By Todd Shapiro, president and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society
To be an organization of the future, you need to be in the future. Those are interesting words to live by, but I don’t think the CPA profession has many alternatives. Accounting and finance will see significant, if not revolutionary, changes over the next five to 10 years. Technology is changing rapidly with the expansion of artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and big data. We’re also witnessing a changing workforce and, with it, changing expectations as baby boomers rapidly retire and millennials and Gen Zers become dominant in the workplace.
We at the Illinois CPA Society have been studying the trends dictating the future, specifically with regards to ensuring the relevance of the CPA profession. We’ve looked at the trends mentioned above, as well as those driving hiring at accounting firms, what firms and companies are expecting from their accounting professionals, and who is (and who isn’t) pursuing the CPA credential. We’ve previously discussed some of these topics in our Insight Special Feature, “Trust Is Not Enough,” and articles like “Becoming a Firm of the Future.” But what we haven’t yet shared is the outcome of our full-day Illinois CPA Society Board of Directors retreat to discuss all of these trends and more. The culmination of our examination to date is the development of our “CPA Profession 2027” outlook, which we hope will serve as a beacon for which we, as a profession, can chart a course to the future. We’ll soon issue a new Insight Special Feature with more details behind our outlook, but here are some of our predictions to ponder now:
- Tech takes over – RPA and AI are utilized in every function a CPA performs
- Firms evolve – With audit and tax automated, firms will focus on strategic planning and insight
- Finance evolves – Corporate finance teams will focus on interpreting data to drive profitability
- Workers evolve – The talent pool will be digitally agile, demand greater flexibility, and be socially conscious
- CPA numbers fall – There will be significantly fewer CPAs than in 2019 when there were 650,000
The question firms and finance organizations face now is how to ensure they’re part of the future. I’m always struck by the number of prominent Illinois firms that end up being merged into larger out-of-state firms. The fact is, if we don’t proactively plan for the future, we risk not being part of it. I received a call last winter from a firm that asked for help becoming a firm of the future after reading our Insight article. Subsequently, we sat down for about 90 minutes to discuss the key trends they’ll be facing. That experience got me thinking about how the Society needs to do more than just developing a future vision for the profession. We need to help firms and organizations develop strategic plans and roadmaps to become organizations that survive and thrive in the future.
Fast forward to the Society’s launch of its new Strategic Planning Service tailored to public accounting firms and corporate finance organizations. Using a proven methodology, the Society will work with your organization to develop a bold future vision and strategic roadmap to get you there. The day-long process includes facilitated interactive sessions that will help your leadership team reflect on the past, think strategically about the future, and prioritize realistic and actionable steps to move forward together. Throughout the session, participants share diverse viewpoints, ask tough questions, challenge assumptions, identify points of insight, and build consensus—all with the focus of becoming future ready. The outcome is a plan that is strategic, actionable, and achievable. Please email me if you’d like to learn more about this new service from your Illinois CPA Society. Now, on to the future!
Todd Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society
This original article was published by the Illinois CPA Society
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