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cloud computing

By Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, vice president of research, IMA

Some metaphors are perfect, enabling you to conjure up a precise image in your mind. Other metaphors: not so much. If you’re confused by the term ‘the cloud,’ you’re not alone. But ‘the cloud’ is easier to understand than you think – and it has the potential to reshape the business and accountancy profession over the next decade and beyond, according to a recent report from ACCA and IMA, Digital Darwinism: Thriving in the Face of Technology Change,

In the early days, ‘the cloud’ was simply a metaphor for the internet. As this evolved from a network that connects millions of computers into a network of interactive computing platforms, the metaphor evolved too.

Organisations of all kinds now supply and use a growing range of cloud-based IT resources ‘as a service’ rather than ‘as a product’. Physically remote software applications, computing power, and data storage can be accessed online from fixed and mobile devices, providing benefits that can include:

  • 24/7 access
  • ability to scale up and down to meet demand
  • reduced up-front costs
  • pay-as-you-go charges based on consumption
  • lower management overheads
  • reduced maintenance costs
  • rapid implementation times
  • easier data-sharing and collaboration.

As with many types of technology, levels of adoption vary across geography, industry, size and type of organisation, and profession. In our profession, accountants are already exploiting different types of cloud and cloud-based services. For example, systems for bookkeeping and accounting were among the first software applications available as online services.

There are two types of cloud deployments – public and private – and each brings its own challenges. A recent survey of IT professionals (IDG Enterprise 2013) found that private cloud deployments outnumbered public ones. That’s likely the result of concerns over public cloud resources, including data security, privacy and sovereignty, and the transmission and storage of data outside national boundaries. Many of these concerns are driven by regulations, such as the UK Data Protection Act and the US Patriot Act.

There are other areas where public cloud services and their consumption-based, pay-as-you-go approach can create challenges for accountants and their organisations. For example, lack of integration between systems and their associated data can be a barrier to efficiency. Other concerns range from the expectation that IT systems will be (because they are online) available at all times to the widespread misconception that pay-as-you-go is always the most cost-effective way to resource IT.

Despite these and other challenges, most organisations will continue to access IT resources using both traditional and cloud-based systems well into the foreseeable future. What’s more, the ACCA and IMA research found unanimous agreement on the significance that cloud computing will have as it becomes increasingly adopted by accountants and the finance function; some 72% expect this to happen during 2014-2015.

You can read more about this and other technology trends that are impacting the accounting profession by visiting the ACCA and IMA website, www.roleofcfo.com.

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Helen Brand video-8656

By Helen Brand OBE, Chief Executive, ACCA

The second ACCA and IMA CFO Month starts today, and this year we are focussing on all things digital.

Today we live in an era of ‘digital Darwinism’, a time where technology and society are evolving faster than many organisations can adapt to the changes. This is one of the many underlying factors that led to the demise of stores such as Blockbuster and Borders. Yet technological advances continue to drive economic growth.

As trusted advisers to business, accountants and finance professionals around the world are expected to lead, not follow. The profession has historically been quick to identify and then exploit the huge potential of emerging technologies – from the earliest known records of commerce, to the earliest commercial computer systems.

Accountants’ enthusiastic use of the first programmable computers and widespread adoption of the spreadsheet helped to turn accountancy into the profession it is today; embracing of emerging technologies will turn it into the profession it aspires to be tomorrow.

Many new technologies have the capacity to influence the future of business and the accountancy profession, over the next decade and beyond.

ACCA and IMA’s latest report Digital Darwinism: thriving in the face of technology change, focuses on 10 technology trends with the potential to reshape the profession and business landscape significantly. These are developments that will change the way people live and work, and responses to them will determine the future success of individuals, organisations, and even countries.

The 10 technology trends that will have the potential to significantly reshape the business and accountancy landscape are:

  1. mobile;
  2. big data;
  3. artificial intelligence and robotics;
  4. cyber security;
  5. educational;
  6. the cloud;
  7. payment systems;
  8. virtual and augmented reality;
  9. digital service delivery;
  10. social.

Over the coming weeks during CFO Month 2014 we will be looking at some of these trends in a little more detail. In the meantime, to find out more about the technology trends impacting on the accountancy profession, please read the full report.