Developing your digital literacy
ICAS CPD partner, BPP, presents its latest portfolio of tech-based courses to help CAs stay abreast of their ever-changing roles. Julie Burniston speaks to two expert trainers to discover more
The need for CAs to develop their digital skills has never been more important. As technology continues to evolve, the automation of many traditional elements of accountancy has fundamentally changed the way we do business. A measure of digital literacy is now a key skillset requirement for existing and future CAs.
Being digitally savvy allows an accountant to ask the right questions of the data, interpreting the detail and relating it to financial performance; to apply critical thinking, using professional scepticism to evaluate and interpret the results; to apply technical knowledge and project management skills to work more effectively with others; and, ultimately, to understand the business and be able to present and communicate key messages effectively to an audience.
“These days it’s almost impossible for an accountant to do their job well unless they keep on top of digital, IT and financial modelling skills,” says David Marlow, Program Manager, Financial Modelling, BPP. “Clearly if you’re in an industry like finance where there’s a huge amount of data and number crunching, no one is doing that on a calculator anymore. It’s all happening as part of your finance system, and you have to know how to utilise and make the most of it.”
With the world of IT moving at such rapid pace, the courses provided by BPP provide the perfect opportunity for CAs to upskill and take away priceless information. “Most people are only scratching the surface of what technology is capable of,” Marlow continues. “My speciality is Excel, and in finance that’s massively important. But as a tool Excel will only do so much if you don’t understand how it really works. It always amazes me how, after attending a BPP course, people say if only they’d had the skills years ago, they could have done their job four times faster.”
An employee with strong digital skills certainly has advantages for their organisation. Upskilled staff not only save precious time but contribute to reducing operating costs, identifying savings and efficiencies, minimising risk, boosting profit and increasing revenue streams, optimising decision-making and business performance, and identifying patterns and trends.
“Things are changing so quickly, and people need to try to keep up to date with what’s happening so they can make the most of it,” says Marlow. “The beauty of the BPP courses is that there is something for everyone. Going back to Excel, for someone with minimal experience we offer the one-day intro to Excel to get them started. They are then able to move on to the two-day Financial Modelling Comprehensive course, followed by the two-day Financial Modelling Advanced course. So there is a pathway for all.”
Pratish Sharma is a Course Presenter for BPP. With a background in tech, HR, and finance systems, databases and data management systems, he acknowledges just how important continued training is.
“The world is now data driven,” he says. “As a society we are generating copious amounts of data all the time, and accountants, in particular, need to carefully consider and acquire data strategically. The finance world has seen a sharp increase in the demand for digital skills and everyone in the sector appears to be jumping on anything that could provide them with an advantage over their competitors. That’s why we are offering the tools and skills within our courses to allow ICAS members to stay one step ahead.”
Sharma applauds accountants’ willingness to adapt to new ways of working: “They know that if they don’t it’s going to be very challenging to keep up with today’s market. I see what people are facing in their roles on a daily basis, so the courses I have created and deliver give people skills which will positively impact the work they do.”
With an extensive portfolio available, delegates can pick and choose what is relevant for them, with a full breakdown of the course and any prerequisites clearly stated on the website.
“Every few years there seems to be a new trend, so as a researcher I get in touch with big entities to find out which problems are relevant right now and then create the tools to solve them. This year we have modules covering forecasting, predictive modelling, future focus, data analysis and mastering financial spreadsheets. They help us answer important questions like, ‘What would happen if we were to do x, and how could I use that to advise the board?’ That helps drive decision making for any business, and the skills we offer will put delegates streets ahead of our competitors.”
Learn more about BPP’s new suite of courses for ICAS members and other business professionals