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As an accountant, we seldom have time to learn new skills. This is probably because we are occupied with daily technical routine – keeping the books updated, preparing various if not countless reports for decision-making activities, improving our accounting technical knowledge and many more. Often time, the need to improve digital competence and knowledge is the last task in our list. Additionally, the significant costs to adopt and to put in place the necessary technology is also the contributing factor for the unreadiness.
In the digital age, it is important to bring digital agenda on top of your priority checklist. There are plenty of literature out there on why accountants needs to embrace technology in the digital era. Hence, keeping their digital skills and competency at par with other profession. In fact, technological skills and digital competency are not only important for individual professionals, but also accountancy firms.
Digital Competence: What are they?
It is first important to understand what is digital competence before one can understand the areas that they need to learn, improve or harness. Digital competence is a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes with regard to the use of technology to perform tasks, solve problems, communicate, manage information, collaborate as well as create and share content effectively.
If you are thinking your ability to use a digital platform indicates that you have digital competence, you may be wrong in this case. There are generally four main areas of digital competence which are:
- Information – relates to the ability to identify, locate, retrieve, store, organise and analyse digital information and evaluate relevance and purpose.
- Communication – relates to the ability to communicate, collaborate, interact with and participate in virtual teams and networks as well as make use of appropriate media, tone and behaviour.
- Production – relates to the ability to create, configure and edit digital content, solve digital problems and explore new ways to take advantage of technology.
- Safety – relates to the ability to use digital technology safely and sustainably in relation to data, identity and work injuries and to pay attention to legal consequences, rights and duties.
The model of the four main areas above is designed by the Centre for Digital Dannelse.
Call for action: Assess your digital competency
If you are not sure where to start, the first step is always to check on your digital competency. For this, you can make use of the available digital competency assessment tools to check the status of your digital competency as an individual professional as well as your company.
Digital competency assessment tools for individual professionals
For individual professionals, you can use a free online digital competency assessment tool, Digital Competency Wheel to enable you to map your digital competency. Using this wheel, you will be categorised between Level 1 (foundation) to Level 8 (highly specialised). Similarly, you can also try PwC’s Digital Fitness App to perform an initial assessment of your current digital fitness and thereafter to identify any gaps in your knowledge.
Digital competency assessment tool for accountancy firms
For small and medium practitioners, there is an available digital competency assessment tool. The tool, as a set of questionnaire, is developed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (“ICAI”). The European Federation of Accountants and Auditors (“EFAA”) for SMEs then adapted the questionnaire as the Digital Competency Maturity Model (“DCMM”).
The tool rates SMPs current level of maturity, identify areas where competencies are strong or lacking and then develop a road map for achieving a higher level of maturity.
The questionnaire analyses three main areas of SMPs:
- The level of automation of the firms internal processes.
- Availability of qualified resource pool and talent development relating to digital competencies.
- Level of automation relating to processes and nature of services – accounting or auditing.
Assessing the level of automation of the firms internal processes
In assessing the level of automation of the Firms internal processes, the questionnaire seeks to understand the following key areas:
- Managing digital identity – whether the firm has registered domain name, corporate ID for mails and social media presence.
- Operational process automation – which includes internal communication, file storage system or server, leave management, digital document archive.
- High availability or backup availability and restore – whether data back-up is an automated process or off-line at a different location including being test periodically.
- Mobile devices data security – whether the firm can remotely back up or wipe off data.
- Data security – including deployment of end-point security for desktops and whether critical communications are digitally secured.
- Electronic payments
- Copyright and licenses – whether software deployed are backed by appropriate licenses.
- Digital media for communication – including online staff feedback and evaluation, updated intranet and collaboration platform for internal and external
- Protecting personal data and privacy – include access to staff related personal information.
- Online scans for content – a scan of online content to track any news about the firm and its staff
- External validation or certification.
Assessing the availability of a qualified resource pool and talent development
In assessing the availability of a qualified resource pool and talent development, the questionnaire analyses:
- Skilled resource for managing internal IT infrastructure.
- The proportion of the firm’s formally trained staff.
- Skills related to audit in a computerised environment or information systems audit.
- Digital etiquette.
- Whether the firm sensitises its staff against digital threats.
- Content delivery through digital platforms.
- Access to a knowledge base, content search online and evaluating content prior to use.
- Creative use of digital technologies.
The third area depends on whether the firm provides audit or accounting services to clients.
Upon completing the questionnaire, respondents will be given a rating. Level 1 indicates that the firm is in a very nascent stage of adopting ICT and digital technologies. Level 2 indicates some progress by the firm in adopting ICT and other digital technologies with further fine-tuning needed. Lastly, Level 3 indicates firms that have made significant adoption of ICT and digital technologies. For these firms, they should consider the use of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain to optimise their technology capabilities. The questionnaire is available on EFFA for SMEs website.
Perform your health check on digital competency assessment tools today and take charge of what to do next in your digital journey.