Tech for Execs: Ignorance is not bliss

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Posted by Waldo Nell - 08 March, 2016

Topic(s): Tech for Execs

F.H. Black & Company Inc. works with governments, universities, large companies and accounting firms. The professionals we work with are typically auditers, finance officers, accountants and CFOs. They have great expertise in accounting & management and tremendous experience in their industries. They may even spend some time to refine their skill with the specific applications that they use (Excel, CaseWare, etc). Often though, they have minimal expertise with the general computer technology infrastructure that surrounds them. 

Why should accountants and finance officers want to become more sophisticated with technology?

  1. Increase your professional performance: Improving the general technological literacy of finance professionals can yield a tremendous increase in their overall efficiency and effectiveness. 
  2. Improve your ability to assess & mitigate risk: Having at least a basic level of knowledge is essential to avoid fraud, data loss, identity theft and a myriad of other modern-day hazards. Not just personally, but as a critical part of the Internal Control process, finance's facility with technology impacts the entire organization's safety.
FHB's series of articles on Technology for Executives ("Tech for Execs") will enable you to do just that - improve your fluency and ability to use technology to facilitate increasing your efficiency, effectiveness & reliability.

An important starting point for this series of articles is to consider:

  1. Why it is that so many accountants are less than perfectly conversant with computer technology?
  2. Why is the need for expertise in computer technology different than that of any other tool you rely on?

40_years_of_technologyA very recent addition to the world

The explosion of the computer age over the last 40 years is unlike anything the human species has ever encountered before. No other technology has grown to have such a overwhelming influence on so many people in so short a time.

Due to this very rapid adoption, there is a segment of the world's population that is relatively inexperienced using this new technology. That is understandable - most people aged 40 and over didn't grow up with computers, and if you are in your 50s perhaps much of your early professional career was without significant computer usage.

When you combine the short time-line with the magnitude of the change, computer technology aptitude is not necessarily an easy skill to develop. 

A tool unlike others

Regardless of age, most people use the internet like we use appliances, or our cars. We use them to provide a service to us, and don't care about its inner workings. Why would you want to understand the Otto cycle in your car? Or how the magnetron works in your microwave oven? Or how the escapement mechanism keeps your mechanical watch ticking? As long as it perform its function, we just don't care. Nor should we. You do not need to understand these things to drive your car or heat a cup of tea. If it breaks, you send it in to be repaired or you replace it. Not understanding the inner workings does not affect us negatively.

With computer technology there is a superficial similarity. You do not need to understand nomenclature such as CPU, RAM, HTTPS or CHAP to be able to send a tweet, post a Facebook update or call a friend over your internet phone. But, this is where the analogy stops.

Most of the technology you use today relies on connectivity. Sending email, browsing the Internet, accessing Facebook or LinkedIn means that your computer is connected to billions of other computers. This connectivity, uniquely among the tools and technologies you use, exposes you to massive risk.

The difference between securing a thing like your house and securing your computer or smartphone is that for someone to break into your home, they have to be physically standing in front of your house. There are only a small number of people geographically close to you, severely limiting how many bad guys that could actually attempt to break in. With your internet connected computer, you suddenly have more than a billion people that can attack you.

However, the threat gets even worse: most people do not have the knowledge or skill to even understand that they are under attack.  Or even had their computer system entirely compromised. Everyone understands how a burglar could break in to their house. He can come in through the window, pick your lock, use the roof etc. But almost nobody (statistically speaking) knows how bad guys get in to your computer. It is black magic, mysterious and spooky. 

This does not mean everyone should be signing up for computer security courses. Or that you even need to know what the acronyms I mentioned earlier stand for. Just like you do not need to know what the Otto cycle is to be able to recognize the danger in crossing a road filled with cars and cross it safely, we will be teaching you how to better prepare yourself for this new era of being interconnected to each other. Naturally we cannot possibly cover all aspects as this is indeed a very complex landscape requiring long, intensive study to truly master. We will merely be applying the Pareto principle in trying to teach you 20% of what you need to know to make you 80% safer.

 

For more on this topic(s), see: Tech for Execs

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