An onrushing tide of change is sweeping through professional accountancy. Technology, in the form of artificial intelligence, data analytics and blockchain, is transforming the profession, in the way it has disrupted media, manufacturing, advertising – the list of industries goes on.
But the doom-sayers are wrong; the profession is not fated to fade away. It can move with the tide, not against it, while remaining a pillar of business assurance, analysis and validation.
This change demands a radical new assemblage of skills – and we see this pattern being repeated not just in accountancy but in all professional services. The tide of technology will mean less time spent in traditional roles but potentially richer, more satisfying careers, as professionals are relieved from many of the mundane, repetitive tasks better done by technology and algorithms. And there will be an expansion of career opportunities related to technology, its applications and proliferation inside professional firms.
We enjoy a front-row seat on this transformation, as Chartered Professional Accountants – one now a leader of strategy and innovation inside a national law firm and the other an accounting academic who heads an undergraduate business school program. We are bracing for – indeed welcoming — a redesign of professional careers and thus a rethinking of how business schools prepare young people for success in this new world.
In the professional world we are now entering, the traditional technical skills are simply table stakes, a poker-playing analogy that describes the bare minimum of resources you need to bring to the table to play the game. Technical competencies are still absolutely essential for a successful career and any professional firm will only prosper if its technical expertise is outstanding. But that is not enough. To distinguish yourself as a professional, you need to maximize the human skills which no machine can perform – the softer skills – of communication, critical thinking, judgment, emotional intelligence and creativity.
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