Article

Sometimes we need to take our time to do our best

Sinead Donovan Sinead Donovan

While technology has its benefits, it is important to remember that we sometimes need to take our time to do our best.

I feel about 102 years old writing this article, as I fear I will be seen to bemoan the advances of technology and run the risk of coming across as a technophobe. Luckily for me, neither is true. Having qualified at a time when a laptop was a COMPAQ computer that you needed to be a weightlifter to bring on audit with you, I fully welcome the benefits that technology has brought us.

However, I do acknowledge that, with all the advancements we have witnessed in the past 20 years, and with every screed of benefit it brings
us as professional accountants, it also brings risks which we must acknowledge in our profession and, particularly, our education and training.

There are many facets of benefits and threats, and people much more qualified than me have done SWOT analyses of the influence technology
has on our profession. However, for me, the biggest risk technology brings us is the pace at which we are forced to lead our professional lives.

Yes, it is a double-edged sword. This pace ensures we can shorten the life-cycle of our deliverable, be it a report, a trial balance or a lecture. I have to ask, though: when does this demand for speed become a threat to the very cornerstone of our profession?

A threat to our ethics

As a profession, we know that ethics is the foundation for everything we do and we must as, professional accountants, comply with the following fundamental principles:

  • integrity;
  • objectivity;
  • professional competence and due care;
  • confidentiality; and
  • professional behaviour.

Are the above principles delivered as a practice/process or a value set or a mixture of both? Does it matter? How does technology influence or impact this? To me, three of them definitely are value sets – integrity, objectivity
and professional behaviour. And it is these values that can be put under
pressure in the fast-paced, digital world in which we work. We must be mindful that these values are maintained and upheld in all aspects of our work, especially when we are challenged to deliver output or answers instantaneously.

Time to slow down

As an employer in practice, I can see the pressures that are put on all levels of our organisation, from trainee through to partner. This is often by virtue of a question or request in an email that simply “must” be answered immediately.

We have all become so used to living in a fast-paced world where instantaneous information (Google), photos, videos (Instagram) and commentary (Twitter) are the norm, especially for a younger generation
where they have never witnessed anything different.

I urge other Chartered

Accountants to teach our students and younger accountants to know when they must take time to consider, think, confer with others (face-to-face) and reflect. We need to be able to show them that speed is not the fundamental requirement but the consideration of their ethical obligations is, which may mean they should slow down. They need to understand that consultation with peers can be crucial to success.