Archives For technology

Jamie Lyon

By Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA

To my eternal dismay I don’t really get much time on the iPad these days. I don’t have to look far, however to find where it is – invariably it’s in the clutches of either my seven year old daughter (worrying), or my three year old boy (worrying, but for different reasons). Their relationship with this sort of technology however seems very intuitive, dare I say almost hardwired. Technology will be even more coded into their future daily existence, probably beyond the realms we can imagine right now. It’s fascinating to watch, and it’s an extraordinary time to be alive.

Today’s rate of advancement in technology is exponential but I can’t help but think the technology we are becoming accustomed to in our private lives isn’t quite reflected in our business lives. There is no greater example of this than what’s been happening (or not happening) in corporate finance organisations over the last decade or so. If the finance organisation is serious about driving value and supporting the business in its strategic imperatives, one of the things it has to get serious about is the technology it has at its disposal. I don’t, however, subscribe to the view that technology is the panacea to all of finance’s problems, the one-stop solution to deliver the sorts of financial and operational insights the business is crying out for… but it would be naïve to underplay its growing importance, particularly with the digitisation agenda.

So what’s stopping finance technology delivering on its promise? The obvious one is investment costs and multiple legacy ERP systems not being fit for purpose; too much manual workaround, too much time trying to get to the number rather than understanding and explaining to the business the implication of the number. Where we have seen investment in finance technology, typically the investment is focused on streamlining and driving down cost, rather than investing in the sorts of capabilities that are predictive and insightful. But there are arguably other issues too. Has finance shown the necessary finance leadership in the technology agenda? Does it truly understand and can it explain the business case for finance technology investment? Does a typical finance function “culture” present challenges to really embrace the opportunities that technology provides? Is it because finance is too risk averse? Why isn’t it adopting the cloud much? Is the payback on technology that creates insight rather than headcount reduction just too hard to quantify? Is it a capability issue with finance playing “catch up” on the skills it needs to make technology truly deliver?

Lots of questions, not many answers. We explore all of these issues and more in ACCA’s latest CFO report Is finance function technology delivering on its promise? 

I’ll leave with you a final thought – I think the corporate insight agenda offers CFOs and the finance organisation a great opportunity for internal influence and moving the dial on the corporate reputation of the finance department. I also think embracing and making the case for technology and tools is essential to achieving this. My observation is this: if finance doesn’t take this opportunity to lead the insight agenda, perhaps someone else will…

This blogpost first featured in CFO World, February 2014

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.

mobile

By Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) President and CEO

Since my early career days in the telecommunications industry, people have always waited with baited breath for new technologies that could help businesses excel.

The accounting profession, in particular, is influenced by technology, and accountants can expect changes over the next decade and beyond.

A recent report from ACCA and IMA, “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. The most important trend identified was the rise in mobile.

Accountants are well aware of the significance of mobile. In fact, 78% of CFOs surveyed said mobile technology will have a large impact on their business in the years ahead.

The number of mobile phones overtook fixed lines in 2002, and while the numbers are still being counted, 2013 may be the year when internet-connected mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets trumped the number of desktop and laptop computers.

Mobile technology changes how, when, and where people can work and how effectively they can do their jobs, with 24/7 access to the office network and the cloud. Mobile commerce is intensifying. More and more products and services are bought and sold using m-commerce applications, mobile devices, and wireless payment terminals.

Accountants and the businesses they work for can seize the opportunities that mobile devices and targeted apps can bring.

For example, mobile technology can:

  • create faster and more connected workforces
  • enable access to information ‘anywhere, anytime’ to increase productivity
  • empower managers and employees to make informed decisions faster
  • support collaboration across the business
  • make products and services more accessible
  • create new products and services
  • improve agility to help grasp new opportunities as they arise
  • help predict financial performance with greater accuracy

Accountants are exploiting mobile technologies for productivity and efficiency gains, bringing businesses closer to their clients and suppliers, and staying connected to them, whether they are in the office or remote. Numerous mobile devices are being combined with cloud services to provide ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to specialist software and the associated business and finance data.

Our research found that 80% of accountants expect the profession’s adoption of mobile technologies to become widespread within the next two years.

Finance professionals already enjoy the convenience of mobile access to enterprise information. Accountants are also taking the opportunity to accelerate the cycle times for key processes, eliminating bottlenecks, reducing operational costs and improving productivity—leveraging all of this to become more strategic.

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

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.