In a previous post we talked about how technical savvy was one of the top skills a CPA needs these days.  But this is an important enough topic that it deserves its own post.  Accounting firms are moving towards the cloud and a paperless office.  It’s a more efficient and secure way to handle data and protect client information.  It’s also better for internal administrative tasks such as expense reporting.  So any CPA that is proficient in software programs is immediately more valuable and attractive as an employee.  We’re talking more than just office suites, MYOB or Quickbooks.

The Right Attitude

Most important, you must have a willingness to learn new software programs as appropriate and new feature updates when they get released.  It’s easy to become resistant to tech and software because there seems to be so much of it and the updates happen frequently.  But if you are open to learning and improving it’s not as hard as you might think.  One of the aspects that programmers and companies are always trying to improve is ease-of-use.  They realize the more intuitive their product is the more likely people are to use it.

Excel Mastery

This is obvious but it bears repeating.  After your accounting acumen, Excel skill is the foundation of your job.  The more you know, the easier your job will be and you’ll be able to do more. We’re talkin’ VLookup, pivot tables, macros – the whole nine.  You’ll be glad you did.

It’s All in How You Present It

CPAs have always had to present reports/findings to internal and external groups.  But now that they’re responsible for more strategic initiatives, it’s crucial that these are clear and engaging.  There’s PowerPoint, of course, but there’s also Apple’s Pages, and a host of other programs, some of them free.  This is an area where proficiency can really pay off.

Data Dominance

This one goes hand in hand with presenting.  You’ve always had to crunch the numbers but nowadays you’re being called upon for real analysis. It’s not enough to get the numbers right, you have to know what they mean in the real world and how you can exploit it.  This means using business intelligence programs (Example:  Microsoft SharePoint or IBM Cognos Business Intelligence) for data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting.  It also means knowing data modeling techniques and even SQL as you’ll be dealing with databases more and more.

Put It All Together

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software (Example:  SAP or Oracle) experience is valuable as well.  ERP software integrates all facets of an operation — including product planning, development, manufacturing, sales and marketing — in a single database, application and user interface. Knowing how to get everything together and working seamlessly is a great thing to have on your résumé.

Get Back to Basics

(These subheads are getting cheesy.  I apologize.)

Microsoft Visual Basic is a programming environment in which a programmer uses a graphical user interface (GUI) to choose and modify pre-selected sections of code written in the BASIC programming language.  So, it enables people who don’t have a lot of coding experience to create their own programs.  Think about that.  Even if you just use it to create the framework of an application that professional developers will flesh out later, it’s powerful experience to have.  You’ll be better able to understand software issues and both offer and understand potential solutions to problems.


For a presentation of this post on SlideShare please click here.

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