UpSkilling is Here to Stay

Rapid technology change is causing a lot of disruption in the job market. No news there. It’s been going on for years, just not quite as fast as it is now. Also, the nature of the change going on – advanced data analysis, artificial intelligence, blockchain and others - is more disruptive. One of the reactions in the past has been to recognize that some people need retraining to be able to function in the new job market. But overall, companies have been quite sporadic in applying this principle.

In recent years, corporate management have been pointing out that many of their employees lack necessary skills as new technologies are implemented. And a common refrain has been that at the same time some people are unemployed, companies cannot fill certain jobs because they cannot find people with the necessary skills. Clearly there is a mismatch.

Some forward-thinking companies have been implementing a more comprehensive and positive approach to the problem – upskilling. This is a corporate strategy involving a range of departments, from HR to Finance including in various ways most of the operational areas of the company. It involves looking forward to the changes coming up in the company, and analyzing the workforce to determine which people are likely to be most affected and how. Then efforts are made to provide them with the training to hold their existing job (reskilling) or to get another, perhaps better, job (upskilling).

Implementation of an upskilling strategy is a significant undertaking. PwC has a good section on their website about it and has published a report on the subject as well.

The Risks of Smart Contracts

One of the outcomes of blockchain technology has been the development of smart contracts. At first blush, it sounds like a great idea - contracts that execute themselves without needing help from humans. The opportunities for automation and cost savings lurch into view.

The leader in this field has been Ethereum, which uses blockchain and its own bitcoin type currency to process transactions without the need for a trusted third party. Others are emerging.

There are definitely situations where smart contracts can be very useful, but as with any IT application, there are risks involved. One of the oldest rules around computer processing is that of GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage out). This applies in spades for smart contracts, since they at some point require input from other systems, and the contracts can execute wrong data as well as any other. This could go on for some time before being discovered.

Another basic issue is the computer code being used to write and execute the contracts and the transactions. Code can always be unreliable and or wrong. Possession of the encryption keys is always an issue as well.

So smart contracts might be useful, but it is really important to be cautious before implementing them. For a good summary, check out the ISACA Tech Brief "Understanding Smart Contracts" at https://www.isaca.org/Knowledge-Center/Research/ResearchDeliverables/Pages/understanding-smart-contracts.aspx

CPA Founding Partner

Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), one of the largest national accounting organizations in the world, has chosen to become a founding partner of ThinkTwenty20.