I had the privilege of listening to Bill Reeb at a recent presentation to the AICPA Controllers Conference in Las Vegas. He pointed out that there are several forces converging on CPAs as they advance to higher level jobs which will make us increasingly uncomfortable in the coming years.

  1. Technology is increasingly taking on the role of recording data and turning that data into information – or at least making it much easier to send that work to the lowest bidder, wherever that bidder might be located in the world.
  2. The lower you are on the information value chain;
    the less you will get paid.
  3. The higher you are on the information value chain the less certain you are of the answers.

CPAs tend to pride themselves on certainty. We know the rules, be they accounting or tax, and run the numbers until we get to the right answer. This is what worked to make us successful early in our careers and we are reluctant to let go of the methods that brought us that success. The problem is while getting the right answer works on the low end of the information value chain, which is not what CPAs are asked to do as they advance in their career. Instead we are asked on take on the much more difficult role of producing knowledge and making decisions at the high end of the information value chain where certainty is a rarity.

In fact, at the high end of the information value chain you tend to run into a lot of people making stuff up and getting very well paid to do it. So the irony is the low paying job of coming up with definitive answers and information is going away or paying even less, while the high paying job of making stuff up is in increasing demand.

As CPAs we are going to have to learn to deal with the uncomfortable fact that our employers are not looking to us for the right answer, but instead are looking to us for insights and decisions on much less than perfect data. The sooner we become comfortable with this new paradigm, the more successful we will be in our career.

One Comment on “Uncomfortable”

  1. Alan says:

    Thanks for sharing. A lot of things now make much more sense. But it is still very wrong. Hopefully the revised AICPA ethics standards will help so CPAs can make decisions based on the greater good of society rather than making stuff up.

    In my industry, one should know what goes on and be able to recreate the entire information value chain if asked. And if one opinion on imperfect information is not enough, then there needs to be more opinions. Copied from my comment letter to FASB:

    “If we have two persons of different backgrounds and experiences examine the Mona Lisa, both would most likely have some varying thought of the painting at a degree of certain differences.”

    Inclusively reconciling those differences through logic and reason will lead to the best answer. And the more diverse the perspectives, the better.

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