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AICPA, Event Insights

Getting Ready to Go Beyond and Transform Accounting

This year’s AICPA ENGAGE (#AICPAENGAGE) conference theme is “Go Beyond”, and this morning’s keynote looked at how the “accelerated pace of change and advances in technology are creating the need for us to go beyond convention … disrupting the ways in which we think, learn, communicate, [and] conduct business.” There’s a great video on AICPA TV that looks at these changes and in the context of the accounting profession.

Looking to the Future of the Accounting Profession

“Our strategies can’t just be looking inward. We have to look down the road and to the future” said Eric Hansen, COO of BKD and Chairman of the Board of the AICPA. He provided the example of Netflix and stated that CPAs “have be willing to disrupt ourselves” and be more innovative in the services that we are providing to “create a more vibrant future for our profession”.

In looking at the top technology trends, Barry Melcancon, CEO of the AICPA, shared that despite cloud computing having been around for over 10 years, only 68% of the CPA firms in the US actually use cloud-based software. When I look at the number, it really scares me. This means that over 2/3 of firms are quite far behind and if they don’t ramp up quickly, they are putting themselves at risk for becoming extinct with clients leaving or literally dying off, and their inability to hire staff who don’t want to work for such an archaic firm. The flip side of this is that there is a large opportunity for other firms who are being more innovative, and operating (either physically or virtually), to help these archaic firms’ clients. (Reading between the lines, yes, it means that these archaic firms are at a high risk for having their clients stolen by more innovative firms.)

Blockchain Provides a Huge Opportunity for CPAs

Barry then went on to predict that because banks are the ones making the largest investment in blockchain, all businesses (not just big businesses) working with the larger banks will have to utilize blockchain in 2019 to do business with their bank. He mentioned a study that showed that half of respondents thought that blockchain issues would sit in IT, and the other half thought it would sit in finance.

I think that points to a huge opportunity for CPAs to lead their organizations in dealing with blockchain implementation and its related issues—many of which are related to internal controls, rather than technology issues. CPAs really are the only profession trained to deal with risk and controls across the entire organization. The technical issues also points to an even bigger opportunity for those of us that have both accounting and IT expertise, CITPs, to provide even more value in bridging the two areas and enabling truly innovative solutions through our dual expertise.

Amanda Wilke from Boomer Consulting, in her session on advanced blockchain concepts, explained further that because there isn’t a lot of regulations or the equivalent of the SEC overseeing Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), there is a huge opportunity for CPAs to help clients who want to do an ICO, or clients who are considering investing in an ICO, to help manage the risks and implement the right controls to manage the risks associated on either side of an ICO.

By the way, if you’re like me and thought that these ICOs are never going to be of substance, well consider that in the 4th Quarter of 2017, the total fund raised via ICOs was $3.23 billion, versus only $200 million raised via venture capital. That’s definitely making me reconsider my position.

Changes in Talent Development

Eric shared a December 2017 study by McKinsey that stated that by 2030, up to 375 million people may need to switch occupations and learn new skills. He shared that the new talent development model will be the need to learn, un-learn, and then re-learn—because things will be changing so quickly that we will need to be able to un-learn what we thought to be true, and then re-learn the way to address the new way to do things. Barry then went on to talk about the shift to an education model that is less “input driven”—meaning not driven by the number of hours that we put in, but rather on the outcome. In other words, he’s describing competency-based learning. (See my other blog article on “Do We Need to Shift to Competency-based Professional Education?“)

Getting Ready for Transformational Change

All of this is going to require a lot of disciplined yet agile change management. Accounting firms and finance departments will have to create a strategic vision about how they are going to transform their “clients” experience. From that vision, we can figure out how to leverage new technologies to create that experience. Then we apply process improvement and risk & controls expertise, to redesign the way services are provided, and information required to support decision-making in the newly envisioned organizations. If the redesigned processes require new skills or different knowledge, then we will need to revisit talent development processes and approaches. And all of these changes must be coordinated, and their risks managed, to ensure that they are implemented successfully.

I am so glad that I did a certificate in organizational development to learn how to unlock the synergies within an organization and ensure the success of these types of transformational changes…because that is truly where our profession is at…a time of transformational change. Are you ready to begin your transformation?

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