By Derek Mutiso
Begin Your Journey to Mastering the Latest Industry Skills
Learning is an inherent part of human growth and development, akin to the nourishment that food provides to our bodies. It shapes our minds and enhances our cognitive abilities. In the contemporary world, with its frenetic pace of change, continuous learning is a crucial tool for both individuals and organizations.
By facilitating the acquisition of critical thinking skills and fostering adaptability to diverse cultures, learning equips us to navigate the uncertainties of life with greater ease. We encounter change in multiple facets of our existence, including our professional and personal lives, communities, and workplaces. To deal with these challenges effectively, lifelong learning has proven to be one of the most effective strategies. It equips us with the skills and knowledge to keep up with the rapidly changing world and remain relevant in our chosen fields.
The American National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives recently published a report on its official website, highlighting a noteworthy trend in the accounting industry. The report indicates that CPA firms in the USA are increasingly hiring non-accountants, a significant shift in the industry’s traditional recruitment strategy. This change can be attributed to skill gaps among accountants, especially in the areas of data analysis and technology.
The report goes on to suggest that advancements in accounting technology have created a demand for individuals proficient in emerging technologies such as cloud computing, automated accounting, and blockchain. As the industry continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly important for accounting professionals to possess a diverse range of skills and stay abreast of new technological developments to remain competitive in the job market.
This was echoed in an excerpt from the “Accounting Today” magazine which quoted an accounting professor from Portland State University who said: “From an accounting perspective, more and more businesses are automating routine accounting functions, often carrying out the work in off-site or off-shore shared service centres. All of this means students will not enter the workforce and perform routine accounting…Employers will instead expect them to analyze and interpret the output from automated processing…This will fundamentally change expectations for entry-level staff and the way new accountants learn on the job. Therefore, faculties need to start rethinking their curriculum.”
In the fast-paced world of business today, accounting professionals must keep their skills sharp and adapt to the ever-evolving needs of the workplace. It’s no longer just about crunching numbers, but also about embracing the latest technologies that are reshaping the industry. To unlock new opportunities and play a pivotal role in the accounting profession, upskilling is crucial. While e-commerce and supply chain technologies have been in the spotlight lately, the landscape is changing rapidly, and advanced technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are now taking center stage. Accountants must be prepared to ride this wave of transformation. Online courses offer a valuable source of cutting-edge knowledge and skills, improving job satisfaction and opening doors to new opportunities with higher pay.
So far, this year is proving to be a challenging one for cybersecurity teams around the world. Recent cyber-attacks have targeted governments, manufacturers, healthcare facilities, and other major institutions in several different countries. In 2021, cyber experts from www.cybersecurityventures.com reported that “If it were measured as a country, then cybercrime — which is predicted to inflict damages totaling $6 trillion globally in 2021 — would be the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China.”
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that the costs of global cybercrime will continue to rise, with an estimated annual growth of 15 percent over the next five years. By 2025, it is projected to reach $10.5 trillion annually, representing the largest transfer of economic wealth in history. These statistics highlight the alarming increase in cybercrime and the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard against such threats.
In the accounting world, cyber-threats can come in various forms, such as; phishing scams, ransomware attacks, data breaches, insider threats, and regulatory noncompliance. These threats can either originate from external malicious actors or internally from employees, contractors, and vendors.
Cybersecurity is something that all companies should take seriously, but accounting firms need to be extra vigilant. The consequences of cyber-attacks can be severe, including loss of sensitive client information, financial fraud, and reputational damage to the accounting firm. The increasing reliance on technology in accounting practices has expanded the attack surface for cybercriminals, making accounting firms more vulnerable to breaches and attacks.
To effectively combat these threats, some accounting firms have implemented proactive cybersecurity measures. These include technological measures such as patch management, system hardening, multifactor authentication, and threat detection strategies. It is equally crucial to address the human factor in cybersecurity. This involves providing regular security awareness training, developing incident response plans, strengthening passwords, and conducting regular system backups.
Individually, accountants play a crucial role in safeguarding their organizations against cybersecurity threats as well. In the past, corporations have lost millions of dollars in email-phishing attacks directed at their accountants’ email accounts. Cyber security courses are designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively manage cybersecurity risks and protect your organization from cyber threats. From understanding the importance of cybersecurity to developing a security mindset, these courses cover key topics that are relevant for accountants in the modern business environment.
www.aicpa-cima.com is a website that offers a cybersecurity course tailored specifically for accounting professionals. The course is titled Cybersecurity Fundamentals for Finance and Accounting Professionals Certificate and the course instructor is Joyce Shen.
Data analytics is another area of study that has become increasingly vital in today’s business landscape, due to the abundance of data available to organizations. This data presents immense opportunities to identify and achieve business objectives efficiently. Understanding how to access and utilize data effectively has become crucial for businesses and professionals alike.
One way to develop data analytics skills is by enrolling in an online course, such as “Data Science for Business” offered as part of the Harvard on Digital Learning Path through HBS (Harvard Business School) Online course platform. This course equips learners with the tools and techniques needed to harness the power of data-driven decision-making and build better business solutions. It can be accessed at this address: https://online.hbs.edu/courses/business-analytics .
The course is designed to provide real-world examples from experts in leading organizations, using case studies and hands-on exercises. Participants will learn how to build a framework for data-driven decision-making in their organizations, identify trends in data that lead to insights, identify and rectify data mistakes or missing components, and effectively communicate and collaborate with data analysts and scientists.
The course covers:
- Developing a foundational understanding of data science tools, processes, and models, using business analytics and data science for decision-making.
- Avoiding common mistakes in interpreting datasets, metrics, and visualizations, creating a data-driven framework for organizations and individuals.
- Speaking the language of data scientists.
It also teaches learners how to put key data analysis techniques into practice. They include:
- Data curation.
- Regression models.
- Prediction and analyses.
Additionally, learners will learn to read basic code to understand the syntax used in data requests. They also study applicable methodologies in statistics, data analytics, and data science through real-world examples across industries and business challenges.
By the end of the course, participants will be well-prepared to utilize data effectively in making informed business decisions, leading to organizational success. This online course offers the convenience of self-paced learning and provides a comprehensive understanding of data analytics, making it an ideal choice for accountants and other business professionals who seek to enhance their skills in today’s data-driven business environment.
IT Audit and Control
As businesses increasingly rely on technology for their operations and financial processes, the need for professionals who can effectively audit and control IT systems has become paramount. Despite their numerous advantages, the rise of pioneering information systems like electronic banks, Financial Technology (Fintech), and Big Data has raised questions about cyber threats, data breaches, and regulatory compliance requirements. Organizations now need skilled IT auditors who can identify potential risks, assess controls, and ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of their critical IT assets.
Ensuring that organizations’ systems are functioning effectively is paramount, and IT auditors play a pivotal role in addressing this need. IT auditors are responsible for evaluating and verifying the performance of IT systems, ensuring that they align with management’s intended objectives and expectations.
By enrolling in an IT audit and control course, you can gain the useful knowledge and skills required to assess IT systems, conduct risk assessments, evaluate controls, and make recommendations for improvement. The best courses cover various critical topics, including information security (INFOSEC), IT management, audit, risk management, and change management. By participating in these courses, you can deepen your understanding of these areas and enhance your ability to effectively assess and evaluate IT systems in any organization.
Some courses may also offer certifications such as Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), which can add value to professional credentials and enhance marketability. Achieving these certifications can demonstrate expertise and proficiency in IT audit and control, further enhancing career opportunities in this field. By completing online courses in IT audit and control, individuals can expand their knowledge and skills, positioning themselves for success in this critical and evolving domain.
The online course is available at www.coursera.org and has been recognized as The Best Free Online Course of All Time and Best Online Course of the Year (2021 Edition) by Class Central, a reputable website that curates online courses from various open online course platforms. This particular course, titled “Information Systems Auditing, Controls, and Assurance,” is offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology through Coursera.
The course is led by Garvin Percy DIAS, an experienced associate professor with expertise in business education, information systems, business statistics, and operations management. Upon enrolling in the course, learners will be guided through the different modules to enhance their understanding of IT auditing and related topics.
Investing in an AI course can be a strategic move for accountants who aim to stay ahead in their careers. The swift integration of AI is revolutionizing business operations, and understanding its applications and implications in accounting is becoming crucial. By enrolling in a reputable AI course, accountants can proactively future-proof their careers and remain relevant in today’s dynamic job market.
AI courses cover a diverse curriculum, encompassing a wide range of topics, including AI concepts, applications, and implications in everyday life. This knowledge can empower accountants to enhance their decision-making capabilities by leveraging AI for data-driven insights and automating routine tasks, thereby improving efficiency and accuracy in their day-to-day work.
An AI course from https://www.udemy.com/course/artificial-intelligence-for-finance-accounting-auditing/ will teach you about the following trends in AI:
- Chatbots (AI that can interact in voice and text with humans)
- Robotic Process Automation + Intelligence (AI that automates business processes)
- Internet of Things (AI that enables devices to communicate directly without human intervention)
- Smart Analytics (AI that combines machine learning, business rules, expert knowledge, and statistics)
- Machine Vision (AI that can interpret images, handwriting, and scanned documents)
- Natural Language Processing (AI that understands human language)
- Speech Recognition (AI that can comprehend human speech, and identify speakers and tones)
- Machine Learning (AI that can analyze massive data and identify patterns)
Acquiring a comprehensive understanding of AI in accounting can unlock new career opportunities and you to thrive in a technology-driven business environment. The skills gained from the course can open doors to new possibilities in the accounting field, as businesses increasingly seek professionals who can harness the power of AI to drive innovation and maintain competitiveness.
Upskilling in Kenya
Staying relevant and competitive in today’s rapidly changing business landscape is crucial for accountants, and upskilling is the key. Luckily, professionals in Kenya have access to valuable opportunities offered by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) through their website https://www.icpak.com/
ICPAK offers a wide range of webinars and physical classes that cater to the needs of accountants in Kenya, covering topics such as
- Leveraging technology to manage risks during disruptions.
- Implementing resilient cybersecurity controls.
- Internal audit.
- Risk management.
- Data analytics.
- Cloud-based accounting implications for professional accountants.
Upcoming events like, “Internal Audit, Risk Management & Data Analytics Seminar” on 06 July 2023, and “Cloud-Based Accounting – Implications to Professional Accountants” on 31 August 2023, offer opportunities to stay updated with the latest trends and developments in the field. Enrolling in these webinars and physical classes can help you expand your knowledge and gain better career prospects and improved job performance.
The writer is a business writer and project coordinator, Omeriye Foundation.