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See the future, without a flying DeLorean

Shutterstock_687311458Unless you’ve recently installed a flux capacitor in the family mini-van, you probably can’t predict the future. But human nature is insistent in its curiosity, so predictions do persist. Weather, gambling, investing…many things we do and experience prompt a desire to know what’s coming next.

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants recently announced the Watchlist, a semi-annual list of trends, technologies and possibilities that could affect the accounting profession. The list is divided into three areas: things happening now, things that might happen soon, and things that might happen eventually. Each topic is related to how CPAs do their work, and a few of them might actually surprise you.

Unlike Marty McFly’s sports almanac, the Watchlist isn’t predestined. That aside, both do the same thing: use data to make predictions. But a small problem creeps in: what data do you use?

When it comes to specific questions, homing in on the input needed to make a good prediction is easier. In preparing tomorrow’s weather forecast, it makes sense to consider atmospheric pressure, the movement of various fronts, etc. Ignoring unnecessary data, like the annual production volume of Chee-Tohs®, is easy. But when you have a broader question like, “What will the environment look like for accounting in five years? What about in 15 years or even 30?” the number of possible relevant inputs increases a hundred-fold.

If you’re running a CPA firm, no matter the size, forecasting is a huge part of your job, both for yourself and your clients. Gathering intelligence on what the business landscape might look like for your firm can help you prepare and better map out the steps you might need to take for hiring, technology and equipment purchases, client prospecting, training and many other necessities.

A lot of research and analysis goes into this understanding. It requires you to be up to date on the latest news and laws that affect your practice. It means you have to be attuned to the minute details of your work so you can see how these affect your clients now, soon and in the future.

In planning the Watchlist, the “now” was a simple matter of narrowing down what’s happening right this second that has a major impact on the profession. We asked ourselves about the most important developments and picked the two we think are the biggest game-changers.

The “soon” was a little trickier. How do you determine what’s around the corner? We can’t see the future, but we can see emerging trends that will shape the accounting profession. They’re slight and highly nuanced, but they’re there, and we want to make sure you’re aware and thinking about what’s next.

Figuring out what will “eventually” affect the profession is a bit like reading tea leaves. Do we really know what tomorrow holds? We weighed all the potential issues affecting the profession and, ultimately, landed on two emerging topics we think will have a strong and definable impact on accounting.

You don’t need to wait to get the whole picture. Take a look at the Watchlist and let us know what you think. Research for the next edition is underway, so if you have an idea for a new topic we could cover, leave it in the comments here.

Until next time, we’ll keep the DeLorean gassed up with banana peels and ready to go. See you in the future.

Adam Eric Junkroski, Lead Manager, Communications, Tax, PFP, S&C — Public Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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