How to assess and identify your digital skills needs

How to assess and identify your digital skills needs

How to assess and identify your digital skills needs

It is evident that accountants will require digital upskilling at some point in the future in order to stay competitive and successful in their sector. However, there is a wealth of different digital programmes, and skills required to use them, available and it can be hard to know which ones are right for you and your business.

Following the ICAEW’s Digital Skills Workshop webinar, Louisa Mathison, Digital Programme Manager at First Intuition, shares some of her tips to assess and identify your digital skills needs.

Where to start?

A four-step process

  1. Why transform?
  2. What skills?
  3. What technology?
  4. Who and how?

1. Why transform?

We need to ask ourselves why we want to transform.

What do we want to achieve?

  • Long-term objectives, based on the business strategy?
  • Intermediate objectives?

Once we have identified our goals we can then think about how will digital skills help us fulfill our objectives. Then start small and focus on overcoming the pain points.

2. What skills?

First, we need to identify what skills we need to transform.

What skills will we need to acquire?

  • Identify the skills we need
  • Assess the skills we already have

The difference between the skills we need and the skills we already have is the gap that needs to be filled.

Steps to follow:

  1. Identify the relevant skills
    • Conduct a skills matrix
    • Who is going to be responsible for the process
    • Who can make time
    • Who would like to be involved
  2. Collect data
    • Consider how, perhaps a survey or interview
    • Do you need data from everyone in the organisation or just certain departments?
  3. Analyse skills gaps
    • Compare the skills matrix to the skills audit result
    • Are there any gaps?
  4. Prioritise training and development
    • Decide on the action to fill the gaps, which training do you need?
    • Training needs to be implemented at the right time so knowledge is not lost
    • Share existing knowledge, encourage employees to share tips, learn from each other, and best practice
    • Learn one new thing every day – the theory of marginal gains
    • Encourage employees to take charge of their own learning
  5. Repeat
    • Repeat skills audit regularly to see how skills are developing and what are still needed
    • Bring in new skills where needed for new technologies

3. What technology?

What tech do we need?

  • Identify the tech we need
  • What new features can we use in existing tech?

“Despite advances in technology and the adoption of cloud accounting software over the last decade, finance teams are still spending 84% of the workday on manual tasks.” – Tipalti

Automation is one area where time can be saved. The goalposts are constantly shifting in digital skills projects as new technology comes out.

Steps to follow:

  1. Start by identifying what technology will help you
  2. First, consider what tech you already have and use existing technology to its full potential
    • e.g. Microsoft. Excel – many new tips and tricks
    • From there, try Microsoft PowerQuery (in Excel, called ‘Get Data’) – use it to tidy up data into a clean format to make it easier to analyse, plus you can bring in data from lots of sources
  3. Then look at expanding into using other technologies
    • The next step can be Microsoft PowerBI, Microsoft Power Apps as well
    • A number of audit clients use DataSnipper to help in audit, e.g. tests of detail. It uses AI, e.g. to extract and cross-reference supporting documentation
    • ChatGPT and Generative AI – great for brainstorming and getting ideas, coming into Microsoft, for example in Bing and CoPilot, and will soon be in the rest of the Microsoft Suite, at a cost! They are being absorbed into software at a rapid rate

In just a couple of years, Louisa has seen the conversation go from ‘AI, we would not touch that’ to ‘We are using this new software and it has got AI in it’. It is here and more of it is coming whether we like it or not.

Note that the name says it all – CoPilot – it is an assistant but human input is still needed, especially to check outputs, so should be used as a starting point. With any of these tools, users need to bear in mind their company’s IT policy and need to be careful about client and internal data.

4. Who and how?

How can we transform? Who can help us do what?

  • Who can help us inside the organisation?
  • Who has intimate insider knowledge in the organisation?
  • Who are the key stakeholders, both internal and external?
  • And When? (Realistic targets)

Steps to follow:

  1. Speak to staff and see who would like to get involved, some might have an interest or skills in the area
  2. Think about training – so many different ways to do it
    • Decide on the action to fill the gaps, which training do you need?
    • Training needs to be implemented at the right time so knowledge is not lost
    • Share existing knowledge, encourage employees to share tips, learn from each other, and best practice
    • Learn one new thing every day – the theory of marginal gains
    • Encourage employees to take charge of their own learning

Bear in mind that some people pick things up quicker than others. Furthermore, not everyone might feel as positive about technological changes.

The Adoption Matrix, HBR – digital transformation sparks a range of responses in employees:

  • Inspired – I am capable of learning digital content and I believe that doing so would be good for me and my company
  • Frustrated – My company and I would benefit if I learned digital content, but I don’t think I can do it
  • Oppressed – I don’t think I am capable of learning digital content, and I don’t see the benefit to me or my company in learning it
  • Indifferent – I can learn digital content, but I don’t see the benefit to me or my company

How to help people in each category:

  • Inspired – Innovation champions, who are hopefully already inspired, can help others on their journeys – identify them!
  • Frustrated – Empower, start small, mentor or buddy, tip of the day
  • Oppressed – Training, not just in tech, but educate them about the benefit of improving for themselves and the organisation
  • Indifferent – Connect with HR and training plans – help them see how it will benefit

“You need to have a strategy to manage the failures, to be able to fail fast and fail smartly, and to have the patience to allow people to try and test… Once you are successful, even with one single innovation, the power it unleashes is amazing.” – www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/making-financial-services-available-to-the-masses-through-ai

Additional Resources

Find more information about First Intuition’s Digital Finance Programme here

Where technologies in accountancy are now and where they are heading next

How to start effectively adopting technological change

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