By Betsy Simon
Feb 3, 2020
Cory Campbell is most at home at the intersection of accounting and technology and it’s a good place to be as emerging technologies are changing the face of accounting.
“One could argue that the biggest challenge for the accounting profession of tomorrow is dealing with companies and technologies that do not yet exist today”, said Campbell, an assistant professor of accounting at Indiana State University.
“Think about companies like Uber and Facebook and Airbnb and how they’ve changed our expectations as consumers. Advances in technology and the promise of big data is transforming the way we do business, which puts a lot of pressure on businesses to try and figure out how to operate. As accountants, we need to be able to adapt and embrace the technological change.”
Campbell assures that his students are aware of and prepare for the changing environment, though.
“From an accountancy perspective, I tell my students it’s not just debits and credits. It is debits, credits and data. Since accounting is often dubbed the ‘language of business’ and accountants are the stewards of that information, then we must understand sources of data that we rely on for fiscal reporting and decision making” he said. “The challenge is to determine what data is relevant now that we have massive amounts of data at our disposal.”
Campbell has been a full-time professor since the fall of 2018. Prior to joining the accounting faculty at ISU, he served as an adjunct at ISU for several years and has been a visiting instructor at IUPUI. Campbell presents regularly to the Indiana CPA Society and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) on various emerging technologies like blockchain, big data, robotics process automation, and cybersecurity.
“I try to bring some element of emerging technology into classroom discussions, which has been both fun and eye-opening for students. Students get to experience and to understand how the breath and scope of accountancy continues to grow in this data-driven world,” he said. “We tend to be a retrospective profession as the financial statements rely on information from the past, but I think it’s really exciting to think about the possibilities with emerging technology and how it can impact accounting.”
“Big data and technological advances mean that we’re now able to spend more time identifying and looking for anomalies, so we can go out and ask questions to understand what’s really happening,” Campbell said. “On one hand, technology will certainly change the profession going forward, but in some aspects it will create more opportunities.”
Campbell’s efforts – and publications on emerging technologies in the field – are aimed at preparing people to fill the vacancies created by a well-documented accountant shortage.
“What firms are looking for is clearly changing. The big data explosion has redefined the skills of the future to include technology skills, communication skills, and critical thinking skills. Key skills of the future for accounting have been identified by the profession to include machine learning, robotics process automation, advanced Excel modeling, and data visualization,” he said. “That’s why I have students learning to visualize accounting information. For example, students have a project where they have to make a balanced scorecard, which includes turning both financial and non-financial information into an interactive dashboard. As part of the project, students create a public link to their work, which means they’re getting a hyperlink to add to their resumes and digital profiles that they can use to showcase the things they’re doing with data visualization.”
Campbell, who teaches an introductory to financial accounting course, as well as some upper level accounting courses, took a non-traditional path into accounting.
“I did not work for a CPA firm or do any public accounting, but rather my experiences are as an entrepreneur and as a finance administrator in higher education,” he said. “One of the things I tell my students is that accounting is an awesome profession because you can anything in any business sector, whether it’s manufacturing, non-profit, the service industry, or public accounting. There are so many possibilities and the breadth and scope of what we do as accountants continues to widen as technology reshapes the profession.