AICPA & CIMA Thought leadership: Digital Strategy

Don't get left behind: how to survive (and thrive) in the era of digital disruption

Ash Noah, Vice President and Managing Director, Management Accounting, AICPA & CIMA explores how to navigate digital disruption using data rich analytics. Jennifer Elder writes

Einstein once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." In 2022, the quote should be, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over in a different environment and expecting the same results!"

Organisations are being challenged by a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA). Finance departments are being asked to support operations, strategy, and decision-making by delivering more information faster. According to Ash Noah, Vice President and Managing Director, Management Accounting, AICPA & CIMA, "The speed of decision-making is a key attribute of competitive advantage today. We have rich sources of data and the technologies that enable us to interrogate, connect and leverage this rich data to produce actionable insights. That should be our focus as finance leaders and a finance function."

As technology progresses at an exponential rate, it is essential that organisations implement a digital strategy, and the stakes are high if you don't make the right decisions.

Ash Noah
Vice President and Managing Director, Management Accounting

Jennifer Elder
Senior Solution Engineer, Author & facilitator

What is digital disruption?

Digital disruption refers to a technology that offers something significantly better than what's currently available on its given market. Technologies like cloud computing, robotic process automation (RPA), power business analytics, artificia intelligence (AI), and machine learning provide opportunities for organisations to reduce costs, increase speed, and develop competitive advantages. Digital disruptors like Uber and Airbnb didn't invent car-sharing or home-sharing; they made those products far more convenient and cost-effective for consumers. As a result, traditional players (taxis, rental agencies, etc.) lost significant market share.

Addressing the effects of digital disruption

As more and more companies embrace digital transformation, it's up to you to push your organisation to the digital future. If your company has already taken a step toward moving online, it's time to do some introspection. Write down how digital transformation is already affecting your work life and identify areas where it could change in the future. For example, if a new trend is emerging at your company, like artificial intelligence or robotic process automation, what kind of positive impact will that have on your way of working? If you can spot and leverage digital disruption, you can create new business opportunities that didn't exist before.

Embrace digital changes

No one wants to get left behind, especially in business. Fear can hold you back from exploring new ideas and embracing change. Understandably, many people feel that way, but it's essential to learn how to adapt more than ever. Your ability to take risks and make necessary changes is critical, not just for yourself but for your customers. Their needs constantly change, so you must be willing and open-minded about trying something new when needed. Don't let fear keep you from making forward progress; instead, embrace change as a normal part of life. If you don't, someone else will likely succeed where you failed because they were brave enough to try. Learn from them and adjust accordingly. In a VUCA world, an essential skill is an ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Ask yourself these questions

What new technologies have I heard about but do not understand? How can I use new technologies to support the strategic goals of my organisation? What technologies might allow me to deliver faster, more reliable, and more valuable data to my business partners? Asking these questions can help you identify trends and changes. Once you've identified trends, you can determine whether or not they will impact your business.

Embrace technology!

Technology is an incredible business tool. It would be best if you didn't consider it a way to save money or be more efficient; technology should allow your business to stand out from competitors. The best way to prepare yourself and your company for digital disruption is to invest in employees deliberately and mindfully.

First, ensure your finance staff have access to the latest research white papers about digital disruption, such as Frictionless Finance: Driving data to value by the AICPA, Workday and Deloitte or Re-inventing Finance for a Digital World: the Future by AICPA & CIMA.

Second, offer training to cover all their skill sets before they need them. The AICPA and CIMA provide several programmes that can elevate the skillsets of every level of your finance team. The programs include:

  • Become a digital strategist – including Digital Transformation and Underpinning Technologies and Strategic Importance of Digital Transformation and Underpinning Technologies
  • Digital Mindset Pack – including The Power of Data Analytics, Robotic Process Automation, and Get the most out of Cybersecurity
  • Agile Finance Transformation – which includes three certificate programs: the Operational Excellence Certificate, the Digital Intelligence Certificate, and the Business Influence Certificate

To learn more about these and other digital finance leadership programmes at or email Programmes like these will help your team embrace a digital mindset and develop specific digital skills.

The future holds more opportunities than threats

Undoubtedly, digital transformation presents challenges for businesses across all industries. After all, even if you're doing a great job at something today, technology might come along tomorrow and make it obsolete. The future brings new ways to engage with your customers and get things done, and new technologies that will help you run your business more effectively. The key is being agile enough to keep up with a rapidly changing world while staying true to who you are and what makes you unique.

So how do you survive – and maybe even thrive – amid such disruption? Be open to learning about new ways of doing things; prepare yourself for a potential leap into unfamiliar territory; nurture relationships with others in your industry; identify experts outside your field who can give you advice on areas where you need assistance; find mentors who will guide you throughout your entrepreneurial journey; become well-rounded by exploring different perspectives on business, economics, law, and leadership. Finally, never stop looking ahead! Don't let past assumptions hinder your ability to embrace change.

Main image credit: Westend61 / Getty Images