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CPA Survival Toolkit: Part 2 – Technologies

Jun 1, 2021

Part 2 of CPA Survival Toolkit series


CPA Survival Toolkit: Part 2 – Technologies
Depending on client demands and organizational priorities, employees will need to develop a working knowledge or expertise in certain technologies to capture new business value. Data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and RPA will likely have the most significant impact on the accounting profession in the years to come.

In fact, in a Journal of Accountancy article by Ken Tysiac and Jeff Drew, the authors state, “Forward-looking firm leaders are examining the effects that advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology may have on the way they do business.”8 A recent Accounting Today article by Venkat Sharma noted the significance of RPA for the accounting profession, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharma states, “The pandemic is a call to action for accounting firms to seriously consider RPA to increase efficiencies and upgrade client services.”9

Data analytics – Firms continue to create value for businesses by using data analytics to enhance decision-making. Through the analysis of commonly named big data, CPAs develop models that help answer business questions and provide important insights. The accounting profession recognizes the importance of data analytics, as it has been added to the CPA Exam. Continued upskilling with data analytics will pay dividends.

AI – AI further enhances the capabilities of data analytics by using algorithms to predict expected behavior and by providing deeper microtargeted insights beyond what a human analyst could do. Whereas a human data analyst might spend 80% of his or her time clearing and transforming data for analysis, AI-enabled machines could accelerate this process. According to Gartner Inc., a research and advisory firm, artificial intelligence (and its enabling technologies, including machine learning and neural networks) is expected to have the biggest impact on various business applications. In fact, AI was ranked the top emerging technology across their research for customer experience projects in the next few years.10 Gartner provides a couple of strategic planning recommendations as it relates to AI: 
  • By 2025, 50% of data scientists’ activities will be automated by AI, helping to mitigate the human talent shortage. 
  • Through 2023, computational resources used by AI will increase five times that of 2018, making AI the top emerging technology driving infrastructure decisions.11

Blockchain – Although there are limited examples of accounting firms using blockchain for internal use-cases today, organizations are increasingly using digital assets and currencies such as bitcoin as their treasury instead of dollars. As more organizations engage in transactions using digital currency, CPAs will need to become more familiar with blockchain technology.

RPA – RPA helps accountants automate time-consuming manual processes, increasing productivity and reducing errors. PwC used UiPath, a leading RPA software provider, to identify several highly repetitive, manual, and rules-based tasks to automate via RPA. According to Kevin Kroen, intelligent automation and digital upskilling leader at PwC, the firm “automated about 5 million hours of non-value-added work.”12

For tips on how to successfully implement these technologies in your organization, see the next article in the CPA Survival Toolkit series: Part 3—Interpersonal Skills.

Did you miss Part 1?

CPA Survival Toolkit: Part 1—Your “Must-Knows” & “Must Dos”  

Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, a publication of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

8 Ken Tysiac and Jeff Drew, “Accounting Firms: The Next Generation,” Journal of Accountancy (June 1, 2018). www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2018/jun/next-generation-accounting-firms.html

9 Venkat Sharma, “Why CPA Firms Should Leverage RPA During a Pandemic,” Accounting Todaywww.accountingtoday.com/opinion/why-cpa-firms-should-leverage-rpa-during-a-pandemic

10 Don Scheibenreif, “5 Key Emerging Technologies and Their Impact on Customer Experience”, Gartner Research, (Aug. 8, 2019).

11 Svetlana Sicular, Bern Elliot, Whit Andrews, Pieter den Hamer, “Artificial Intelligence Maturity Model,” Gartner Research (March 18, 2020).


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About the Author

Cory Ng, CPA, CGMA, DBA, is an associate professor of instruction in accounting at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at cory.ng@temple.edu.

Brian Trout, CPA, CMA, DBA, is an assistant professor of accounting and finance at Millersville University in Millersville. He can be reached at brian.trout@millersville.edu.