Future Ready | Leadership / Management | Technology

Automation’s a good thing. Here’s why.

I think I’m starting to terrorize the CPAs I’m trying to inspire.

For the past year, I’ve been speaking at accounting and finance events from coast to coast about the need to learn new skills to remain relevant in a disruptive, chaotic world. Parts of those presentations focus on the coming wave of automation — the ways in which technologies like artificial intelligence, cognitive-learning machines, and blockchain will master many of our profession’s number-crunching, transactional tasks and take humans out of the equation — and, yes, eliminate many jobs in the process.

My goal is to spur CPAs to embrace transformational learning as a way of ensuring their future relevance — to learn to do the things that machines can’t do so they’ll always be in demand. As Peter Sheahan says, “Humans should be doing work that only humans can do.”

Instead, I get comments like “Oh, sh*t” and “Time to retire.”

Obviously, I’m not getting my point across, so let me try again:

Automation is a good thing.

Let the machines crunch the numbers. You don’t want to be doing that work anyway. As Sage’s Ed Kless says, “If your job can be done by a robot, your job probably sucks.” When machines start doing that crap, you’ll be free to do work that’s really valuable — like interpreting the numbers and helping your clients become future-ready. That’s what they want you do, after all.

There’s a catch, of course, and it’s this: You’ll have to learn a boatload of new skills to do that.

What are those skills?

After cross-referencing all of the available research and expertise, MACPA and BLI chief Tom Hood has determined that future-ready accounting and finance professionals must be proficient in the following eight skills:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Anticipating and serving evolving needs
  • Synthesizing intelligence to insight
  • Integration and collaboration
  • Technology acumen and data analytics
  • Functional and domain expertise

“Anything that can be automated will be automated,” said Hood. “Crunching the numbers is no longer good enough. Machines can do that faster and more accurately that we’ll ever be able to. Our future relevance depends on our ability to do the things the machines can’t do — to interpret the numbers, to tell the stories behind the numbers and make our clients future-ready at the same time. These skills will help us do that.

Many of those skills will be on display at the MACPA’s 2017 CPA Summit, scheduled for Dec. 13 in Columbia, Md. Among the thought leaders on hand will be:

  • Leon Katsnelson, director and CTO of Analytic Platform Emerging Technologies at IBM. Katsnelson leads a team focused on A.I., machine learning, Big Data, and other applications of cognitive technologies. He’ll be sharing the value created by A.I. and how all firms can access it to create their own disruption.
  • Jennifer Warawa, executive vice president of partners, accountants and alliances at Sage, who will explore the metamorphosis of the profession, the technology that is driving it, and the important role accountants play in driving step-by-step adoption of this evolution.
  • Amy Vetter, a leader a Xero, who will guide attendees in how to become “cherished advisors” who add the highest level of value to their clients.
  • Mike Sabbatis, chief executive officer at XCM, who will help attendees learn how technology disruptors will change their jobs.

And there will be SO much more. Check out the entire agenda and register to attend here.

The MACPA’s 2017 CPA Summit feature the following accounting and finance thought leaders and MACPA partners:


Bill Sheridan