Counting beans in the 4IR
Being a chartered accountant in a time when the world is going through unprecedented changes is colourful, to say the least. On the one hand, technology is rapidly advancing and challenging what it means to be relevant in the workplace and on the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has shocked industries into a ‘new normal’ which is strangely not normal.
A time of uncertainty may bring opportunity to those who are well positioned to grab it, but times of uncertainty often trigger a state of confusion or loss for those who may not be so fortunate. Chartered accountants are equipped with a wide range of skills and expertise and have excelled in diverse industries and roles in the workplace. However, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or 4IR as it is popularly referred to) raises some interesting questions about what it means to be a ‘bean counter’ in the 4IR.
The running joke in some finance circles is that accountants are no more than bean counters. This may be open to interpretation, but the general meaning of this expression is that accountants are only capable of one skill set, which is accounting. This stereotype may be extended in some way to chartered accountants by association, given that financial accounting is the hallmark of the profession.
Bean counting in the 4IR requires a combination of business and digital acumen to navigate technological advancements and create sustainable value. Data presents a new lens on the factors which drive the financial growth of businesses. Analysis of data makes it possible to establish relationships between various drivers of business performance and this uncovers opportunities for innovations that are critical for enhanced growth. Technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and cloud computing are essential for a new status quo of efficiency in business processes, and it is essential for any professional who contributes to business strategy and business transformation to have an idea of how these technologies work.
Disruption is a popular buzzword in the 4IR but may be misunderstood in the context of digital innovation in the workplace. Digital disruption is one of the defining characteristics of the 4IR which comes from the capability of new and emerging technologies to drive value creation in much more impactful ways. Corporates are increasingly establishing teams and dedicating resources to drive digital innovation more aggressively in order to keep up with the pace of digital disruption which is changing the landscape across various industries.
The general belief for quite some time has been that understanding and working with technology is a task that should be the concern of technology professionals only, but recent trends show that even finance professionals need to be clued up about what goes on in the world of technology. Technology and commerce are the perfect combination for business growth in the 4IR. Chartered accountants have the unique ability to acquire digital acumen and combine it with their existing business acumen in order to drive value creation. All factors considered, counting beans in the 4IR sounds like an exciting challenge.