4 Accounting Technology Trends for 2020
by: Marc Staut, Chief Innovation & Technology Officer
Forrester recently released their Predictions 2020 report, sharing their forecasts for the trends leaders can capitalize on as the coming year unfolds. A number of their predictions caught my eye, as they mirror much of the advice we’ve been providing to accounting firm leaders over the years.
Here’s a look at some of the predictions that stood out to me, and my take on how it impacts accounting firms.
“CIOs focus on people”
Forrester predicts an increasing focus on people management for CIOs in the coming year. More highly standardized and repetitive IT tasks are automated, but they’re not expecting layoffs. Instead, CIOs will focus on upskilling their staff to handle higher-level work.
Outside of the IT department, Forrester predicts that smart CIOs will become a resource to other departments that need help working with emerging technologies, including robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and machine learning.
My take: We’ve long said that the role of CIO at top-performing firms extends beyond IT. CIOs today are spending more time on business leadership than they did just a few years ago. Communication and culture are crucial for driving innovation to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly commoditized profession. CIOs need to know how to lead and educate others on how to leverage technology in alignment with the firm’s strategic plan.
“Data strategy unlocks transformation”
The researchers at Forrester believes data strategy is necessary for unlocking digital transformation and taking advantage of AI and machine learning. However, getting data prepped to use with these emerging technologies is a problem for many organizations. It requires investment in technology, talent and process.
As the cost of getting data wrong becomes more apparent, Forrester says data literacy will become a priority across the organization – not just in IT. They predict that 40% of organizations will launch data literacy programs for all team members.
My take: CPA firms are a treasure trove of data and have been for years. The key is getting the data organized and accurate. The difference now is that there are more tools available to help firms leverage their data and turn it into actionable advice. Firms of all sizes must learn about the new tools available today. In most firms, this is a journey that’s already started. It will be difficult (but not impossible) for the others to catch up with those that already have the mindsets and are experimenting and acquiring the skillsets to use the technology.
“Data and AI get weaponized”
CPA firms have long been a prime target for data breaches due to the amount of data they possess, but Forrester predicts more – and more sophisticated – attempts to hack organizations’ data in the coming year.
“The unfortunate reality will come to light that evil forces can adopt technologies
such as AI and machine learning faster than security leaders can.”
They predict ransomware incidents will grow as attackers learn that holding data hostage is a quicker path to monetizing their work. And AI will allow criminals to get more sophisticated in their attacks, leveraging deepfakes to fool technology users, and costing businesses over a quarter of a billion dollars.
My take: Every firm needs a well-planned, well-executed security policy that balances user needs and security requirements. Your people can be your weakest link or your best protection against an attack. Approach security training as an opportunity rather than dismissing it as just another technology project. It’s a chance to learn where the pain points are and meet the challenge head-on by finding solutions that make navigating security less complicated while still protecting the firm.
“Automation reshapes the workforce”
Forrester predicts that automation will replace 1.06 million jobs in 2020. However, those jobs will primarily be lower-level, function-specific workers. Jobs that require “intuition, empathy, and physical and mental agility” will add 331,500 net jobs in 2020.
They also caution that employees are wary of automation – mainly because few organizations have invested in preparing their people to work alongside automation.
My take: For years, we’ve said that accounting jobs won’t necessarily be eliminated. But they will be refined with new skills needed as technology plays a complementary role, making them faster, more efficient and more productive. But your people need to know that you hear the same scary predictions about job loss, that you understand the changes that are coming, and have a plan for the future.
The accounting profession will face many challenges in 2020, but there is also a lot of potential. By keeping an eye on forecasts for the year ahead, you can act now to leverage these trends and positively impact your firm and the opportunities they will create in the marketplace.
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Marc Staut, Chief Innovation & Information Officer at Boomer Consulting, Inc., helps meet the growing needs of CPA firms by leveraging his experience to provide strategic technology assessments, planning, visioning and coaching. He feels that “technology should be an enabler – something that’s approachable, aligned with and integral to the success of each firm.”
Marc is a regular speaker, author and panelist on technology in the accounting profession, cloud computing, mobile technology, leadership and vision.