“Citizen Technologist or not?”


The mass migration from complicated systems to the modern digital eco-systems

Last month we went to the International Accountancy Forum & Awards – a brilliant event for modern accounting and a chance to bring together accounting firms with industry bodies, advisors, and technology vendors. 

It is also a chance to discuss the key themes impacting the sector and its growth opportunities by mixing our various backgrounds. And this year, many talks went around “How we best digitalize the modern practice,” with our own Lianne Gatti talking about the Citizen Technologist – a theme we think is interesting to share. 

Is it possible that we all have become Citizen Technologists without realizing it? And if the answer is yes, how can we harness that power best in our finance team? 

Let’s start with what the Citizen Technologist means

A Citizen Technologist is “The person in your organization who understands the close relationship between technology, people, and policy/procedure.” 

We are starting to hear the term Citizen Technologist more often and applied to different things. But in its very essential term, “A citizen technologist is a person who works with the intersecting effects of technical architecture, social norms, and policy.” In comparison, you might have heard about the Business Technologist. But where a Business Technologist comes from the tech world, a citizen technologist has a tech mind but comes from the team they are a part of. For example, a Citizen technologist in Finance has a finance background but a hand on the tendencies and trends in tech. Simply said, we could all turn into one, which also is apparent in one of Gartner’s research studies states that 71% of executives say their employees are more digitally mature than their organizations.

So in some ways, we have already started, but our organizations are not following.

Why are we not modernized yet? Or are we?

At Konsolidator, we talk with many finance people across different markets and industries. We are helping to solve problems for our clients and hear similar themes all the time. We do need to digitalize, it is critical for staff and customers, and we need to be able to embrace the young generation at work. This is not just tech; it is the social expectation of tech. Everyone knows technology’s impact on business, lives, and society. 

So why are we not modernized yet? Or are we? If you look at your phone, you could probably find more than 15 apps you use regularly. It can be everything from apps for Shopping, Sport, Banking, Games, Social, Kids… the list goes on! But if you are asked if you can locate your paper diary – that might be a bit more challenging. 

We want to share some of our learnings from the opposite side of where you sit; our team of advisors all come from the finance industry. 

Why Now? 

At IAFA22, there was much talk about diversity but also an increasing need to create an ‘all embracing’ culture encouraging the information exchange between young and old. Following this, one area, which really stuck with us, was the focus on modernization being more than embracing new technology to become digital; it is about a shift in mindset for everyone in the accounting industry – and we are not there yet.

Fall behind the curve, and you are losing your competitive edge, and with the ‘Great Re-Shuffle,’ you are losing your appeal for talent. Let tech enable the ‘born in the cloud’ generation to produce smart work, but not forget that the older generation can be tech-ready too. 

This development in Finance is even more crucial; we depend on error-free reporting. Data is the new customer – but without tools to sort and interpret this data, we land in a minefield of manual errors and reactive behavior. At the same time, we see the competition, which implements a digital mindset, move forward at the speed of light. All because there is a lack of time and resources to look into digital opportunities. Organizations cannot rely on IT alone; why embracing a Business Technologist or a Citizen Technologist can drive the needed change. 

So the question is not If?! It is how, when, and what. 

Why is a best practice digital eco-system so important?

Going back to the numbers from Gartner. If 71% of executives say their employees are more digitally mature than their organizations, we must consider why? What is it that makes us maintain existing infrastructure, which cannot keep up with modernization? Probably because it seems too comprehensive to find a system that fits all your requirements – and us in Finance we like to know every number and result before choosing something. But this is why a digital eco-system is so essential; there are many possibilities to create a digital eco-system that focuses on integrations, not on how much ONE system can bring with digital development today. 

Say you need an ERP system, a consolidation system, and a reporting system – the more you try to incorporate everything, the larger the system gets and the more difficult it is to implement, learn, and maintain. With the cloud, the supplier looks after the software, making it simple to use, and it can integrate with everything you have. This way, you avoid the queue at your IT department, complicated implementations – and even the business technologist. Instead, you can choose systems based on your exact need. No more, no less.

Can a Business Technologist or Citizen Technologist Help? 

When we talk with customers, we see a high amount of finance professionals who want to remove manual processes and book a demo, but then time and resources hit. Not because the implementation time is long, but because it can seem difficult if you go in with the mindset that you need to learn everything. In these cases, business technologists might be something to look into. It is a decentralized IT employee who builds technology capabilities for internal teams only. We all need to turn into Citizen technologists, but it is a place to start embracing technology and strive toward a digital transformation. Their skillset varies from data scientists to developers, but a common factor is that they have their finger on the pulse and understand digital trends that create efficiency. 

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Because they work closely within your department, they understand the Finance function, your digital eco-system, and your operations. Their primary focus will be to optimize your team and their work tasks – not the entire business. 

A good business technologist works harmoniously with IT departments regarding security and innovation. It’s a strategic role that equips and empowers non-IT resources to build digital capabilities. The Business Technologist can often conclude digital initiatives faster and release value quickly. When that is said, we understand the value of a Business Technologist. But the true road to succeed in the digital eco-system and an all-embracing culture where the entire finance team slowly will gain a natural tech skill set, i.e., The March of the Citizen Technologists. Citizen technologists, but it is a place to start embracing technology and strive toward a digital transformation. Their skillset varies from data scientists to developers, but a common factor is that they have their finger on the pulse and understand digital trends that create efficiency. 

Conclusion

Citizen technologist or not – the mass migration from complicated systems to the modern digital eco-systems is about Falling in love with the problem, not the solution! Then you can solve one piece of the puzzle at a time – and set deadlines. This is easier with small nimble solutions. Our customers who do this well, all start by locating the apparent problem, matching it up with the human element they want to solve, and then setting a specific timeframe.



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