Add a few more members to the Accounting Transformation Fan Club.
The folks who gathered in Kansas City for the 2016 Boomer Technology Circles Summit didn’t mince words about the future of the CPA profession: Things have changed and they’ll continue to change, to the point where the profession will be “almost unrecognizable” within 15 short years.
Accounting Today’s Daniel Hood attended the summit, and the things he heard from the Boomer team were familiar but thought-provoking nonetheless.
- From Chief Innovation Officer Dustin Hosteler: “By 2020, we’ll see the shrinking of compliance work and the shift toward the more consultative and advisory services you offer clients. We’re going to see struggles between older accountants and the younger generation, who want to move toward this new model. We’ll see pain. … Your skill set and who you are hiring will have changed significantly.”
- From CEO Jim Boomer: “Over the next five to seven years, we’ll see major changes in the audit. Whatever date I give for that change, it will probably happen sooner. With the cloud and more integrations, it will happen more quickly. We’re going to have to realign our value proposition to be forward-looking.”
- From President Sandra Wiley: “By 2030, the vast majority of firms will be advisory firms. It will be slow for a while, but that shift will happen.”
No surprise here. All of the signs we’ve seen lately point to radical transformations ahead for the CPA profession.
- A new World Economic Forum report takes a stab at identifying the technologies that will transform the world of finance over the next few decades. Those technologies include biometrics, cloud computing, cognitive computing, machine learning, quantum computing, robotics and, especially, blockchain. “Much of what auditors have been doing will go away with blockchain,” Boomer founder Gary Boomer added. “It’s a real threat or challenge to the profession.”
- According to a recent Oxford study, there’s a 98.7 percent chance that tax preparation will be completely automated within 20 years. The odds for accounting and auditing are 93.5 percent.
- In fact, that type of automation is already under way. If you haven’t heard, KPGM announced earlier this year that it is applying IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology to all of its professional services offerings, including tax, audit and advisory services.
- And then there’s the new book The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts. Authors Richard and Daniel Susskind imagine a future in which professionals might not be needed at all. Their services will be needed … but technology will have an undeniable impact on how those services are delivered.
I’m not ready to go that far. Professionals — CPAs among them — aren’t going anywhere as long as they (a) commit themselves to continuously learning new skills, and (b) make sure those new skills are things the machines can’t do. Those skills include collaboration, empathy, strategic thinking — telling the stories behind the numbers, in other words, instead of merely crunching the numbers.
I agree with Daniel Hood: The CPA profession of 2030 will be unlike anything we’ve ever known … and that’s a good thing.
It’ll mean that CPAs have learned the skills they’ll need to remain relevant in a changing and complex world.