Survey: From traditional to tech-savvy - accounting firms increase technology investments for 2026
Investing in technology is a key priority for accounting firms heading into 2024, with addressing the ongoing talent shortage and keeping up with new legislation still a challenge for many within the profession. This is according to findings published in the 2024 State of Accounting Firms Trends-rapport report by Caseware International, a global leader in cloud-based audit solutions, financial reporting and data analytics.
Caseware's 2024 State of Internal Audit Trends report describes the need for technology expertise, with attracting and retaining top talent continuing to be an issue.
Each year, Caseware examines global perspectives within the accounting and auditing professions. Both reports are based on extensive surveys conducted among practitioners of these professions worldwide in late 2023.
Findings on the state of accounting firms
Adoption of technology
There is no doubt that companies want to invest in technology, with 77% of respondents saying their financial spending will increase significantly or slightly over the next two years. This is an 8% increase on the 2023 survey results. Innovative technologies are rapidly entering the accounting landscape. Generative AI is a clear example of this. Although it only became widely available in the year our survey was conducted, over 10% of respondents identified technology among the top three areas for software investment plans in 2024. Assignment software (control, assessment and composition, tax, etc.) was selected by 21% of respondents among the top three areas of investment for the coming year.
Recruiting and retaining talent remains a crucial issue for accounting firms. Overall, 88% of respondents said recruiting and retaining talent was challenging to some extent, with 47% describing it as somewhat challenging and 41% saying it was very challenging. But companies are starting to take action, with 32% organising training programmes to upskill current employees, 27% offering newly created roles and capabilities in their company and 24% choosing to use an external talent sourcing service.
Laws and regulations
Dealing with new laws and regulations was seen as the most frequently mentioned challenge among respondents, with 16% confirming that this was their biggest problem. This points to the pressure companies are experiencing to keep up with today's dynamic and fast-paced regulatory environment. With the global economy and regulatory environment becoming increasingly complex, clients are increasingly turning to their accountants for advice and guidance. As a result, the demand for client advisory services is on the rise - 76% of respondents indicated that their firms have experienced significant (23%) or modest (53%) growth in this area.
Findings on the state of internal audits
It is slightly easier than last year to find and retain skilled auditors, but it remains difficult. When asked how challenging it was to recruit and retain the right talent for their company, almost 90% of respondents replied that it was a big or a fairly big challenge.
The demand for technology expertise for internal audit departments is high. Clearly, audit firms want to build teams qualified for the audits of the future. Among the skills sought for departments, data science came up in 18% of responses in the survey, while IT audit and cyber security scored 15% and 12% respectively. Artificial intelligence received 9% of responses, while fraud investigation was the most requested non-technical skill (10%) and ESG 8%.
Many firms are turning to data analytics to support and enhance their auditing activities. Asked about the use of data analytics in their audits, 21% said they now use analytics in all audits, while another 57% said they use data analytics selectively in some audits.
Doing more with less
A key internal pressure for audit teams is the need to do more with less time and resources - 30% indicated this as their first choice. Auditors face more reporting requirements on ESG, diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), and culture, while budgets often remain the same. Teams therefore need to be as efficient as possible in completing their audits.
Trends to follow:
2024 State of Accounting Firms Trends report
While 73% of respondents said they are currently implementing or plan to implement initiatives in their firms, an alarming 27% said they are not and have no plans to do so.
Companies continue to modernise their practices. 76% say they use only cloud tools or a mix of desktop and cloud to support their business operations. This is a 17% increase on the 2023 results.
17% of respondents use offshore outsourcing to address the talent shortage in the audit profession.
2024 State of Internal Audit Trends report
Only 10% of respondents said it is not a challenge to attract and retain the right talent for their firm.
According to 76% of respondents, the number of employees in their internal audit department has increased or remained the same over the past year.
In the past year, 45% have seen a growth in ESG-related audit work.
Caseware conducted the 2024 State of Accounting Firms survey between the second week of September and the second week of November 2023. It was conducted in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Dutch and German. 2,054 completed surveys were validated. The most frequently chosen title among respondents was partner/director, selected by just over a third of respondents (34.6%).
Caseware conducted the 2024 State of Internal Audit survey between the second week of September and the second week of November 2023. Questions were asked in five languages: English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish. The survey was completed by 1,068 candidates.
The most common job title for survey participants was "Internal auditor" at 21%, followed by "Internal audit manager" at 16% and "Head of internal audit" at 14%.
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