8 May 2017
An auditor, an advisor, a lawyer…and technology
Recently ending in Barcelona, the Mobile World Congress had over 100,000 visitors from 208 countries sharing the latest advances in technology and communications. The most outstanding aspect was certainly the changes in consumer articles, with new features in mobiles or in connected vehicles. Apart from this, many other developments will have a highly significant impact: changes in basic technology, advances in 5G communications, the possibilities of big data, the Internet of things…each edition of the “Mobile Congress” introduces increasingly significant advances.
Although it seems that Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, has reached a financially viable limit, technology features continue to increase exponentially, where each new development is based on prior progress, spectacular in itself. We perceive technological change directly as consumers of increasingly sophisticated products and services, with applications which quickly come to form part of our daily lives, but it is the advances in basic technology, often only comprehensible to the most specialised engineers, which allow extraordinarily novel applications to be produced subsequently.
It is a fact that constant progress in the technology of information and communications systems affects all companies. Not only those in which technology is the basis of the company performance, but also those companies which use this technology in their internal organisation, forming part of their products or services, or in which it is indispensable as an essential element for contacting and communicating with clients.
Auditors, tax specialists, lawyers and other professionals providing services to companies have to react in view of advances in technology. They must be up to date with these advances and be familiar with them. The truth is that the technological environment relating to professional practice is changing greatly.
There are three areas in relation to technology to which the aforementioned professional profiles (and by extension professional service firms) must pay attention. Firstly, those aspects relating to communications. A suitable telecommunications infrastructure must allow features such as easy access to databases, both of clients and third parties, the connectivity of clients to our equipment, access to the Internet and social networks, etc. Communications are a basic instrument for considering such relevant element as cloud solutions or telecommuting.
Secondly, great attention should be paid to the tools directly related to the provision of services to clients. These include programs for assisting with audits or preparing the annual accounts and taxes, as well as tools for the automatic accounting of documents, databases or repositories for standard forms, and so on. Many companies develop solutions aimed at facilitating the work of professional firms, and national and international companies increasingly offer new products specifically aimed at these professionals.
Thirdly, there are solutions facilitating the internal management of the firm or office: document management, file and client control, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), business intelligence, etc. In short, tools which enable a leaner internal management and help provide us with useful information for making decisions.
It is clear that there are a multitude of solutions requiring constant attention by professionals and firms, in order to stay up to date. Everything changes very quickly, with the appearance of new products rendering the previous ones obsolete. The only certain aspect is change.
At times, we see professionals delighted with the features of the latest device for personal use, with which they enjoy discovering new applications, but who, within the firm, continue to have technologically obsolete structures. The argument (or excuse) for this is usually based on cost, or involves stating that the services provided, or what the clients value, are aspects unrelated to technology needs.
Seeing how advances in technology affect us so greatly and in so many activities, it is hard to claim that auditors, advisors and lawyers can get by ignoring such changes.
It is true that deciding on suitable technological solutions at any time for a professional office involves time and effort. But above all, it requires a state of mind. For partners or managers, this means moving in an area in which they are not experts and, therefore, are faced with the uncertainty and inconvenience of having to start adapting to new methods and ways of working.
The incorporation of technology into these and other companies is a strategic issue. Therefore, despite the difficulties, we can not stay away from technological change. It is true that the solutions of today will not be valid in the near future, but they will serve as a basis so we are better prepared for adapting to new environments than those competitors failing to make use of available solutions.
In short, we have to stay up to date. It is not a question of being over the top with technology, incorporating into our organization the latest thing to appear on the market, but nor should be become obsolete, like those who defended the fax as the definitive advance in communications. One final recommendation: we constitute a group which values technology alternative applicable to the various areas of our professional work environment, whether in communications, relating to the provision of services or internal organisation, and this group consists not only of partners and managers but also some juniors. The solutions which may seem complicated to us will no doubt be seen by “millennials” as being intuitive and user-friendly.
Antoni Gómez, President of Auren international and a member of the SMP of IFAC.