Forbes recently ran an article titled, The Coming Demise and Rebirth of Accounting and how Robo-Advisor 1.0 is threatening to automate wealth advisory and financial planning services. The author, Russ Allen Prince, poses the question: [plugin:quote]“What will happen when technology supersedes the core abilities of most accountants?”[/plugin]

Should we be worried?

I think so. It is time to pay attention.

First, there is the relentless pace of change we are facing as we enter the “second half of the chessboard.” Moore’s Law drives exponential change (see our related post, How to Grow and Avoid Disruption in 2015). Then there is the Oxford study featured last year in The Economist which had accounting and auditing as the second most likely profession to be disrupted, with a 94 percent probability. Another article from the Financial Times told how Shell and Baker Hughes are deploying an “intelligent agent” named Amelia to “do the work of back-office accountants and call-centre workers, in the latest sign that white-collar jobs could be under threat from the rise of smart machines.”

See what I mean?

So what should you do to avoid being disrupted by the rise of the smart machines? Erik Asgeirsson, CEO of and best-selling author Nicholas Carr have some advice.

Check out this brief interview they did after Nicholas’ keynote at the Digital CPA Conference that happened in December. 

His message is about the cloud’s significance to all businesses and how it can level the playing field for small / medium-size businesses (SMBs). It is a great opportunity for CPAs to minimize the risk of disruption around automation of routine tasks. The smart CPAs will be deep specialists with strategic knowledge of the clients and their industries. His advice to all of us is this: Position yourself around those things that can’t be automated. Automation forces you to focus on what is truly distinctive about what you do and what you know. I love his quote about using the computer as a tool versus just operating it, which leads to his discussion about the risks of our “always on” lives and what he calls our “patience deficit,” He concludes with advice on developing our abilities to go deep and reflective and not succumb to the “glass cage” of our screens 24/7. It is a world of high tech AND high touch.

Carr closed his session with five ways to win the race with machines:

  1. Transcend the routine.
  2. Develop specialized knowledge.
  3. Stay ahead of the automation wave.
  4. Be valued for expertise and insight.
  5. Translate data into wisdom.

I am betting on the rebirth of the CPA profession to new value-added ways of leveraging these “smart machines,” rather than trying to race them.

I highly recommend his latest book, The Glass Cage, and his earlier book, The Big Switch, to get a glimpse into the future of computers and technology.

Some more related posts on dealing with disruption:

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