With an unemployment rate half of the national average at 3% and a growth rate of 13% projected over the next ten years, the future of what many consider to be one of the best jobs in the country continues to look bright. But as LinkedIn Influencer, Tom Hood, says, “This bright future is backlit by the increasingly complex and rapidly changing world. The biggest issue from CPAs is information overload and the challenge of keeping up.”
Beyond state and federal changes to laws and tax systems that CPAs need to stay abreast of, the business landscape as a whole is shifting dramatically. As a generation of the work force retires, the next generation is rethinking business and how they conduct it. Hood identifies five fundamental shifts:
- Technology. Specifically, the rise of social, mobile, and cloud-based software as a service.
- Generations. Both the gap and numbers — Boomers outnumber Xers almost 2:1, which means that there will be a leadership gap as Boomers retire that Millennials will be well-positioned to fill.
- Workplaces. They are increasingly more collaborative, open, flexible, and remote.
- Leadership. The majority of businesses don’t believe that they have the right leadership in place to reach their goals in this changing environment.
- Learning. The rate of learning must be greater than the rate of change.
Foremost among these changes is, without a doubt, technology. It alone is fundamentally altering the business landscape, and informing many of the other shifts. The American Institute of CPAs’ recent CPA Horizons 2025 report laid out a road map to help navigate the issues and challenges they foresaw for the next 15 years, and among them was that “the services provided by CPAs have become so varied and diverse that the concept of core services is no longer representative of the profession and has been dropped.”
Another report, the 2014 Wolters Kluwer, CCH Preparedness Survey, based on a survey of 500 accounting professionals, identified five trends that they believe will have the most significant impact on accounting firms in the near future. They are:
- Increased focus on client service. Specifically, leveraging technology to repurpose resources to provide more personalized service and advice to clients.
- Technology integration changes. Making investments today, while transitioning smoothly to new technologies.
- Digital mobility opportunities. Reducing capital costs while increasing client service and employee productivity by leveraging emerging digital platforms.
- Talent management and succession planning. Identifying younger talent, developing their skill sets, and managing the transition from the retirement of senior leaders.
- Social media as a business tool. Using social media to market their business, service their clients, and continually monitor the competition.
Unfortunately, only 18% of the firms surveyed said they were “very prepared” to take advantage of these trends.
In addition to technical skills, Hood identifies five additional softer skills that this new breed of “digital CPAs” will need to position themselves ahead of these changes. They are:
- Leadership. The ability to develop and share insights and mobilize others.
- Communication. The ability to share these insights and provide context.
- Strategic-thinking. A forward-thinking and flexible mindset.
- Collaboration and synthesis. Being effective at engaging others, encouraging growth.
- Being tech savvy. Anticipating changes and their effects on the business.
So while the future of accounting is indeed exciting and bright, it’s those who are able to ride the changes that continued technological evolution will bring that are best suited to take advantage of it.