progress their personal development, she says.

“It is rare to have someone joining a practice whose IT literacy is so low that they cannot use a computer,” says Skyring. “With HMRC rolling out Making Tax Digital in all its forms, IT literacy is now a necessary requirement for those in the accountancy sector, as well as our clients.”

“Willingness to learn”

As IT skills are essential in the accounting industry, Mendes says Moore Kingston Smith will always list relevant skills that pertain to the position when recruiting new staff members.

“While specific roles will always have a need for candidates to have certain required skills, we understand people own many transferable abilities.”

At TaxAssist Accountants, the firm does not mandate skills in specific software programmes for new recruits as the firm provides training to teach staff “not only what software to use but, more importantly, teach them the ‘TaxAssist Way’,” according to Skyring.

However, the most crucial element for accountancy firms when it comes to IT literacy and new hires, according to Court, is a “willingness to learn”, so that staff can utilise IT systems to better serve clients.

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