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SERVICES 4.0 AND ACCOUNTANCY

SERVICES 4.0 (PART 4): HUMAN ELEMENT STILL KEY AS ACCOUNTANCY SECTOR DIGITALISES

IMDA, ISCA AND SAC

With technologies taking over the world by storm, many people have the misconception that robots will eventually take over all our jobs, rendering humans redundant. The reality, however, is very much different as the human element remains critical in the economy, especially in the accountancy sector.

In the previous three articles of this series of four on the digital transformation in the accountancy sector, we explored how companies leveraged emerging technologies and paved the way for Services 4.0, namely, how seamless services can anticipate customer needs; how Services 4.0 has enabled workforce augmentation, and how the Accountancy Industry Digital Plan (IDP), unveiled in August this year, aims to boost the digitalisation efforts of small and medium-sized practices (SMPs). (Parts 1 to 3 were published in the July, August and September issues of this Journal.)

In this concluding article, we will focus on the human element, which is often the deciding factor in whether an organisation weathers disruption and emerges stronger to face the future. The human element is also the most crucial in an industry where individuals have always been central to the practice, such as the accountancy sector.

While there are ever-changing innovations, such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence (AI), humans need to keep up with these emerging technologies and adopt new digital tools to effect change. Hence, a mindset change is in order. Individuals have to be open to reskilling and upskilling to stay relevant, and improving their technology literacy should be pivotal in their skills upgrading journey.

THE RIGHT COURSES FOR THE RIGHT SKILLS

The good news is, ISCA has developed the ISCA Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Framework and Learning Roadmap to help PAIBs better understand the different competencies required to harness the opportunities ahead.

Similarly, for audit professionals working in SMPs, the ISCA SMP Learning Roadmap seeks to fulfil their professional development training needs.

For PAIBs

In 2018, ISCA released the PAIB Framework, outlining the fundamental and distinctive qualities that PAIBs should possess in order to excel and stay ahead in today’s volatile economy.

The framework provides an overview of the five key DNAs of a PAIB, serving as a guide on the key competencies required. The five DNAs a PAIB should possess are: Future Finance, Business Acumen, Professional Values and Ethics, Technical Excellence, and Leadership and Personal Empowerment (Figure 1).

Figure 1 ISCA PAIB Framework

In tandem with the PAIB Framework, ISCA has also developed the PAIB Learning Roadmap to map out and recommend relevant training courses and learning opportunities. Spanning four proficiency levels – Foundational, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert – the Roadmap outlines the essential skills and available training programmes at each stage.

For audit professionals in SMPs

As part of ISCA’s ongoing efforts to support SMPs in the rapidly changing business world, the Institute developed the SMP Learning Roadmap in 2018 for professionals working in the external audit function. Based on the working levels and experiences of audit professionals in SMPs, the Roadmap presented a series of relevant competencies and skillsets. Do check out it out in order to better understand your competencies and find out more about the learning opportunities available to upskill and reskill.

In addition, digital skills and training courses under the SMP Centre are available to enhance technology literacy. For a start, here is a list of interesting and relevant courses that you may wish to consider (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Tech-related courses for audit professionals in SMPs

Blockchain: What Every Accountant & Auditor Should Know (Code: DGT030ET)
16 Oct 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Building Capabilities of Managing Personal Data Compliance (Code: DGT035)
31 Oct 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

A Hands-On Approach towards Data Analytics (for Accountants and Analysts) (Code: DGT039)
04 & 05 Nov 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Introduction to Blockchain Technology for Accounting and Finance Professionals (Code: DGT017)
14 Nov 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Accountant (Code: DGT031)
15 Nov 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Cyber Forensics and Cybersecurity for Decision Makers (Code: DGT008)
18 & 19 Nov 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Business Analytics for Strategic and Organisational Performance (Code: DGT010)
03 Dec 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Steps to Develop an Effective Cyber Security Strategy (Code: DGT002)
12 Dec 2019 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

Fintech Regulation in ASEAN (Code: DGT028)
13 Dec 2019 (9:00 AM - 12:30 PM)

Members who are interested in the courses can sign up at the ISCA website.

MEASURING A COMPANY’S DIGITAL MATURITY

As Singapore pushes ahead with digitalisation, employees will need to level up their digital skills to meet the expectations of their employers. By the same token, companies which are pushing ahead with digitalisation plans also need to better understand how digitally ready they are and the areas where they need to invest resources in to reap the benefits, such as productivity gains. To address this, Infocomm Media Development Authority conducted a study of companies across various sectors interested in digitalisation. The study measured their digital strengths and weaknesses and evaluated how well they performed against their global peers in digital capabilities.

Apart from the adoption of technology, companies are encouraged to look at various aspects of their digital maturity, including the following:

  • Business strategy driven by digital To look at an organisation’s vision, priorities and strategic roadmap;
  • Digitise the core Mainly through go-to-market, operations and support functions;
  • Changing ways of working Through corporate culture and governance as well as people improvement policies and training opportunities;
  • Leveraging the power of data and technology Data collection and governance, the use of advances like AI and the Internet of Things, and cybersecurity;
  • New digital growth Areas to consider include internal venture capital and incubator programmes, development of new digital products and services;
  • Integrating ecosystems Primarily in digital-related partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures.

MOVING FORWARD, STAYING AHEAD

Clear roadmaps and guidelines provide an unbiased measure of how prepared a company is to meet the challenges brought about by digital disruption. They provide a direction for companies to progress as they digitally transform for the new economy.

For many companies in the accountancy sector, such initiatives serve as useful landmarks on an important journey of change – a journey that is likely fraught with uncertainty and doubt. SMPs can count on resources such as the ISCA Learning Roadmaps for a clearer path ahead.

By focusing on enhancing the capabilities of the human element as well as taking a holistic view of digital transformation at the organisational level, the accountancy sector can adopt new practices and adapt for change.


This article was written by Infocomm Media Development Authority, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants and Singapore Accountancy Commission.