Through a partnership with IBM, the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants is training CPAs on technology such as artificial intelligence and data science—and preparing them for a rapidly changing landscape.
Technology is changing the accounting profession rapidly, and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) is teaming up with IBM to prepare accounting and finance professionals to adapt and to help them guide their organizations’ digital transformation.
The partnership will deliver a series of e-learning courses in a cognitive learning format—including video and engaging exercises—on big data, data science, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cognitive computing, through IBM’s Big Data University. They will help accounting professionals apply insights derived from cognitive computing to solve complex financial problems.
Preparing members to adapt moves the profession from a historical rearview mirror perspective “to taking a driver’s seat in the data-driven economy,” said MACPA CEO Tom Hood.
MACPA got in touch with IBM to explore ways the association could be proactive. IBM offered to help by sharing its learning resources, customized for CPAs. “IBM will be able to keep it evergreen,” Hood said. “As an association, we could never afford the resources to stay on top of this emerging technology.”
“Data science and A.I. are transforming every industry, providing business professionals with deeper and more actionable insights, leading to better business decisions,” said Willie Tejada, IBM’s chief developer advocate, in a statement. “IBM is committed to providing students, professionals, and developers with the skills they need to leverage these new technologies.”
Organizations have to deal with more data than ever before, and accountants typically are the data custodians, but they’re not ready for all the changes, Hood said. He cited a 2014 study by the American Institute of CPAs [PDF] in which 92 percent of CPAs said they were not future ready.
Hood also mentioned a previous Associations Now article about robots replacing associations’ members—and said that’s what’s actually happening. “Machines are doing a ton of what accountants used to—with collecting and recording data, and moving the data from one system to another. That is all being automated at an alarming pace,” he said. “That’s making our CPAs and finance professionals very uncomfortable.”
Now, “instead of fearing this technology, they can learn how to flip it and use this technology in a very proactive, positive way,” Hood said.
In a survey of managing partners of major CPA firms, MACPA found that the technologies they believe will have the biggest impact in the next three years are big data analytics, adaptive and predictive cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing in audit and tax, virtualization and automation of processes and services, and blockchain.
A better understanding of these technologies will enable CPAs “to spend a lot more time analyzing data and providing insight to the business so the business can make better decisions,” Hood said. This will help MACPA members add value to their role as professionals, he noted.
The initiative will launch June 26 at MACPA’s annual meeting. The courses will be available through MACPA’s learning and innovation subsidiary, the Business Learning Institute, which serves CPAs and finance and accounting professionals around the world.
By partnering with IBM, MACPA is connecting with an industry disruptor. “I think this idea of associations partnering with disruptors or innovators is going to be more critical in the future,” Hood said. “As the association community, we just can’t move at the speed of some of these major corporations. We have to learn how we can collaborate for the benefit of our members.”