Want to know what your problem is? I’ll tell you. It’s the same as my problem.

Change.

One word. Six letters. A million headaches.

Legislation, regulation, generations, talent development, technological advances — they’re making our lives really, really complicated. A nearly constant stream of groundbreaking changes is sweeping over every corner of the profession, and the pace at which they’re occurring is increasing.

That spells trouble for CPAs. Let’s face it, with a few notable exceptions, this profession isn’t known for its forward-thinking proactivity.

A new study from CPA.com agrees. Titled “Welcome to the Fast Future: Insight Into the CPA of the Future,” the study finds that new technologies, globalization, emerging innovations like the cloud and Big Data, and the growing importance of diversity are reshaping the profession before our very eyes — and that very few CPAs are ready to take advantage of these changes.

  • A mere 8 percent of CPAs say the profession is future-ready today.
  • Only 10 percent of CPA firms define themselves as innovative.
  • Four out of five CPAs say they need to better understand the impact that emerging technologies will have on their businesses.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, there are tons of opportunities for CPAs who are ready to step boldly into the future.

  • Almost 60 percent of those surveyed say our future success depends on our ability to build a culture of innovation and learning within our organizations.
     
  • Nearly 80 percent of CPAs believe they should prepare their clients for future challenges. Doing so, of course, means being prepared for those challenges yourself, and that bodes well for the future of the profession.
     
  • Eighty percent of CPAs believe the role of the profession will change significantly as time goes on. Logically, that means they will have to change as well.

The report also contains its share of troubling results. Among them:

  • Fewer than 20 percent of CPAs say disruptive innovations like 3D printing, digital currency, artificial intelligence, and the “Internet of things” will greatly influence their businesses. That means more than 80 percent of those surveyed are ignoring the obvious.
     
  • Only half of those surveyed believe it is “very important” to understand the ways in which issues like immigration, diversity, and gender shifts are impacting the workforce.
     
  • Just one in four CPAs understand the impact that globalization will have on their businesses, and fewer than half say it’s important to prepare their clients for a global marketplace.

Sounds like the profession is missing one key competency — the ability to anticipate future needs and opportunities.

Fortunately for all of us, that’s a competency that can be learned. The sooner we start learning, the better.

Judging from these survey results, we have a long way to go until we’re truly future-ready.

Download the survey results in their entirety.

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