The accountant's guide to a career in technology. By John Stokdyk

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When he recently asked in an AccountingWEB opinion article, Why aren't there more accountants in IT?, Microsoft's Tim Lennard began by suggesting there was a potential surplus of talent within the profession that could be more gainfully employed in the technology business.

One of the reasons Lennard's article was so popular was that it managed to provoke reactions from both sides of the fence. Several IT industry veterans dropped into the conversation to describe their front-line experiences, while technophobes highlighted some of the reasons not to go into IT. The discussion provided both practical career advice, and a discourse on the differing nature of the two professions. This article summarises some of the key issues raised.

For a company that has made no secret of its...

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By Anonymous
20th Feb 2007 08:06

Automation Departments .....
In my experience Automation groups in the large practices used to serve an interesting role. They were actually neither 'fish nor fowl' and were positioned between the User base and the IT department; as such they adhered to neither discipline and yet seem to have complete autonomy in areas outside their sphere of expertise whilst maintaining a 'Teflon coating' with any mishaps

Maybe matters have changed over the last few years, however they used to have considerable input on the direction of IT and yet seem to have only the superficial knowlegde to skirt across the surface of the subject without addressing matters in any real depth. Their role seemed to be that of a pseudo consultant within the business and were prime targets for any software sales force to 'cosy up' to.

In fact some of the worst decisions ever come across emanated from the Automation Departments - such things as writing their own utility software for distribution over the firm (outside the IT department control) were real horror stories and yet they remained unaccountable

Just one example of credibility
Many years ago when data safes were all the rage, an Automation Department in one of the current big 4 insisted that all Fee Earning Departments acquire a safe for on-site backup storage. When the head of the Automation Department (a partner) was asked by some IT 'wag' if the safe should be a DOS or Windows safe he was completely stumped for an answer !

Using both disciplines in conjunction provides enormous scope but for goodness sake maintain credibility by knowing the subject

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17th Feb 2007 11:42

"...IT is a engineering profession.." - I don't agree!
Whilst there are aspects of the IT profession that are engineering based I do believe that the profession has a much broader base. If you speak to many CIO's of the larger businesses they will tell you that it really about change management. Many different skills are required at many different levels and across many different specialisms - a complex matrix.

Take at look at the programme being run by an alliance of those with a role to play in professionalising IT at

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19th Feb 2007 09:58

Opportunities for accountants with IT appreciation
There is enormous scope for accountants to use technology more effectively and to influence the way others do so. This doesn't necessarily require accountants to become IT professionals, and there are many opportunities that straddle the dividing line between the two professions. My past positions directing UK tax technology at KPMG and later at PwC and my new role as non-executive chairman of Tax Automation Limited arose because I am an accountant who understands the IT needs of accountants and tax specialists. In the course of my work at ICAS, I see many practising accountants who grasped the nettle of online filing at an early stage and are already reaping competitive advantages. In similar vein, accountants in large businesses can benefit now from ensuring that their IT-based accounting and tax systems meet the demands of HMRC's developing approach on risk assessment, and they might also be wise to heed the OECD's current work that encourages online audit by tax authorities.

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17th Feb 2007 11:41

quote "..Tim's argument is just plain wrong.."
Let's be clear, I only believe Tim is wrong in the asumption that there are too many qaulified accountants being trained.

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By DonL
16th Feb 2007 20:08

Experience of IT and Accounting
I have recently retired after 40 years in IT, but I started as a a qualified Management Accountant and finished as a MSc in Advanced Computer Science. The accountancy training helped when managing IT functions and when in a consultancy role. However, it was of little use when going into the depths of the technical aspects of IT such as Operating Systems and networking.

Hurst has it about right at the more senior level, but IT and Accountancy are different disciplines with their own skills, techniques and methods. IT is an engineering profession and IT professionals would find it difficult to be Accountancy professionals and the reverse is true.

I was lucky IT was in its infancy when I changed over. Now you have to learn engineering disciplines-not just application use such as setting up spreadsheets!

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By Anonymous
16th Feb 2007 16:27

It is very hard to make the jump into IT
IT professionals consider me to be Finance and Finance Staff consider me to be IT. I am a Finance Business Systems Analyst, employed in the Finance department.
I need to gain experience of two full projects for IT professionals to consider me for a Project role, but this is almost impossible to gain.

You have to be in the right place at the right time to make the switch

I currently act as the gap between IT and Finance but I want to get more into IT but it’s hard to get the opportunities. It has taken me a long time to get this far, maybe the next role will be more IT based servicing Finance rather than Finance based negotiating with IT! Fingers crossed.

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