What is the fastest-growing challenge facing accounting firms and internal audit departments today? More than 90% point to hiring and retaining skilled accountants and auditors. Some are even turning away business due to a shortage of staff.

That’s the finding of two newly released reports by software provider Caseware International, which surveyed more than 6,000 accountants and auditors globally.

According to the surveys, to tackle this challenge and boost client collaboration, accounting and auditing organisations are ramping up the adoption of advanced technologies such as cloud services, data analytics and business intelligence.

The Caseware reports ‐ 2023 State of Accounting Firms Trends Report and 2023 State of Internal Audit Trends Report ‐ offer a glimpse into how accounting firms and internal auditors worldwide are adjusting to changing business environments. Responses were gathered from more than 4,100 accountants and 2,300 auditors.

The talent crunch

Nearly 35% of accountants cite finding the right talent among their three biggest practice management issues over the past year, compared to just 14% of accountants who cited it last year ‐ making finding talent the fastest-rising industry challenge.

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More than 90% of accountants and 95% of auditors surveyed find it either challenging or extremely challenging to hire skilled talent. When retaining talent, more than 85% of accountants and 90% of auditors said it is either somewhat or extremely difficult.

Caseware CEO, David Osborne, said: “With unemployment rates at historic lows, it’s not surprising that accounting firms and audit teams are having difficulty finding and retaining staff.

“Companies seeking top talent need to employ innovative strategies to address this challenge, such as improving compensation, implementing more flexible work policies and adopting technologies that allow staff to work more creatively and efficiently.”

Technology challenges

Other top practice management challenges cited by accountants relate to new ways of working, including communicating with clients in a virtual world (40%), using new technologies (38%) and adjusting to working remotely (35%). Auditors pointed to moving from manual to digital processes (38%) and adopting new audit technology (36%) as the main issue.

Caseware chief commercial officer, Davis Jackson, said: “Accounting and auditing professionals are still coming to grips with technologies that most were forced to adopt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are placing a heightened sense of urgency on adopting new technologies to enhance their work processes, collaboration and insights.”

According to the reports, almost 70% of accounting firms expect their rate of technology adoption to increase over the next two years, while more than 80% of internal audit teams are already employing cloud technology.

Jackson concluded: “Clients today expect their accountants and auditors to deliver more than just numbers ‐ they want deeper insights to help direct their business strategies, so it’s not surprising that more and more professionals are turning to intelligent technology to enhance their role as strategic advisors.”