CPAs aren’t doomed … they’re transforming

The accounting profession as we’ve long known it might be on its last legs … and that’s probably be a good thing.

We’ve talked about all of this before, of course — how Moore’s Law has fundamentally changed every job on the planet, to the point where the core transactional services that have driven much of the CPA profession for decades are now being done by machines. Those services are becoming commodities, and technological advancements have left many CPAs scrambling to figure out how they will remain relevant to their clients going forward.

Need proof? Check out NPR’s report on automation in the workplace. The report tries to calculate the odds that certain occupations will be completely automated within 20 years. For tax preparers, those odds are 98.7 percent. For accountants and auditors, the odds are 93.5 percent.

Then there’s this, shared by our own Tom Hood on Facebook: It’s a list from Yahoo! Finance of the most endangered jobs of 2016. Production workers came in at No. 1. Checking in at No. 2 are bookkeepers, accountants, auditors and billing clerks. “Software can now help individuals and small businesses track their bills, invoices, expenses and taxes, replacing the clerical staff who do much of this basic work,” the report states.

It’s easy to read reports like these and think, “I’m doomed.” All of the time, money, and effort you’ve put into learning a craft has, seemingly, been rendered obsolete by technology.

Think again.

What you’re seeing is not the demise of your profession, but its transformation. Yahoo! Finance’s Rick Newman says as much.

“There’s still strong demand for more sophisticated auditors and accountants who deal with complex tax and financial situations,” Newman writes.

To paraphrase Daniel Burrus, your clients still need you; they just don’t need the old you. They don’t need you to manage data and fill out forms. They need your insight. They need you to anticipate the future and help them take advantage of it. They need you to be business advisors, not number crunchers.

That means you need to learn some new skills. Leadership, communication, collaboration, interpretation, anticipation — these are the skills that will define this profession going forward. For the traditional CPA, that means the most important skill you’ll need today is the ability to learn new skills — to devote yourself to lifelong learning. And I’m not talking about CPE here. I’m talking about transformation.

What got you here won’t get you there,” leadership expert and MACPA friend Emmanuel Gobillot is fond of saying. Truer words have never been spoken. It’s time to unlearn what you’ve always known and figure out how to remain relevant to your clients in a changing and complex world. They don’t want what you’ve always done. They need a new CPA.

Are you ready to be that?


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