insight magazine

Today's CPA | Fall 2017

Teaming With Tech

Technology isn’t your enemy—it’s your answer.
Todd Shapiro ICPAS President & CEO

When I began my career with the Illinois CPA Society in late 1998, the Outlook email platform had only recently been launched as part of Office 97, and our email system consisted of three CompuServe email accounts. Fast-forward to today, and it’s crazy to think about how far we’ve come so quickly.

While we now often complain about the amount of email we get, can you imagine communicating or working without it—going back to just pens, paper, and what’s now referred to as snail mail? If I had told you in 1990 that you’d do most of your holiday shopping online in 2017, you would have simply asked, “What’s online?”

Now we live and work in a world where we’re online, and often on call, 24/7 and facing change like we’ve never seen before. Consider just blockchain technology, which is here today and revolutionizing the way transactions are completed as you read this. It’s also estimated that 49 percent of all work could eventually be automated with technology, and advanced robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to automate or eliminate up to 40 percent of basic accounting work by 2020.

Take a breath; it’s not time to panic.

Technology will continue to advance at an ever-increasing rate, just as it always has, and we simply need to adapt. Recently, I spoke about blockchain technology at a Chapter meeting, only to receive feedback along the lines of “that’s never going to happen.” Did you ever think that you’d be able to surf the internet, buy anything, manage your finances, watch and make movies, send emails, make calls, and much more, from a device the size of an index card? Again, most of you would have thought that’s crazy. Yet, the iPhone, first released just a decade ago, has helped revolutionize the way we work and interact with the world around us, and most of us go into the shakes if we leave our houses without our smartphones.

So, what do we do about things like blockchain, RPA, and AI? Embrace it, learn it, and play with it. More than any other time in the history of our profession, CPAs have an opportunity to move away from repetitive transactional tasks and focus on providing meaningful insight and analysis to clients and coworkers.

Thirty years ago, people looked at Lotus and Excel and said, “So what.” Today, we look at those tools and can’t imagine life without them. This time is no different. The successful CPAs of tomorrow will be those who view technology as an opportunity, embrace it, and capitalize on it.

Technology can drive us crazy, but we can’t live without it. The pace of change is ever-increasing, but we embrace it. It seems impossible to keep up, but we do. Every new technology stirs some fear and angst among us, but we overcome it. And the Illinois CPA Society will be here for you every step of the way, providing the information and education you need to succeed today and tomorrow. Technology isn’t our enemy, it’s our answer.

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