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engaging the broad accounting community

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    Julie Smith David
    Who/what are our current/future markets for accounting...
    question posted November 9, 2010 by Julie Smith David, last edited February 10, 2012 
    840 Views, 2 Comments
    question:
    Who/what are our current/future markets for accounting information and professionals? What are the skills that future accounting professionals will require?

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    • Ira Solomon

      In one of your slides you refer to the skills that will be needed by accounting persons.  While I may be in the minority here, I see the term skills as relatively narrow and incomplete as foci for accounting education.  I would distinguish among knowledge, skills, and values/attitudes.  I think that the first two items are self-explanatory.  By values/attitudes I mean professionalism, professional skepticism etc. I hope that these observations are useful. 

    • Julie Smith David

      Not surprisingly, I strongly believe that tomorrow’s accounting professionals will need a firm understanding of information technologies, and their ability to help management with strategic decision-making. This view is not new, nor is it unique, but I hope the commission will consider it explicitly.  To help meet that objective, I have reviewed some educational research that summarizes the needs and offers suggestions for how to meet them. 

      Beaman and Richardson, 2007, Journal of Applied Management Accounting Research, reviewed two studies and offered this cautionary comment:  “The paper investigates the possibility that accounting functions within organisations are becoming restricted to the areas of financial reporting and transactions processing, rather than decision support and problem solving,” and they posit that “unless management accountants adapt to developments in IT they risk being reduced to a subordinate role.” Additionally, they state “Almost a decade later, Kaplan (1995, p.13) argued that, in order to remain relevant, management accountants should 'move away from being scorekeepers of the past to become the designers of the organisation's critical management information systems'.” These insights support your taking a broad view of the meaning of accounting in your first issue. 

      The need for IT knowledge and skills extends beyond management accounting.  Kao (2002, Journal of Information Systems) describes the positive impact that IT is having in the audit field, and I can only imagine that the need for IT capabilities has only increased as organizations have moved toward technology-enabled-solutions to process their transactions and produce their financial statements.

      To understand the magnitude of changes facing the accounting profession as a result of IT, the Strategic and Emerging Technologies section of the AAA hosted a workshop on Transformative Accounting Technologies at the 2010 Annual Meeting, and there are videos of the speakers available.  Of most interest to the commission:

      • Brian Sommer provided an excellent overview of the key issues with today’s accounting software – and emerging solutions to them.  He takes a very broad view of accounting, and has a LOT of insights into the technologies that are available.
      • Mark Nittler, VP of WorkDay, provided an overview of how their software is different from other Enterprise Resource Planning systems.  For one, they have adopted the Resources, Events, Agents approach to accounting (McCarthy 1982 – and many since then), and they focus on capturing rich, detailed data at the time a transaction occurs – and provide query tools to allow a multitude of views to be instantly generated to meet a wide range of decision making requirements (which is how I view accounting to be most effective).  Mark is a CPA and definitely believes that accounting is broad – and his firm is working to make that easier to occur.
      • Karen Watts, CEO of CoreFino, described a new vision for accounting that her organiztion is enabling.  Firms can outsource accounting transaction processing to CoreFino, and that firm integrates the best cloud-based (internet-based) accounting solutions available for both entering and using the transactional data.  There are significant implications for those who take a more “scorekeeper” view of accounting… and for the role that accountants may play in the future.
      • Additionally, Keith Swenson demonstrated Fujitsu’s process mining tool (that will document actual processes within an organization) and Chuck Hopper introduced the audience to visualization of complex data.  Both of these presentations represent ways in which accountants can be assisted by emerging technology to provide much more rigorous information for their own practices (such as auditing) and users.

      To see these videos, you can go to this URL: http://commons.aaahq.org/hives/96cc3da06b/summary Once you’re logged in (as you would to post to the Pathways space), you’ll be able to click on the video button and see these sessions.