Monday, October 26, 2015

Hey CPA: What's this machine learning all about?

Harvard Business Review online published a great article summarizing how the machine learning, and analytics works in a business context. It uses an illustrative set of decision trees to show how in a cable business scenario (something we can all relate to) and then ends with the following graphic on how a hypothetical algorithm would determine whether a customer would continue with the cable subscription or join the cord cutter crowd.

It's a great illustration of HBR breaks down these "glob" words like, machine learning, algorithm, etc., and transforms them into digestible concepts. Furthermore, and I would say more importantly, it illustrates a rising level of expectation of technology knowledge for client facing business professionals, like accountants and consultants. 

In a previous post, I had noted the following with respect to a couple of WSJ articles on information security and malware :  
"WSJ is a good litmus test of what the business press can expect a business professional to know about IT security, and technology related controls more generally. 

Although not explicitly mentioned in the first article, one of the key trends that has raised the level knowledge required for the average business professional is consumerization: individual have access to technology, such as tablets, smartphones, networks, etc. that were once the sole domain of corporate IT. Consequently, now the average business professional needs to increase their knowledge of IT and IT risks to avoid a virus or getting hacked. For example, I heard a couple of guys at the gym discussing the risks of downloading illegal movies: getting targeted by regulators and malware infection. "

We could also apply this to the HBR article: it too is a good litmus test of the level of competence that a Canadian CPA should know about leading edge topics such as machine learning and its relationship with analytics. 

We should recognize that the technology and security concepts discussed in these articles represent the minimum standard of what is expected from an accountant.  If we as a profession want to achieve the vision of being the  "globally respected business and accounting designation" [emphasis mine], then we must go above and beyond this minimum and surpass expectations of our clients, employers and business community at large. 

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