10 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020 and Beyond

by Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, professor, City University of New York-Lehman | December 20, 2019

It is difficult to argue the fact that 2019 was dominated by a fast moving and rapidly changing technology conversation — check out Mark Eckerle’s blog about the emerging technologies that gained ground. The sheer number of acronyms and new terminology alone is enough to make any CPA’s head spin, and the pace of technological adoption only seems to be accelerating as we move into 2020. Predicting the future is always a tricky business, but here are 10 technology trends that should drive the accounting technology conversation in 2020 and beyond:

  1. Data analytics and big data will continue to shift from buzzwords to integral parts of audit, tax, advisory and other accounting services. Parsing through information and helping clients make better business choices based on data are trends that will never go out of style.
  2. Blockchain will become more mainstream, and more boring, as organizations continue to implement and integrate enterprise blockchain tools. Clients might not be directly impacted now, but with large organizations rolling out permissioned blockchains, it is only a matter of time.
  3. Practitioners will talk to bots more than they realize. From emails to online chat bots to assisting with accounting functions, bots are more commonplace than most practitioners realize.
  4. Cryptocurrency accounting will become less of a headache as both incumbents and startups become more capable of addressing interoperability and technical issues. Updated guidance from the IRS released in October 2019 did not hurt either.
  5. Robotic process automation (RPA) will shift from a conceptual idea to an integral technology as practitioners and clients seek a practical stepping stone to artificial intelligence.
  6. Technology upskilling will shift from a “nice to have” to a “must have” as competition from non-CPA firms continues to increase for bookkeeping and other non-attest services.
  7. Cloud computing will continue to become the default option for accounting firms and clients, with Accountancy Age estimating that nearly 80 percent of small businesses, many of whom may be clients, will rely on cloud computing entirely for operations.
  8. Client advisory services are going to become more important in terms of client retention and pricing as other services like bookkeeping, compilations and some tax prep are automated.
  9. Outsourced accounting services, including virtual CFO work, will become possible for firms of all sizes as clients seek to reduce internal accounting costs and accounting software tools develop better functionality and interoperability.
  10. Millennials are going to begin to be supplanted by Gen Z as the generation to watch, complete with an affinity for mobile-first, social media and messaging applications versus desktop or face-to-face interaction.

Ironically enough with all of the technology trends coming to the forefront, the importance of periodically unplugging and building systems to manage the data deluge will only increase. Be sure to check back with the NJCPA Emerging Technologies Interest Group throughout the year to keep up to speed with everything technology. 

Sean D. Stein Smith

Sean D. Stein Smith

Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, is a professor at the City University of New York – Lehman College. He also is the leader of the NJCPA Emerging Technologies Interest Group (#NJCPATech) and the host of the NJCPA TechTalk Podcast. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance, where he co-chairs the Accounting Work Group. He can be reached at drseansteinsmith@gmail.com.

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