World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab recently wrote that we are entering an era he calls The Fourth Industrial Revolution. He describes it this way:
“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”
These big waves of change are the result of a “perfect storm” of sorts — the convergence of three “hard trends” of exponential technological innovation, the demographic shift as baby boomers retire, and globalization. Key challenges facing accounting and finance professionals are automation and digital transformation, succession and talent shortages, a “brain drain” as experienced people retire, business model changes, and the increasingly VUCA world (that’s volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) in which we find ourselves.
Several recent studies (from the WEF, Oxford, McKinsey and MIT) report that accounting, auditing, and tax are among the occupations most at risk for complete automation within the next 20 years.
As a result, the accounting and finance profession is rapidly approaching what Andy Grove, retired CEO of Intel Corporation, described as a “strategic inflection point.”
“This is where there are two major pathways: doing business as usual, or embracing and adapting to the new,” Grove says. “At the moment these are fairly close together, but they will soon diverge into a growing gap between growth and success, or entropy and decline.”
[plugin:quote]”You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf” – Jon Kabat-Zinn[/plugin]
As we look through this fog of uncertainty, we can see positive signs that spell “opportunity.” The key will be to look at these opportunities with a new lens and new skills.
To take advantage of these oceans of opportunity, accounting and finance professionals will need to learn how to ride these big waves or risk being crushed by their frequency and force. The critical thing to know is that ‘business as usual’ simply won’t work anymore.
Here are six ways to learn how to ride these big waves of change now and in the future:
The hard trends are forming these big waves of disruption and change. The soft trend is whether the accounting and finance profession will recognize them and respond proactively. Will we be like the taxicab industry fighting Uber, or will we embrace and extend these oceans of opportunity and learn how to surf?