Accounting for digital disruption: how the finance profession can get to grips with technological transformation

As digital disruption takes hold in society and in business, it has the potential to improve the way accountants work and enable valuable new services. But if the profession fails to adapt, it risks becoming marginalised. A new report from Chartered Accountants Worldwide member ICAEW’s IT faculty looks to tackle this issue through the lens of providing leadership in the digital world.

The report notes at the start that change is nothing new for accountants; the tools and techniques they use have altered over time. Along the way, they have helped to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, speed and scale of accounting work.

Now, technologies such as cloud computing and data analytics are increasing the rate of change even further by allowing accountants to perform their work faster, cheaper, better and with less human intervention. The report asks: “How can accountants maximise the opportunities for digital technology to better serve the economy and the wider good?”

Though acknowledging the risks to accountants from digital disruption, it takes a positive slant on technological developments. Its authors intend the document as the launchpad for an initiative that will lead debate on how the profession can meet future challenges in an uncertain digital world. It asks how accountancy should position itself to serve that digital world better, and how it needs to collaborate to achieve this.

The collective actions the authors propose include awareness and education, innovation and collaboration, and achieving system-wide change.

Digital disruption is a broad definition, so the report focuses on 12 trends within that term which are especially relevant to the accountancy profession and provides brief descriptions of each one. The areas are: big data and analytics; automation; cyber security; data standards; cloud computing; mobile computing; online services; social media; cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger systems; payment systems and mobile money; platforms; and analytics-based financial services.

To find out more and keep the conversation going, you can download the 18-page report here: