Finance Career

The Rise of the Strategic Accountant

Howard Katzenberg
October 31, 2022

Let’s talk about strategic accounting.   

And before you start with the ‘isn’t that an oxymoron’, let’s get all of the obvious accounting stereotypes out of the way: bean-counters, box tickers, reactive, backwards facing, cost center, back office …. have we missed any?

The way things were

Let’s face it, there is a reason why these accounting stereotypes exist. Accounting has traditionally been a backward-facing discipline - after all, financial statements need to be assembled for the month, quarter or year that has just passed.

And once these financial statements are finalized, the entire process has to immediately start all over again . . .  and again and again and again.

In order to be successful, accountants required strict processes that could be followed and repeated. But as a result, accounting became known as a profession of checklists and routines.

Times are a changin’ 

Double-entry bookkeeping was first created in 1494 (yes really, Google it) so for almost 500 years accountants got their jobs done using pencils and paper. But in 1979 everything changed with the introduction of the first computerized spreadsheet and, shortly thereafter, the arrival of QuickBooks accounting software.   

Fast forward to today, nearly 40 years later, and the accounting space has changed dramatically. Today, the fintech industry offers software and countless SaaS solutions that promise to automate much of the traditional ‘bean-counting’ in accounting. 

This technological evolution has, in my opinion, created an incredible opportunity for accountants and finance professionals around the world: the chance to embrace a far more strategic, exciting and valuable role within your organization.

Accounting: an overlooked resource

When was the last time a group of business leaders debated an important strategic decision and then exclaimed, “Get the accounting team in here for their input.”

At first glance, it may seem humorous, but why?

I would argue that the accounting team is the only department in any business that touches every single business transaction, from revenue received to expenses paid, and everything in between. This is an incredible data set and one that other departments should see as a resource. 

In order to bring accounting’s many strengths to the fore, it is necessary for you to evolve from an accountant to a Strategic Accountant.  Here are my top 5 tips on how to achieve  this. 

5 Tips on becoming a Strategic Accountant

#1:  Remember that finalizing your numbers isn’t the end - it’s the beginning.

  • Accountants finalize their numbers then happily hand them off to others.
  • Strategic Accountants finalize their numbers, then actively dig in, asking questions and looking for ways to optimize and improve.

#2:  Be the gatekeeper who is eager to open the gate. 

  • Accountants look for reasons to say no to requests. 
  • Strategic Accountants communicate why additional backup may be required but they also make it clear that identifying a solution and getting to YES is their end goal. They actively seek out ways to assist, collaborate and cooperate.

#3:  Embrace technology and automate as much as possible.   

  • Accountants stick to their existing ways of doing things even if it involves repetitive manual processes.
  • Strategic Accountants automate everything humanly possible in order to free up time for high value-add contributions and big picture strategic analysis.

#4:  Connect with other departments and market yourself internally as an available resource.

  • Accountants stay in their offices focusing on their work.  
  • Strategic Accountants meet with team members from other departments, learn about what they do and the challenges they face, then offer support and assistance. Strategic Accountants become a trusted and valued resource within the organization.

#5:  Step back and assess your business’s data needs based on first principles.

  • Accountants collect the same data they have always collected - because it is the same data they have always collected.  
  • Strategic Accountants ask questions based on their business’s most basic, foundational elements (e.g., what drives our success?) and then collect the data that supports the answers to these questions. Strategic Accountants know that assumptions and conclusions based on the past must be put aside in favor of what is needed for the future. 

I firmly believe that many accounting departments have already evolved leaps and bounds toward becoming a more strategic and forward-facing resource within their organizations. And with fintech solutions showing no signs of slowing down, I see this trajectory continuing in the years to come.   

And finally, I would be remiss to not mention our incredible intelligent AP software, Glean AI! To learn about Glean and its ability to provide businesses with AI-powered spend analytics and visibility, contact us at to schedule a chat at your convenience.

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