TECHNOLOGY IN THE NEW DECADE: Corporations Will Need to Adapt Processes and Train Staff to Keep Up with the Pace of Technological Change in the Coming Years

By Koch, Rod | Strategic Finance, March 2020 | Go to article overview

TECHNOLOGY IN THE NEW DECADE: Corporations Will Need to Adapt Processes and Train Staff to Keep Up with the Pace of Technological Change in the Coming Years


Koch, Rod, Strategic Finance


Welcome to the new decade! What challenges do you anticipate in the next 10 years? Many prognosticators anticipate vast changes in the workplace, especially in the fields of accounting and finance. In the next 10 years, automation of many financial functions is expected to take place, reducing the need for humans to perform many of these accounting tasks. One of the key challenges of the new decade, then, is expected to be retraining accounting and finance workers. They'll need to work cooperatively with advanced technology and improve their critical thinking and communication skills in order to survive and thrive in this new world order. While predicting the future is an error-prone process, it's important to understand the impacts of the changing technology landscape and how these will influence our profession in the coming decade.

Robotic process automation (RPA) presents many opportunities for automating existing processes at a low learning curve and cost compared to more highly touted technological advances. Recently, I was at the local business office of a Fortune Global 500 corporation for a meeting when I saw a posted announcement that it would be celebrating its one millionth automated task running that week. Supposing each task formerly took a person on average five minutes to execute manually, that means this company has automated more than 80,000 hours of work. Even if we assume that additional human hours were needed to implement and maintain this level of automation, a conservative estimate is that 25 to 30 person-years of work have been saved. As other technologies mature and integrate with RPA, many large corporations are already achieving quick wins and short-term benefits while laying the groundwork for even larger benefits, such as increased integration with existing enterprise workflows and eventually automatic process learning.

Intelligent process automation (IPA) takes RPA and integrates it with AI, workflow, data, natural language recognition, and other technologies to automate tasks formerly achievable only by a human being. While this blend of RPA and other technologies is still in its early stages, it's positioned to advance quickly and become a standard tool used by all major businesses by 2030.

Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are everywhere. From our watches and Fitbits to the factory floor, data is collected about our and our machinery's every movement. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2025, there will be 175 zettabytes of data worldwide, with an annual growth rate of 61%. While over the next 10 years new data sources and volumes will continue to proliferate, the larger challenges will be harvesting that data and dealing with the privacy, security, and ethical considerations. Management accountants will have more data than ever to help them mold strategy and make key decisions while still benefiting society and respecting individual autonomy.

AI and machine learning require Big Data to train their models to predict best outcomes and optimize decision making. Today, large corporations are using AI to predict future outcomes and drive processes to increase the probability of those beneficial outcomes. It will become increasingly important for humans to become comfortable with AI tools. By 2025, IDC forecasts that 75% of organizations will be investing in retraining their employees to make this adjustment. The speed with which AI technology is coming online increases concerns with the ethical use of technology and its impact on the workforce. …

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