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ICAEW President's roundtable on technology trends and accountants

by Kirstin Gillon on 25.09.2012 17:18

Earlier today, ICAEW President Mark Spofforth chaired a roundtable on technology trends and their potential impact on the accountancy profession. With leaders from the business and accounting IT field, as well as representatives from Tech City and the public sector, we saw a wide-ranging and lively discussion. See a picture here

While the session will be written up more fully in the IT faculty’s magazine Chartech, I highlight half a dozen themes that emerged.

  • Innovation: a question running through the discussion concerned the degree of change prompted by new technologies. To what extent are we seeing real innovation and change? Are new technologies simply providing different tools to do the same thing? Or are we seeing trends that will be truly disruptive to the profession? There were differing views on this point, with some participants more sceptical than others on the likely impact of cloud, social and other trends. However, all recognised the need for their own organisations to be increasingly innovative.
  • Consumer-driven change: an important element of trends like social and mobile is that they are consumer-driven, and businesses can be increasingly left behind in their corporate technology. We discussed the impact of this on employees, and their frustration with corporate IT (“mundane, archaic and stupid”), as well as increased expectations from customers.
  • Automation of accounting practices: to what extent will we see the automation of accounting practices, given increased amounts of available data and new analytical technologies? This is clearly a growing trend in many professional areas and will impact accountants. However, there was general agreement that there will always be a need for humans, and accountants, to interpret data, manage relationships and provide deep expertise.
  • Skills and literacy: linked to growing automation is the question of what skills accountants need in order to add value to clients. Interestingly, all participants focused on the need to improve communication and basic writing skills. While we have been looking at the need for more technical and analytical skills, such as in our AAA panel session, the discussion here emphasised softer skills.
  • Social and collaboration: it was observed that many organisations don’t really know what information and knowledge they have, or where it is situated. Social tools within organisations were highlighted as a powerful way of bringing information together, finding knowledge throughout the business and enabling unexpected but valuable collaboration.
  • Different ways of working: mobile and cloud technologies, along with tablets and smartphones, are enabling individuals to work in a far more flexible manner, with less emphasis on formal hours in the office and a greater merging of work and personal lives. This is particularly prevalent among younger generations and will increasingly challenge organisations which are inflexible and won’t accommodate these different employee demands.

 

So, lots of discussion points and lots of interesting questions to build on. We hope that this event was just the first in series of such discussions which can inform our work in the faculty, and also help leading figures in the industry to share their thinking on future challenges.