Professional Accountants in Digital Age

Dr. D. Mukhopadhyay
Emergence and existence of Accounting Profession dates back monetary Economics as the science of measurement. This refers to the age of barter system of or the era of barter economy when market used to transact in goods for goods. The distinct character of the economic transactions were based on pre-determined by measurement and values. Accounting as the modern science of income and efficiency measurement has been playing a pivotal role in transaction measurement in terms value measured in terms of a valid and generally acceptable currency. There are three epoch-making inventions of mankind and one of which is coin being the symbol of measurement in terms of value or utility possessed by a particular goods or service and Accountancy started to evolve and reached to gain the current status of the elitism and emerged as the backbone of management information system and as a science of financial and quantitative analysis for guiding the management of an organization in the sphere of decision making with regard to strategy formulations, monitoring by the middle level and execution at operational levels management. Business organizations are influenced by paradigm shift in the process of day-to-day management of commercial affairs. The management of any organization cannot function without taking the help of technology and it is wiser to state that today’s management is technology driven. Efficiency, effectiveness and economy are the three driving principles by which a modern business achieves excellence in sustainability under currently volatile economic environment and this happens to be possible with the sustained use of technology. Today’s business has found the strength of its success by providing ceaseless satisfaction to the customers in the place of practicing classical model of mass selling. Competition is the order of the day. Initially any business operating in ”Blue Ocean” which turns into ” Red Ocean” down the line and ” Blue ” hardly remain blue but it gets converted into red when more and more business players flock to the ”Blue Ocean”. Under the given circumstances, a business requires accurate, reliable comprehensive and efficient information for the purpose of effective decision making . The quality of information is dependent of certain important variables that include timeliness, relevance, and authenticity and the Science of Accounting takes care of responsibility to provide meaningful and significant information in the form of different kinds of reports both to the internal as well as external stakeholders of the business. Here, the Professional Accountants through practice of Accountancy Profession has been playing a significant role in managing resources both at micro as well macro levels in any economy. In India as well as most the countries in world, there are two types Professional Accountants and they are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) or Chartered Accountants (CAs) and Cost & Management Accountants (CMAs) or Chartered Management Accountants (CMAs) as the case may be. More particularly, in India Professionals Accountants are Chartered Accountants (CAs) and Cost & Management Accountants (CMAs) who are essentially the Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India(ICAI) and the Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI) respectively. Both CAs and CMAs render their expertise and professional services either in employment or practice. CAs practice in Financial Audit, Financial Accounting and Taxation whereas CMAs practice in Cost Audit, Cost & Management Accounting and Taxation. Both CAs and CMAs are mandated by various Indian Laws and Statutes to practice as Statutory Auditors in their earmarked professional domains. These Professionals discharge their responsibilities either as Auditor or Auditee and whatever capacity they render their services, they are bound by Statutory Code of Conduct and Rules thereof and as such they must ensure that their Professional Judgments delivered through the vehicles of reports statements and certificates etc. are error-free and unbiased.
Reliability, integrity, due-diligence and authenticity are the foundational principles for rendering Professional Services to the society at large. Organizations they serve are their customers and it is obligatory to keep pace along with the dynamic technological changes and the latest technology the customers are equipped with in order to enable them to remain relevant, updated and proficient in their Professions. It is a must that Professional Accountants are imperatively required to remain well conversant with technologies as Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Block chain Technology and Cyber Security. Artificial Intelligence enables a computer perform intelligently an analysis and assist in decision making in the same way as an intelligent human being can act. It is of course a intangible phenomenon and attributed with reasoning, learning , perceiving, problem solving and linguistic intelligence. Artificial Intelligence can help the Professional Accountants in the process of interpreting voluminous legal contracts and deeds in no time. It also helps in risk assessment and detecting frauds and errors. Satoshi Nakamoto may be considered to be the father of Block chain technology which is founded on the concepts of assets and records that are decentralized and immutable having timeless access beyond the geographical circumference . Due diligence and reasonable care and skill are expected to be exercised by the Professional Accountants as they deal with large chunk of financial data which seem to be very sensitive and certain threats in the form of ”Phishing”, ”Man in the Middle Attack”, ”Advance Persistence Threat”, “Social Engineering”, ”Spooling Attack”, ”Shoulder Surfing”, ” Key Logger”, etc. are very risky impact on the career of a Professional Accountant. Future practice of the Professional Accountants shall be totally technology driven compliances and days are not far off when government will mandate the CAs and CMAs for technology audit and certifications and they should keep and make them readily available to in order to accept the challenges to be offered by the digital India and digital technology driven business and economic environment in the forthcoming days. With digitization, business organizations are constantly moving forward to adopt automated controls from manual command and controlling mechanism.
The Auditors(Statutory Financial Auditors & Statutory Cost Auditors) are required to assess the degree of effectiveness of the prevailing control mechanism and the Auditors entrusted with the responsibilities to review the functional control and command mechanism can hardly use manual methods and therefore it is necessary to update and sharpen audit tools and techniques in order to assess the degree of efficiency of automated controls.
A 2016 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Global Survey placed on view that the firms that adopted digitization business management methodology on an average achieved a 55% increase in gross margin over a three year period of time . On the contrary, the firms who were passive in adopting digital technology solutions generated on an average 37% growth during the same period. It seems to be judicious to quote John Chambers, former CEO and current Chairman of CISCO Systems as such “At least 40% off all business will die in next 10 years if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.” Adoption of contemporary technology in general and digital technology in particular is a must in order to enjoy competitive advantage in the market whatever kind of market it may be. It may be mentioned that innovation should get top priority in any field but Accounting Professionals still seem to be remaining back seated by virtue of legacy systems and practicing conservative approach in delivery mechanism. It is very important to make the league of Professional Accountants function to make the digital transaction as historical data under legacy systems do possess hardly any significance in policy making and strategy formulations. Today’s Professional Accountants are strategic business partner and they are simply not number crunchers but bean growers too and not just controllers of finance but strategy formulators and digital transformation needs to be driven by the Professional Accountants all over the world. Timely decision making , collaboration in the place of unique isolation and simplicity instead of complexity are the key success variables that play a meaningful role in bringing about overall success in terms of efficiency, productivity and profitability in any organization. The Professional Accountants are to proactively guide the industry houses with regard to four ‘ Ws’ i. e. where do we want to see ourselves in forthcoming five to ten years of time down the line, what business should we be in, why technology will final call in the place of manual controls and which part of the world we should operate in and answers to these four ‘Ws’ would lead a firm to cause improvement in efficiency, productivity and, of course, profitability as it has been mentioned elsewhere of the write up. Adoption of new technology is expected to cause improvement in operational performance and cost reduction and it is likely to boost up financial performance on final count.
It is the sustainability that makes a firm exist in the map of world trade, industry and commerce which is the resultant outcome of dealing judiciously with the critical success factors under technology driven business environment. The Professional Accountants must be technology savvy in order to maintain their sustainable presence as the value creators for the clients as well as the employers to who they do serve. They are recommended to change their approach to work, modify , update and improve their performance keeping pace with the changes in the technology. Earlier they adopt digital technology, better their career prospect as the Professional Accountants. It is the era of digital age and therefore nobody can sustain survive without being equipped with the essence of digitization.