This paper does not aim to make predictions, but rather to stimulate discussion about a broad range of emerging and converging technologies and their potential to influence the accountancy profession. The propositions it presents are based on available, established and emerging technologies, and the ways in which they could potentially impact on the profession over the next five to 10 years and beyond.
Accountants have always exploited emerging technologies to help them to complete their tasks more accurately, quickly or simply: from the incised clay tablets of the Sumerian scribes, through the adding machines of the 19th century, to the calculators and computers of the 20th century. But all of these technology developments were simple propositions by comparison with the myriad technologies that are now rapidly reshaping the worlds of business and accountancy.
Heading into the 21st century technology trends in cloud, big data, mobile and social collaboration are converging to change the ways in which we consume information technology resources, share knowledge and experiences, and access products and services. At the same time, these trends are also underpinning and influencing developments in cyber security, digital service delivery, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. A ‘new normal’ is emerging.
Accountants in practice and in the finance function are part of that connected world. This is changing the ways in which they communicate and collaborate with those in the businesses they work with and for, and shaping new working patterns. It is providing accountants with the opportunity to automate and de-skill time-consuming and repetitive work and focus on higher value work, so that they can consolidate their role as advisers on finance and business.
It is impossible to predict the future with any degree of certainty. By keeping informed about technologies as they evolve, considering new technologies as they emerge, and then assessing their implications for finance professionals and those they serve and support, accountants can be prepared to minimise the burdens and maximise the benefits. In this way the profession can exploit technology and potentially change the scope of what it means to be an accountant.
The ten technology trends are: