With technology continuing to advance at an exponential rate, it’s more important than ever for CPAs to get comfortable — or at least familiar — with new game-changing tech solutions. I was happy to do my part recently when I discussed the impact that artificial intelligence and blockchain are having on our profession as part of an AAM High! webinar, Blockchain, Big Data and Business Intelligence for Accounting and Finance. If you missed it, check out the recording at no cost.
I’ve been writing and speaking for years about our need to master a key set of skills that will keep us relevant in the age of automation. The following article — which originally appeared on the Maryland Association of CPAs’ blog and is reprinted here with permission — is just one example.
Keep learning, and un-learning, and re-learning. In a changing and complex world, that’s everyone’s job.
I think I’m starting to terrorize the CPAs I’m trying to inspire.
For the past year, I’ve been speaking at accounting and finance events from coast to coast about the need to learn new skills to remain relevant in a disruptive, chaotic world. Parts of those presentations focus on the coming wave of automation — the ways in which technologies like artificial intelligence, cognitive-learning machines, and blockchain will master many of our profession’s number-crunching, transactional tasks and take humans out of the equation — and, yes, eliminate many jobs in the process.
My goal is to spur CPAs to embrace transformational learning as a way of ensuring their future relevance — to learn to do the things that machines can’t do so they’ll always be in demand. As Peter Sheahan says, “Humans should be doing work that only humans can do.”
Instead, I get comments like “Oh, sh*t” and “Time to retire.”
Obviously, I’m not getting my point across, so let me try again:
Automation is a good thing.
Let the machines crunch the numbers. You don’t want to be doing that work anyway. As Sage’s Ed Kless says, “If your job can be done by a robot, your job probably sucks.” When machines start doing that crap, you’ll be free to do work that’s really valuable — like interpreting the numbers and helping your clients become future-ready. That’s what they want you do, after all.
There’s a catch, of course, and it’s this: You’ll have to learn a boatload of new skills to do that.
What are those skills?
After cross-referencing all of the available research and expertise, MACPA and BLI chief Tom Hood has determined that future-ready accounting and finance professionals must be proficient in the following eight skills:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Anticipating and serving evolving needs
- Synthesizing intelligence to insight
- Integration and collaboration
- Technology acumen and data analytics
- Functional and domain expertise
“Anything that can be automated will be automated,” said Hood. “Crunching the numbers is no longer good enough. Machines can do that faster and more accurately that we’ll ever be able to. Our future relevance depends on our ability to do the things the machines can’t do — to interpret the numbers, to tell the stories behind the numbers and make our clients future-ready at the same time. These skills will help us do that.
By: Bill Sheridan, Chief Communications Officer for the Maryland Association of CPAs
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About Bill Sheridan
Bill Sheridan is the chief communications officer for the Maryland Association of CPAs and the Business Learning Institute. He created and hosts MACPA’s weekly “Future-Proof” podcast and he manages the association’s member communications and numerous social networks. Bill speaks regularly at national conferences on the future of the accounting profession.