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Counting on technology

Lesley Meall looks at how career development in accounting – and the ACA qualification itself – is changing to reflect how our world has been altered by tech.

There was a time when the abacus was advanced. Over millennia, we have used fingers, toes, knots on ropes, tally sticks, clay tokens and numerous other devices to help us to count, record commercial transactions and administer tax. Our own digits may still come in handy when we are searching for the nth character in a password, but the usefulness of these other aids and technologies has gradually peaked and then fallen away as they are superseded by superior new alternatives.

The accountancy profession has historically been pretty good at spotting winners – witness the flexibility, longevity and resilience of the spreadsheet. Now, the onslaught of change, disruption and innovation around digital technologies can make it difficult to keep up with what’s possible, let alone back winners (or eschew losers). So ICAEW is supporting members by consulting widely with employers, academics and other stakeholders around key technology trends and topics for the profession.

“There has been an explosion in technology and it is constantly changing,” says David Lyford-Smith, technical manager, IT and the profession, IT Faculty. It simply isn’t possible to know all about every development. “Accountants need to be flexible and adaptable,” he suggests. “They need to be open-minded about technology and aware of trends in business, such as the gig economy and new internet based services and business models and the associated opportunities and challenges.”

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