Digital transformation in accounting is making hesitant progress

Digitalization in Accounting 2019

To what extent finance departments have become digitalized – and where development is being held back

Markus Kreher

Partner, Head of Finance Advisory, Head of Media

KPMG AG Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft


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Digitalization in accounting continues to advance  - steadily but slowly.

The main priority for most finance departments is still to pave the way for digital change, for example, by harmonizing basic systems and standardizing workflows.

This is the finding of the "Digitalization in Accounting" study which we have compiled for the third year in a row in cooperation with the LMU Munich.

Which digitalization projects are currently being pursued in accounting and what is the current state of affairs? The authors of the study interviewed CFOs and chief accountants over the course of 14 expert interviews and an online survey with more than 150 participants from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

A main focus of the study this year is on the digitalization of financial statement audits. The authors of the study found that the companies' requirements for this task have increased.

About three quarters of those interviewed expect data analyses of the general and subledger (complete audit) from their auditor in the near future, and more than half would like visualizations of process mining. "Auditors need to respond to this and rigorously continue to develop innovative tools for the audit of financial statements," says our audit expert Matthias Koeplin.

However, the survey also shows that the dissemination of new technologies has been rather hesitant until now. That being said, many companies are testing or planning to introduce big data analytics tools, self-service reporting and in-memory databases. Meanwhile, software bots and machine learning have only been deployed in isolated cases, whereas blockchain does not even register for the majority of the survey respondents.

Other findings of the study:

- End-to-end financial processes: Transactional business processes are already at least partially automated at more than half of the companies surveyed. Purchase-to-pay and order-to-cash processes are seen to have the greatest potential to become fully automated.

- ERP introductions: Almost one in every two companies is planning to change its ERP system in the next three years, with new installations and migrations coming in neck and neck.

- Interdisciplinary teams: More than half of the companies see mixed teams and investing in new employees as being key to the success of digitalization in accounting.

- Traditional approaches to project management: Transformation projects in accounting are still predominantly implemented using conventional methods. Agile principles such as scrum play either no or a very small role.

- Improvements in efficiency: As a result of digitalization, accounting today is already more efficient and more transparent. However, a reduction in costs has not been observed thus far.


As in previous years, this year's study does not solely look at the status quo of digitalization in accounting. It is also concerned with the demands on future staff and personnel development strategies. 

In addition to the findings of the study, this publication also presents two case studies and two expert interviews:

  • Technologies and systems: Munich Re
  • Management of transformation projects: Audi
  • Interview with Andreas Schneider from IBM Germany
  • Digitalization of financial statement audits: Interview with Professor Kai-Uwe Marten, University of Ulm

Download the complete study to find out more:

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