First of all, how is digital shaping your present? How many digital devices and applications have you used so far today, whether at home, in education, or at work?
As technology evolves to support more and more of our everyday lives, it’s natural to wonder what’s in store for the future. How will it affect your life and career?
As the world’s most forward thinking professional accountancy body, we’ve been looking to the future too. In fact, we recently carried out some ground-breaking research into the future of accounting. It involved over 2,000 C-suite executives around the world, as well as over 300 leading academics, policymakers, regulators and experts. Unsurprisingly, digital technology was identified as a key driver for change.
What’s on the digital horizon for the accounting profession?
Our research uncovered three key trends on the digital horizon: continued growth of cloud-based accounting software, adoption of automatic intelligence systems, and the emergence of blockchain.
Cloud-based accounting software is hosted on remote servers and accessed via a web browser, rather than having a copy of the software on your own computer. Solutions by companies such as Sage, Intuit Quickbooks and Xero are already on offer and it’s something which is growing in popularity. According to The Practice of Now report published by Sage in November 2018, 53% of accountants have already adopted cloud-based software. With AccountancyAge predicting that 78% of small businesses will be using cloud-based accountancy software by 2020, it’s likely that the number of accountants using it will continue to rise too.
Automatic intelligence systems are designed to take care of simple and mundane tasks such as capturing invoices and classifying transactions. This frees up accountants’ time to focus on more complex, value-add tasks. Over half (55%) of our respondents expect the development of intelligent automated accounting systems to have the greatest impact over the next three to ten years.
Blockchain is a technology that enables people to exchange digital items such as currency, tokens or documents. What makes it different to other online payment or exchange systems is that it relies on a distributed network of computers, rather than a central governing organisation like a bank, to track and verify transactions. Blockchain maintains a public, timestamped ledger of all of the transactions that have taken place in the chain.
What do these technical advances mean for future accountants?
Just as accountants adapted and adopted emerging technologies in the past, the future will involve learning how to use and make the most of these new technical advances.
With technology being used to automate the repetitive, simple and mundane tasks and processes, accountants will be able to spend more time engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, and interpreting and presenting financial information.
What does this mean in terms of future skills?
We’ve identified digital as one of the seven essential skills that tomorrow’s accountants will need. This is defined as having the ability to “be aware and have knowledge of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices, strategies and culture”. Our research also indicated that accountants will need to develop their analysis and social media skills for collaboration, presentation and stakeholder engagement in the future.
How can you develop these skills?
We offer a wide range of qualifications and training to support our members in developing and honing skills throughout their careers. This includes digital skills.
To prepare you as a trusted and confident finance professional, we include an Ethics and Professional Skills module in the ACCA Qualification. This module covers three core areas: Ethics, Professional and Digital Skills. It’s reviewed and updated regularly to make sure it always meets the demands of existing and future employers. Students who complete the module before attempting our Strategic Professional exams are statistically more likely to achieve exam success.
We also offer computer-based exams (CBEs), helping you to enhance your employability skills using the real-world tools finance professionals use on a daily basis. There are two types of CBE: on-demand, and session CBEs.
You can sit on-demand CBEs at any time of the year, simply by contacting a centre and arranging a time and date that suits you. Session CBEs have been designed to reflect the modern working environment and can be taken during our four exam sessions each year in March, June, September and December. To find out more about CBEs, have a look at the CBE section of our website.
From passing your ACCA exams to building your career as a sought-after finance professional, we’re here to help you gain those digital skills and succeed.