John Stokdyk reports on an encounter at the recent Sage Summit between ‘Future of the Professions’ author Daniel Susskind and six leading US practice development experts.
‘The Future of the Professions’, which paints a gloomy picture for eight professions that will be severely disrupted by artificial intelligence and automation in the next decade or so, has been causing ripples around the world since it was published earlier this year.
Father and son academics Richard and Daniel Susskind are regular fixtures on the international conference circuit, where masochistic professionals can’t get enough of the message that their jobs are about to be swept away by supercomputers and bots.
Daniel was on fine form at the end of July, when he spent the afternoon with 200 accountants and bookkeepers at the Sage Summit in Chicago. After presenting his initial findings, Susskind took part in an hour-long debate with some of the leading lights of on the US accountancy scene (pictured sitting above L-R, with Susskind second from right):
- Ron Baker, author of ‘Implementing Value Pricing’ and founder of the Versage Institute
- Gary Boomer, “Visionary and strategist” for Boomer Consulting.
- Garry Carter, chief executive of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
- William Nahum, French accountant and founder/chairman of the 65,000-strong L’Académie des Sciences et Techniques Comptables et Financières.
- Doug Sleeter, founder of The Sleeter Group
- Joe Woodard, Insightful Accountant publisher and host of the Scaling New Heights conference
To recap, the basic premise of ‘The Future of the Professions’ is that technology is being adopted within accountancy in two ways. The most immedatiate impact sees tech helping accountants to become more effective at what they currently do.
In the second scenario, technology is going beyond that. Accounting functions are moving away from bespoke services and being broken down into discrete tasks and activities. As more powerful machine-learning systems are applied to these tasks, computers will take on more and more of that workload.
“For now and in the mid-term we believe the two futures will develop in parallel. But in the long-term, the second future will dominate, and there will be a gradual dismantling of traditional professions," Susskind said.
His advice to concerned accountants was to start with a blank piece of paper and ask yourself how you could do things differently.
“Explore new roles and skills and capabilities and how you can learn them,” he told the Chicago audience. “Most importantly, change your mindset, always ask what part of my work can be undertaken alternatively. You can do things the way you always have done them, but you will be disappointed. Or you can be agnostic on how you solve a problem and think of alternatives.”
Agility trumps ability
As forward thinkers, most of the panellists were receptive to Susskind’s warnings and urged accountants to listen and adapt to his arguments.
“The drumbeat of technology is something that has been... register with AccountingWEB for free to read the rest of the article.
About John Stokdyk
AccountingWEB’s global editor has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.