Future Skills of Accountants – Data Science? Coding? It depends…

In his blog our CEO shares personal insights from a career in accounting and tech 

When considering future skills, we often hear that accountants in practice need to become proficient in areas such as data science and coding. But is that true? 

It depends. 

At a firm level, it’s a choice. The Big 4 are heavily promoting their drives to recruit 100s of data scientists and technology experts. Headline grabbing press releases are commonplace. 

But that’s because of their strategy to build technology in-house, coupled with the challenges in their business they are yet to fully solve. They need big technology teams to build proprietary solutions which are marketable to clients. They need big teams of data scientists in their business or shared service centres to handle the wrangling of data from a client’s system to their technology. 

If the client is only ever going to see you sat stationary in the car, make the chassis look incredible and worry about the engine later… 

But for firms outside of the Big 4, building in-house is rarely attractive – for many reasons. It’s quite rare now as even the largest commonly acknowledge that any perceived competitive advantage is significantly outweighed by the build cost, lead time and maintenance bill. Especially with the increased availability of specialist third-party solutions.  

So, this changes the narrative for the profession at large. Little need for technology experts to build. And, depending on technology choice, potentially no need for data scientists for data wrangling 

This is reflected in the education work we’re doing at Inflo with ICAEW. Our efforts are to teach skills like interpretation – what is this visualisation telling me and how does it apply in an audit, tax or corporate reporting setting? 

There is also a focus on data knowledge underpinning this. Things like understanding the checks and balances needed to ensure reliable, accurate data for analysis. And the ways data can be manipulated by humans through the process. 

But we’re teaching accountants the skills to be able to drive the car, quickly. Engine and everything. Not teaching them how to build every component of the car from the ground up. 

And for that reason, the future accountant will learn the skills they need to be successful from… The future accounting qualification. 

So, what are the key skills accountants in practice need to become proficient in? That’s for another time, or probably a conference near you this year… 

Join our on demand  webinar to hear 3 case studies from firms of various sizes regarding their technology journey. Run in partnership with ICAEW but free to non-members too.  

Mark Edmondson

Inflo President & CEO