When you were first learning the difference between debits and credits, you were probably told that accounting would always guarantee you a job because it’s a timeless skill set that’s always in demand. In many ways, accounting is timeless. Laws may change, but the numbers don’t. In fact, double-entry accounting can be traced back to Venician merchants in the 15th century. Although much of accounting stays the same, there are always new skills to learn if you want to keep up and compete in the industry.

When there are so many qualified accountants in the market, the thing that often sets one apart from the rest is often how comfortable they are with the technology and tools they need from day-to-day. These tools allow them to be effective in our modern environment and work seamlessly with both clients and the rest of the accounting team. Accountants who develop and leverage these skills are able to put their timeless accounting knowledge to good use serving clients while providing the convenience they’ve come to expect.

Here are three key skills accountants need going into the future, whether they’re growing their own firms or competing for staff positions:

Know Your Software

Being a great accountant isn’t always enough. As more tech tools come into the day to day work of accountants, you need to be skilled at using the right ones.

Your industry or specialty will often determine which tools you need to know and which ones are optional. In addition to the standard tools like accounting software and Excel, the most competitive accountants will be familiar with commonly used apps in their industry. This is a selling point for prospective clients and a big resume builder for accountants looking to land a job.

Which tech tools are popular in your area of accounting? Find out and if you’re not already using them, it’s time to learn how to select the perfect accounting software. Most of these tools have free training and even certification to show that you know your stuff.

Focus on a few major software tools first, to ensure a high level of expertise. Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Once you’ve cemented your knowledge of your primary software, expand your resume with any tools specific to your niche or industry so you have more to offer potential clients or employers.

Making the Most of Communication Tools

In addition to accounting software, apps and tools for communication are critical for the accountant of the future. Whether you work remotely, communicate with clients between meetings, or work with an accounting team in multiple offices, everything is easier with great technology. More and more, accountants are expected to fit in with the rest of the team and contribute to the overall business strategy. This takes far better communication than used to be required from the accounting department.

There was a time when email was all the technology you needed (along with the cutting edge fax machine). Online communications have come a long way, allowing you to stay in touch with your team and clients like never before. Tools like Zoom allow you to video-conference with peers and clients from anywhere, even from a smartphone. You can even record your meetings for later reference. You get the best of both worlds – face-to-face meetings without all the hassle of traveling to meet your client or them traveling to you.

Slack is another tool that can simplify communications, especially with a team. You can organize your instant messages into channels, search them by keyword, and connect files and documents for easy sharing.

Leveraging Cloud Technology

The common factor behind so many of the tools is “the cloud.” By storing data and accessing software that’s hosted online, you give yourself the flexibility to work from anywhere, with anyone. With files and communications being updated in real-time, you know that you and your team (or clients) are all working from the same version.

However, not every software program you need is in the cloud. In the accounting industry, in particular, there are many online software options but the most robust tools are often desktop-only versions. What do you do when you need the flexibility of the cloud and the features of a desktop accounting software?

Fortunately, cloud technology has a solution for this as well. Hosting services – like Sagenext – allow you to securely access your desktop software remotely. Everything from accounting platforms like Sage and QuickBooks Desktop to advanced tax software can be accessed remotely through the cloud using these services.

Competing in the Future

As skilled, qualified accountants continue to enter the workforce, expertise with these technological tools will be more and more of a factor. The technology also creates greater competition by allowing accountants to serve clients from across the globe.

If you want to be on top of the heap when the dust settles, it’s time to learn the new tools of the trade.