Gone are the days of accountants sitting behind a ledger, crunching numbers in the credit and debit columns.
A researcher from The University of Queensland has found accountants need to be drivers to ensure businesses use the latest accounting information technology.
UQ Business School lecturer Mohamned Elbashir said accountants were among the most important people in a business.
Accountants needed to interpret collected data and explain findings to high-level management to ensure businesses were dynamic and up-to-date, Dr Elbashir said.
The comments come after Dr Elbashir completed research involving 347 organisations from around Australia for his PhD studies
His findings have been accepted for publication in The Accounting Review, considered one of the world's top journals in the field.
Most businesses had plenty of information at their fingertips, but used only about 10 per cent of the facts and figures in their database, Dr Elbashir said.
Accountants needed to go beyond keeping credit and debit ledgers to ensure they interpreted this data using the latest technology, he said.
"If you do not use this technology, you will die. But it is not about having the technology. It is about how the technology is being used.
"The typical accountant's job in business today is still preparing financial reports, but there is software which can do debts and credits and produce those reports.
"Their role has actually shifted 180 degrees from that typical role. The most important role for an accountant now is to analyse and interpret data and provide that information to management.
"You cannot undermine the importance of a financial accountant."
As well as effectively using the data already collected, staff training and co-operation was essential, Dr Elbashir said.
"Sending people to training and promoting a spirit of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing is crucial. Knowledge dies quickly and becomes obsolete.
"Technology moves very fast and people, especially the accountants, need to be trained to be up-to-date to use it."
Sharing the knowledge and skills was important, making it essential for a business to create a culture of teamwork and sharing, with adoption of such things as mentoring, job rotation, project collaboration, newsletters, and brainstorming sessions.