1.5. Technology in Professions

As technology becomes faster and cheaper,  technology skills are being embedded inside more and more job functions. Every managerial discipline today is impacted by technology.

Accounting

Accounting is built on a foundation of technology. The numbers used by accountants are all recorded, stored, and reported by information systems, and the reliability of any audit is inherently tied to the reliability of the underlying technology. Increased regulation, such as the heavy executive penalties tied to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the United States, have ratcheted up the importance of making sure accountants and executives get their numbers right. Negligence could mean jail time. This means the link between accounting and tech have never been tighter, and the stakes for ensuring systems accuracy have never been higher.

Every major accounting firm has a tech-focused consulting practice, and in many cases, these firms have grown to be larger than the accounting services functions from which they sprang. Today, the tech-centric consulting division of Deloitte (one of the Big Four accounting firms) is larger than the firm’s audit, tax, and risk practices.

Finance

Many business school students who study finance aspire to careers in investment banking. Many i-bankers will work on initial public offerings (IPOs) which means offering stock publicly for the first time. IPO markets need new firms, and the tech industry is a fertile ground that continually sprouts new businesses. Other i-bankers will be involved in valuing merger and acquisition (M&A) deals as leading tech firms are flush with cash and constantly on the hunt for new firms to acquire.

Those in other finance careers will evaluate the role of technology in investment portfolios, and banking. When someone in Toronto arranges for a bridge to be built in Shanghai, the money is not carried over in a suitcase, it is transferred digitally between banks. Technology also has an impact on stock exchanges, as transactions now happen digitally and information is displayed in real time. Mobile apps make it even easier for investors to make trades quickly.

Marketing

Technology has disrupted the marketing landscape, and as a result, the skill set needed by today’s marketers is changing. Online channels have provided a way to track and monitor consumer activities, and firms are leveraging this insight to understand how to best serve their customer’s needs. The success or failure of a campaign can often be immediately assessed based on online activity such as website visits or social media chatter. New channels continue to emerge, making it easier to gather data, reach the customer and process transactions. Smartphones can deliver location-based messages and services, and even allow for cashless payments.

Social media is also a large part of this evolving marketing landscape. Customers can leverage their digital voice, capable of broadcasting word-of-mouth influence in ways that can benefit and harm a firm. Savvy firms are using social media to generate sales, improve their reputations, better serve customers, and innovate. Search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), customer relationship management (CRM), personalization systems are all central components of the new marketing toolkit.

Management & Human Resources

Technology helps firms harness the untapped power of employees. Knowledge management systems (KMS) are morphing into social media technologies that can accelerate the ability of a firm to quickly organize and leverage teams of experts. Human resources (HR) directors are using technology for employee training, screening, and evaluation. The accessibility of end-user technology means that every employee can reach the public, creating an imperative for firms to set policy on issues such as firm representation and disclosure and to continually monitor and enforce policies.  The successful HR manager recognizes that technology continually changes an organization’s required skill sets, as well as employee expectations.

The hiring and retention practices of the prior generation are also in flux. Recruiting hasn’t just moved online; it’s now grounded in information systems that scour databases for specific skill sets, allowing recruiters to cast a wider talent net than ever before. Job seekers are writing résumés with keywords in mind, aware that the first cut is likely made by a database search program, not a human being. The rise of professional social networks also puts added pressure on employee satisfaction and retention. Prior HR managers fiercely guarded employee directories for fear that a headhunter or competitive firm might raid top talent. Now the equivalent of a corporate directory can be easily pulled up via LinkedIn, a service complete with discrete messaging capabilities that can allow competitors to target your firm’s best and brightest. Thanks to technology, the firm that can’t keep employees happy, engaged, and feeling valued has never been more vulnerable.

Supply Chain & Operations

A firm’s operations management function is focused on producing goods and services, and technology has helped to automate, and improve this process. Robotics and factory automation, quality programs, process redesign, supply chain management, and service operations are all ways in which technology is being leveraged to create value and competitive advantage.

Law

For those looking for careers in corporate law, many of the hottest areas involve technology. Intellectual property, patents, piracy, and privacy are all areas where activity has escalated dramatically in recent years. The number of patent applications waiting for approval has increased significantly. Firms planning to leverage new inventions and business methods need legal teams with the skills to sleuth out whether a firm can legally do what it plans to. Others will need legal expertise to help them protect proprietary methods and content, as well as to help enforce claims in the home country and abroad.

License

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Information Systems for Business and Beyond by Shauna Roch; James Fowler; Barbara Smith; and David Bourgeois is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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