Your ability to constantly evolve your technology skills – your digital quotient (DQ) – is a pivotal competency that will keep your career, indeed your profession, in the game.
It is a given these days that professional accountants need to be technologically competent at the very least – and ideally, much more than that.
‘Digitally savvy’ may be one way of describing it. Technological innovation (and its many offspring, from global connectivity to social media) remains the most significant driver of change across every sector of business – and, as businesses change, so do the competencies they look for in professional finance teams.
Identifying the changing needs of business and understanding how professional accountants need to develop to keep their capabilities relevant. The development of intelligent automated accounting systems is the external factor that is expected to have the most influence in the next three to 10 years.
The seven ‘quotients for success’ for professional accountants in the future – an optimal and changing mix of professional competencies (covering technical knowledge and skills, but also interpersonal qualities and behaviour) that will add value for their employers and clients. Among the seven is the digital quotient (DQ), defined as ‘the awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices and strategies’.
The spread of digital technology and skills has already transformed the finance teams – and the evolution is ongoing, with no clear view of the final destination. The automation of manual processes has already influenced business models, powerful analytics is bringing real-time reporting closer, and communications technology has reshaped companies’ interaction with stakeholders. Arguably, the biggest potential change of all – blockchain – is still a relative unknown.
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The rise of big data presents particular challenges. The report points out, for example, that a simple Google search can uncover more data than any assurance report.
The professional’s added value
The obvious question is, if both data and the powerful analytics tools to make sense of it are widely available, what value can finance teams bring?
For centuries, much of the profession’s value has been based on its ability to translate and interpret complex financial information for a non-technical audience. The profession has largely been able to set its own pace in fulfilling that need, but in a world where social media is rapidly becoming an acceptable outlet for formal company announcements, that is no longer an option. Stakeholders want better, more informative and accessible reports, as quickly as possible – and if an accountant cannot provide that, they will look elsewhere.
In other words, professional accountants are fighting to stay ahead of the game. That is why the ability to apply technology to analysing, interpreting and presenting financial and non-financial data tops the list of skills that professional accountants say they need. Many believe there are gaps in the digital skills they will need in the coming years, including capabilities around mobile and cloud business models, blockchain, digital currencies and payment mechanisms, and new routes to investment such as crowdfunding.
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Nurturing your DQ, in other words, is about much more than understanding how technology works; it is about developing a digital-savvy way of thinking and working.
This article is in partnership with the ACCA.