There is wide agreement that finance and CPA firm professionals need to augment their existing skill sets to prepare for future technological upgrades. New technology is altering how finance, accounting, and auditing professions proceed, so how should professionals prepare for what’s coming?
The New Challenge
Certainly finance professionals will have to develop a basic understanding of emerging technologies such as data analytics, AI, and robotic process automation. But that does not mean these professionals have to master these technologies. For an individual to invest in advanced technology skills may make sense, but for an organization to build its business plan on its staff mastering new technological skills could be a strategic misstep.
Mastering a new technology has a shelf life only as long as the technology itself. Even if the technology proves long-lasting, the premium paid for technical expertise will erode quickly as the technology gains wide acceptance. Imagine the finance organization or CPA firm 30 years ago that had staked its future on the transformative power of the PC and electronic spreadsheets.
The real value for finance and audit professionals is not in mastering the technology but in mastering how to apply the technology to solve problems. Once we reframe the issue as problem-solving and not the adoption of technology, the question about future skills comes into sharper focus.
While a professional’s working knowledge of emerging technologies is important, communicating their insight and advice to their clients in a way that allows them to understand and take action is paramount.
Specifically, finance departments and CPA firms should work to develop these skills:
- Data analysis
- Evidence-based decision-making
Organizations that can develop these competencies across their professional staff will be able to offer their clients true insight. This value add is difficult if not impossible to automate, outsource, or commoditize. It deepens the relationship with the client and opens the door to the inner circles of the client’s decision-makers. A seat at the table is really what you’re playing for.
Developing these skills is a challenge. Most professionals define their value in terms of technical expertise. Many were attracted to the profession because of its technical aspects. To get them to supplement their technical expertise with advisory skills is more than just skills development. It fundamentally alters how they see themselves and how they interact with others.
But making the effort could pay big dividends. Advisory and consulting skills are not limited to the future of finance and auditing; they can improve your organizational performance today. There is no downside to starting down the path to improving the problem-solving, analysis, or communication skills of your staff.
Insight and Advice—The New Value Add for Finance, Accounting, and Auditing
Finance and accounting professionals share a vision for the relationship they want with their clients in the future. Though the path to that future is still being drawn, what’s becoming increasingly clear is that today’s professionals must hone new skills to maintain their value to organizations.
Finance and Auditing Skills 2025
In the face of this disruptive change, organizations are not looking to reduce their professional staff. Rather, the vast majority are committed to finding ways to reinvent themselves and redefine their value add.
In working with a wide variety of organizations and CPA firms, most believe that finance, accounting, and auditing professionals must improve in the following areas and realize this vision of a more advisory-minded professional:
- Critical thinking
- Data analysis
- Problem-solving and decision-making
The most common business models being implemented also place a premium on:
- Project management
- Collaboration across multiple disciplines
- A deep understanding of the client’s business
The beauty of this wish list is that the organization can benefit from improving these skills today. There’s no need to wait for the future of finance and accounting to arrive. Forward-thinking management teams know that now is the time to start re-skilling their staff. Building skills is difficult and time-consuming, but by defining objectives, you can make training a widespread success.