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Digitization and technology have completely changed the game of life. Ten years ago if you were really good at one thing, it was enough. Now it’s not.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler, American writer, futurist, and businessman

Studying tomorrow is what futurists like Alvin Toffler do for a living. Toffler passed in 2016, but the book he wrote in 1980, The Third Wave, is still considered one of the seminal works of the trade. For those unacquainted with futurism, it is basically a hybrid discipline, combining the skills of a computer scientist, engineer, historian, sociologist, biologist, mathematician, and journalist. Futurists are in the business of anticipating the great shifts in how we live and work.

It’s not an easy job. But increasingly, I would argue, everyone needs to be a futurist to live in our rapidly changing world. Digitization and technology have completely changed the game of life. Ten years ago if you were really good at one thing, it was enough. Now it’s not.

Take my own skillset. I am a writer, in the idea business. With the introduction of social media, my trade changed. Instead of writing long-form articles, I needed to condense my thoughts into 120 character tweets and learn to write blogs. I also needed to think more visually. Sometimes a picture or graph can say more than any article or research report. So I needed to embrace new technology tools to help me convey visually what I previously used words to describe.

Accountants and finance professionals are faced with the same dilemma. The profession has profoundly changed thanks to technology. Functions that are routine are increasingly becoming automated and emerging technologies like blockchain are transforming areas like audit. Data is now the driver of decision-making and how it is captured and analyzed has become the province of finance and accounting. No longer siloed, accounting and finance professionals are being asked to set strategy for the entire organization and to contribute to digitization efforts. Adding value through technology and data analytics is key for any accounting and finance professional that wants to stay relevant. 

But staying on top of technology and data analytics can be an uphill battle. More than ever,  professionals need trusted resources that will help them upskill and guide them on what might be coming next so they can add value to their organizations in meaningful ways. With this goal in mind, IMA has recently launched a Technology & Analytics Center, a one-stop-shop for IMA online courses, articles, webinars, and research on topics like data analytics implementation or the future of blockchain. Updated on an ongoing basis, the Center provides management accountants, business professionals, academics, and students with insights on how to get in front of technology so it can be leveraged to their advantage.

The jobs of the future require skills normally not found together. Labor analytics firm, Burning Glass Technologies, which recently analyzed millions of job postings, has found “hybrid jobs” to be the most prevalent. These jobs incorporate traditional disciplines like accounting or finance, but with new skills like big-data gathering and analytics or design using digital technology.

What this means for IMA members, as well as business professionals at large, is that learning new skills should be ongoing and lifelong. “The jobs of the future don’t involve just one skill,” says Matt Sigelman, chief executive of Burning Glass. “There’s a breadth of skills that will be needed.”

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