Technology advances mean the accountancy profession must adapt to thrive | ACCA Global
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There are many actions the profession needs to take to deal with the challenges of the top 10 technological developments. They need to develop and change management styles, to assess risks and address security issues; they will need to explore further the impact of automation and prepare for changing working patterns. But ultimately, they need to use technology to add value, and to use their influential positions as trusted advisers to business to bring about change
—Faye Chua, head of futures research, ACCA

Big data seen as a valuable opportunity for the profession

The global accountancy profession will be impacted significantly by 10 technology trends, claims an in-depth report from ACCA’s Accountancy Futures Academy (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant) and IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) called Digital Darwinism: thriving in the face of technology change.

The report identifies the top 10 technologies that have the potential to considerably reshape the accountancy profession and business landscape as: mobile; big data; artificial intelligence and robotics; cyber security; educational; cloud; payment systems; virtual and augmented reality; digital service delivery and social. 

Informed by interviews with global academics and experts in accountancy and technology, alongside a survey of over 2,100 ACCA and IMA members around the world, the report asked respondents to what extent they expect developments in technology to transform the way accountants and the finance function do business over the next 10 years.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents expect change to some or to a great extent, with 18 per cent saying it will be a total transformation. Only one per cent say they expected no change at all. Seventy-eight per cent of global respondents expect to see widespread adoption of big data in the next two years, while 79 per cent say they expect to see extensive adoption of cyber security by accountants and the finance function over the same timeframe.

The report also asserts that advances in technology will also mean that accountants and finance professionals will need new skills and competencies, from change management to knowledge of data extraction tools to aid business intelligence.

Chris Gentle, Partner and head of research at Deloitte, and member of ACCA’s Accountancy Futures Academy says: 'Accountants and finance professionals must be open to the changes created by big data, cloud, mobile and social platforms, and face up to the demands of cybercrime, digital service delivery and artificial intelligence. The future will not be like the past and we will all need to adapt.'

Faye Chua, head of futures research at ACCA, says: 'Accountants and finance professionals are influential agents of change – they’re adept at using technology to advance their own careers, as well as influencing technology decision making with their clients and the organisations where they work. Within their own businesses and practices, 73 per cent of accountants and finance professionals said they influence technology decisions to some extent or a great extent. Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are the most influential, where this authority rises to 98 per cent.'

Looking to the future, the report says there are challenges ahead for the profession. 

Raef Lawson, vice president of research and professor-in-residence of IMA comments: 'The profession needs to shape their technological future rather than be shaped by it. The profession needs to be proactive; the changes ahead are an opportunity for them to redefine their role and the extent to which they are involved in short and long-term technology related decisions. They need to adapt to survive – hence the digital Darwinism title for this extensive report.' 

Ms Chua added: 'Respondents' attitudes around the world to the impact of big data are insightful. South Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia and the Gulf States saw big data as being highly impactful on business in the years ahead, while respondent’s attitudes in Ireland, Western Europe saw it as less transformative. Unlocking insights from vast data sets is incredibly valuable.'

Cyber security and cybercrime is also a leading technology concern, with 79 per cent of respondents expecting the need to assess, protect and mitigate cyber risks to increase significantly over 2014–15. Seventy-four per cent of respondents in Africa are concerned, the highest score worldwide, while the seemingly least concerned are those in Central and Eastern Europe at 27 per cent. 

Concluding, Faye Chua says: 'There are many actions the profession needs to take to deal with the challenges of the top 10 technological developments. They need to develop and change management styles, to assess risks and address security issues; they will need to explore further the impact of automation and prepare for changing working patterns. But ultimately, they need to use technology to add value, and to use their influential positions as trusted advisers to business to bring about change.'