CEO Bruce Cartwright CA on embedding technology at the heart of ICAS
Embedding technology at the heart of ICAS, including its education and training, will prepare the profession for digital and hybrid futures, says CEO Bruce Cartwright CA
Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. And, during the pandemic, we’ve all been at the cusp of that wave. In many ways, the pandemic has been a test of just how digitally savvy we’ve become as a society, both in our professional and personal lives. It’s that level of technological sophistication that facilitated lockdowns, without bringing economies to ruin. Our key workers were at the forefront of fighting the pandemic and we rightly applaud their herculean work. But in providing a platform for business to continue, we also recognise the underpinning digital architecture, including high-speed internet, video-conferencing and the cloud.
For CAs, technology is especially transformative – something ICAS President Bruce Pritchard CA explores in more detail on later in this issue. By automating many of the time-consuming manual tasks that once defined our role in the public eye, our time has been freed up to concentrate on work that leverages our skills and adds value to businesses. Now, at the touch of a button, thousands of transactions can be analysed at once, bringing to light trends that may otherwise have taken weeks to identify. But, as Bruce warns, CAs must also understand how the technology we use works and remain vigilant of its limitations. Software is a tool rather than an answer.
At ICAS, technology is transforming how we operate as both educator and organisation. It is vital that the CA qualification evolves alongside technology so we can ensure future generations of CAs are well prepared for the world of business, and the profession maintains its well-earned reputation for excellence. CAs do not need to become experts in technology, unless it is their specialism, but even a little working knowledge goes a long way to enabling us to perform to our best. The CA qualification shines when it provides a foundation on which professionals can build long and fulfilling careers in their chosen sector, helping to push businesses forward.
We continually review the qualification to ensure it stays timely and relevant for students. We have added technology-related content across the syllabus. And, in particular, a new course, Risk and Technology, was added at the TPS level so that students are aware of the evolving demands on accountants. The course assesses students on technology risk, automation, disruptive technologies and IT strategy. It’s the first time we have specifically taught CA students how to use data tools, perform data cleansing and how best to work with technology experts.
Staying on top
The delivery of training at ICAS has evolved, too. In September, we launched a blended learning model that combines online and classroom experiences. It means students will have more freedom to learn in their own time and in a space of their choosing. As we can all remember, being a trainee CA is an incredibly busy time in one’s life – and blended learning will offer more flexibility to those looking to juggle their many commitments. Some of the new learning assets include interactive notes, podcasts and animations. And, as a prime example, Risk and Technology is delivered entirely online – another first for ICAS.
The true value of technology is in simplifying the things that drain time, energy and resource.
ICAS, as an organisation, must also incorporate best practice in technology in its operations. I joined as CEO in 2018. It was an exciting time to step into the role as a digital transformation programme was already under way. The adoption of state-of-the-art Microsoft Dynamics as our CRM platform took us into the cloud. It allowed us to pull together operations from our various departments and centralise them in one place. It meant we could begin asking detailed questions about how working practices could be improved. By the time Covid escalated in the UK in early 2020, we had already done much of the groundwork to adapt to a fully digital way of working and, eventually, the arrival of hybrid working too.
Going forward, our goal at ICAS is to use the technology we have invested in to make the member experience as streamlined and satisfying as possible. We have already made it simpler to identify and get in touch with the most relevant members of staff for any enquiry, reducing the number of points of contact and improving the speed of response. Now, we want to use our sophisticated data insight tools to personalise the information and services that you receive. By learning more about our members – what each person finds particularly interesting or useful – we will be able to share information and services that better meet individual needs. It’s a level of service we are coming to expect from the private sector and, as a membership organisation, ICAS should be no different.
I have always believed that simplifying a process is a good thing. It’s not simply a case of creating efficiencies – it’s about creating the room to do more things that add value. It’s where I see a parallel between ICAS and the experience that our members are having at the moment. For all of us, the true value of technology is in simplifying the things that drain time, energy and resource. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we want to support our members along that journey, shaping the future of accountancy at an individual level and as an organisation that operates at the cutting-edge.
Read the latest edition of the ICAS corporate plan.